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Cairo October 18, 1999 - Leaving New York for Cairo

By Bob Van Leer

 3 BurialBox(CAIRO, EGYPT, Oct. 18, 1999) - Yesterday morning Jim Kelly, Hood River, and I toured around New York, with a boat drive by of the Statue of Liberty and a couple hour stop to look over Ellis Island, now a national park, where millions of immigrants were processed to enter the United States and start new lives.

  In the evening we picked up our bags we left at the Salisbury Hotel and headed out to John F. Kennedy Airport. It is time to start on our trip to Africa. At JFK we met up with Matt Paxton and Peter Wagner, the other two journalists on this tour, and Ahmed A. Maguid, an Egyptian who is to be our host on this 10-day briefing tour of Egypt. Meguid's day job is financial officer for the American Egyptian Cooperation Foundation (AECF), the sponsor of this tour.

   We boarded an Air Egypt Boeing 777 at 11:00 p.m. for a non-stop flight to Cairo. The route took us north past Newfoundland and across the Atlantic. We crossed into France south of Paris and turned south right past Rome.

We continued on across the toe of the Italian boot and across the island of Crete before arriving at Cairo. A computer-generated picture in the cabin is constantly updated showing where on the map we are. 


  We touched down at 9:25 a.m. Eastern Daylight time, but it was 3:25 p.m. Cairo standard time. We are nine hours ahead of Gold Beach time now - 3:25 p.m. in Cairo is 6:25 a.m. at home.

  New York to Cairo was 5595 miles which we traveled mostly at 37,000 feet elevation and over 600 miles per hour. At the airport we were met by Sherif Zaza, AECF, who is handling our travel reservations.

  We had a few moments in a hospitality room at the airport and it was time to get down to business so I asked Zaza about tourist exchanges between Egypt and Israel after 20 years of peace. Apparently there is still some animosity. I asked Zaza if he was comfortable traveling in Jerusalem and he said, "Of course not". He said Egyptians in Israel have a lot more restrictions than Israelis visiting Egypt.

  Zaza said leaving Israel he was taken aside and subjected to lengthy questioning and almost missed his plane.

  8 WatchTowerIn fairness though, Jim Kelly, who is a U.S. citizen, said when he was leaving Israel after a visit he was subject to a similar bombardment of questions as Zaza.

  There were carloads of Egyptian soldiers at the airport and Kelly asked Zaza if there was universal military service. Zaza said all young men are required to serve a year, starting at the age of 18, except delayed for deferments such as college.

  We were taken downtown to our hotel, the Nile Hilton, situated right on the banks of the Nile and my room has a view of the river. A nice touch at the hotel was the TV set in my room was turned on and a message on the screen read, "Welcome Dear Van Leer Mr. Robert".

  Tomorrow, Tuesday, will be sight-seeing at the pyramids and the Egyptian Museum.

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