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A man of many words. Profane, profound, loyal to a fault and a right rat bastard. I love the finer things in life: expensive cigars, cheap women and all the salted, cured meats I can eat. A friend to dogs, lover of humanity and despiser of people. If I were King the world would be a better place, because, well...I would be King! Oh, and I like ice cream.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Dateline, October 17, 2005

Borg El Arab Airport-

As in Borg El Arab INTERNATIONAL Airport.

Somewhere outside Alexandria, Egypt. 3:30 AM.

Alexandria, named for Alexander the Great, was one of the first larger than life figures in history. A brilliant tactician and innovator who conquered the known world while in his 20's, he developed a novel means to coordinate the attacks of his various far flung legions upon his enemies without the need to use the slow and often risky messenger system common in that era. Alexander had his wisemen, chemists and advisors develop a special dye that when soaked in an unknown chemical would turn different colors over a fairly uniform length of time. Using this property the dye would be poured onto rags which were then torn into strips and tied onto the wrists of his commanders. When the rags changed colors it would signal the time for attack.

This cloth became known as "Alexander's Rag Timeband."

Moving right along...

We arrived from Cairo for our 6:35 AM flight to Heathrow. Connect to Chicago. Get Away Day. End of trip.

Alexandria, an ancient city of more than six million souls, boasts not one, but TWO international airports.

Borg El Arab International Airport inapparently is the OTHER one. You know, the name "Borg El Arab" evokes an image of opulence and pure luxury. The Borg (Borg means "tower" in Arabic, by the way.)El Arab Hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is one of the fanciest, most exclusive in the world. You may remember the TV commercial where Tiger Woods was hitting balls into the sea off a helicopter pad which jutted out high up the tower. That was the Borg. It costs 75 bucks just to walk into the lobby of the joint.



The tower of Borg El Arab hotel


The tower of Borg El Arab airport


But, this wasn't that. Our driver and guide took us initially to Al Nozha International Airport. It was in the middle of Alexandria. Easy to find. Unfortunately, it was the wrong one. The guards provided no useful information as to where the Borg was. So we were off on a meandering journey through the deserted desert trying to find this elusive INTERNATIONAL gateway to the world. They were even flagging down other drivers (all this at around 2:00 AM, mind you.) to ask directions. Amazingly no one seemed to have a handle on the place. I was pretty tired, but I remembered doing about eight U-turns.

Suddenly, seemingly purely by chance, we stumbled onto a fairly large archway in the middle of nowhere. We stopped short. This couldn't be it. There was no signage indicating that anything resembling an airport was nearby. A lone guard stepped from the shadows and waved us forward. We had arrived. Sort of. The actual terminal was supposedly another 2 and a half miles down a dusty road past the arch. Seeing as how we had no other great ideas we pushed on.

Five minutes later we were there. Even then I wasn't certain we were at an actual airport. You should envision the bus station in Hamhock, Georgia. There was an X-Ray "technician" at the entrance. He was asleep. There were three passengers in the lobby waiting for this British Airways flight. Eventually that number would climb to 22.

A flight to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (one of three flights scheduled for the day) was full travelers making their Haj to Mecca.




Half the all male flight were praying, half were screaming at each other. It's Ramadan and due to the call to fast all day, all those Muslims were getting testy. But, it was the only show in town.

Post Script:

The British Airways staff (one guy of two guys) informed us this is Alexandria's NEW airport. Al Nozha International airport is the OLD airport using the latest in DC-3 technology.

Borg El Arab, it turns out, has the longest runway on the firmest ground in the region. Thanks to an influx of Japanese money by 2007 or 2008 a new terminal will be built and Borg El Arab INTERNATIONAL airport will be the alternative airport to Cairo's.

Inshallah.

3 comments:

Hani said...

You know, when we were in Khan El Khalili and you mentioned you were flying out of this airport it actually occured to me that you guys might get lost.

Anyway, its all part of that "third world country vibe" you're so into, isn't it? :)

mike247worldwide said...

Just part of the journey to Ithaca. Like with the street crossing, if it doesn't kill you it becomes another great story.

A couple cars went down my street yesterday.

J.C. said...

I have been to this airport. Raw meat is apparently an acceptable carry-on item.