Memories Chapter 5
Written by Clive Horner   
Thursday, 21 April 2011 14:48
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Memories Chapter 5
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Chapter 5

The year is now 1977 and we are once again due for a holiday overseas. Although we want to see our families again, there are also other places we would like to visit. After some thought we decided to spend a week in Cairo which is the Capital of Egypt on our way to England and a week in Istanbul in Turkey on our return trip back to Zambia. At this time it was possible to pay overseas hotel bookings in Kwacha, before leaving Zambia. This is what we decided to do as it would save our foreign currency. Once again having obtained the necessary tax and customs clearance, and arranged with Richard to take care of Smokey, we were ready to leave. A week before we were due to leave we were approached by Eddie a building foreman that we knew, it appears he was divorced and his ex-wife decided their son could spent the summer with him. Unfortunately he lived in a flat in the town and hearing that we were going away for two months asked if it would be possible for him and his son to stay at our place. This seemed like a good idea at the time, as it meant there would be people living there while we were away and it would also be good for Eddie and his son, as they would have the use of the pool and braai area for the summer. Eddie offered to pay rent, this we refused as it was a company house and while we were away would not be paying rent. Eddie then said that he would have his builders break-up the pool apron and have them build a new one. It needed doing, so we accepted his offer.

We flew from Kitwe to Lusaka and then directly to Cairo, where we had booked accommodation at the Sheraton Hotel situated in the centre of Cairo and on the East Bank of the River Nile. I am not quite sure what we expected when we landed at Cairo airport, we ought to have expected miles of sand but for some reason didn't. We were quite surprised to find the airport surrounded by sand, as far as the eye could see. There was a breeze blowing across the runway, which meant keeping our faces turned sideways to prevent the sand stinging. The sand was white and the glare meant wearing sunglasses. Before leaving Zambia we asked the British Consulate if we required a visa for Egypt, we were told it was not necessary if we were travelling on British Passports. They should have told the Egyptians as when we entered the immigration hall there were posters all around the arrival area. The posters stated that all nationalities had to purchase a visa on arrival at the airport. Once we were out of the airport, we found a taxi to take us to the Sheraton Hotel, where our holiday would really start, plus the boys were feeling tired and were also over-excited.

There are times when I wonder if anything ever goes smoothly, we found a taxi to take us to the hotel. He asked if we had a booking, I said yes we had booked in advance, he then suggested that since the fare to the Sheraton was quite costly we should phone and confirm our booking. It was apparently quite common for hotels in Cairo to take the money for advance bookings, and then let the rooms to cash customer. When asked they would deny that the booking had ever been made. Sure enough the hotel said that we had made no advance booking, even though we told them the date of the booking and receipt number. Not a good start! The driver spoke to the hotel in Arabic, and after a heated discussion, rang off and said the hotel would be ringing back shortly. They now seemed to feel that they might have made a mistake. Apparently the driver told them that he had seen our receipt and booking confirmation and if they could not resolve the situation, he would take us to the Tourist Bureau and if necessary the British Embassy. The hotel phoned back and said they had found our booking but it was in another name not ours. Strange? The paperwork was in our name. We were now in a position whereby we could drive to the hotel and book-in. It had taken two hours to reach this stage since clearing customs and immigration at the airport. On arrival at the hotel we thanked the taxi driver for his assistance, without which we would have had a real problem. We offered him quite a large tip to thank him for his help, he refused to accept it. He said that if we required a taxi during our stay, would we give his company our business. This seemed fair, and so we agreed.