Famous words spoken by Mohamed Ali all those years back. We’ve just had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with the other Mr Ali, this one coming from Tanta, near Cairo but also a ‘legend in his own lifetime!!’
Having first met Mohamed some 7 years previously whilst in Sharm el Sheikh, we have now met up together probably a dozen times since and are proud to call him our Egyptian son.
Most of these two days were spent talking over the various stories we have collected over the years together with the numerous mutual friends that we have made. Too many to mention, you all know who you are! With Mohamed about the place things are never quiet, you just know that there is always some fun or excitement going to happen somewhere and this trip was no exception. It all started quite innocently whilst we were relaxing around the pool at Le Meredian Hotel, Cairo Airport (can recommend – 5* at less than £100 per night).
Mrs R happened to mention that her cold was not getting any better and did Mohamed know if there was a chemist nearby? Mohamed had travelled by bus and was convinced that he’d seen a 24/7 on the way into the airport, which I know now with hindsight was probably unlikely. I ask you how many 24/7’s do you see as you come through the tunnel into Heathrow? Undeterred by my thoughts, Mohamed was determined that we (yes me and him!) would set off in search of aforementioned 24/7.
Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun……..(it was 3.00pm and probably 30 degrees!
There then proceeded an almost comedy sketch of an hour or so as we walked around the service roads of Cairo Airport (oh and I had forgotten to check the FCO travel advice for Cairo..I guess luckily).
I should point out at this stage, that we are staying just 100 yards from Terminal 3 which is linked by a pedestrian bridge, where there was certainly a pharmacy. However Mohamed was convinced that if we turned left just outside our hotel and walked down the service road we would find the 24/7. Mohamed asked directions (as all us blokes do) on numerous occasions.
Egyptians have a wonderful greeting for each other which goes something like… Hey Basher (or Bash) before they rattle off in Arabic at each other for 5 minutes. At the end of each meeting I enquire as to the whereabouts of the 24/7 only to find that ‘Basher’ did not know!
Undeterred we carried on with our search, at one point chasing after a ‘locals’ red bus. Which we missed, luckily though picking up a local taxi (picture below) which we squeezed into. I say squeezed in as there were already 6 rather largish Egyptian blokes already inside. To see the look on their faces when a large English bloke pushed in as well was a picture! Should have taken a selfie but it just didn’t seem appropriate! We travelled some five minutes before being dropped near a shopping mall, the taxi ride for two of us costing less than 50p. Money is no object though as I was probably the only English bloke ever to have taken a journey in this type of vehicle, although please remember that the actual vehicle was probably well over 10 years old:-
The shopping mall was closed, presumably half day closing, who knows?
Next door though was an Egyptian supermarket where all prices were in Arabic, although I did note that you could buy 6 x 1.5 litres of water for about 25p. We got a soft drink whilst we were looking for the hoped for Pharmacy, again with no luck.
I was becoming quite the centre of attention, I don’t think they have many English people moving in these areas, all the time though Mohamed was chirping Hey Bash at various people on the street, still needing directions for that elusive Pharmacist.
By chance on leaving the supermarket we found ourselves near Terminal 1 of Cairo Airport, some 30 minutes or so after passing Terminal 3, but hey ho what an adventure and Mohamed advised me excitedly that Basher had promised him there was a Pharmacy just inside the terminal.
Now this is fine generally, but if I give you the picture of an Englishman and Egyptian man stood outside an international airport discussing how we were going to get inside without either of us being in possession of a passport?
This is to seriously underestimate the abilities of Mohamed Ali, approaching the machine gun holding security guard with the customary greeting….Hey Bash… before presumably explaining in Arabic that Steve’s wife had a cold and required medication and could we please enter the international airport terminal to visit the Pharmacy?
Amazingly we were allowed past the first set of security to the stage where we needed to put ourselves and luggage through security. Yes I know there is no chance of going any further, this is an International Airport!! Could I refer you though to my previous point about underestimating Mohamed, as the now familiar cry goes up… Hey Bash…..
We were now through to the departures hall and along with a Pharmacy (Yaaayyyyy!) were loads of people queuing to check in all assortments of very large boxes and parcels on equally large trollies. It was how I would imagine a Cargo dispatch facility could be. Where all these people were going with all these large luggage items I have no idea?
With medicines safely purchased we made our way out of the terminal and I put forward an idea that we could actually get a taxi back to Terminal 3 and pleased to report that Mohamed agreed.
By chance there was a cab just outside where the driver at 4pm was finishing a MacDonalds, presumably late lunch or early supper. Not that he needed any food as his stomach was already competing for the limited space with the car steering wheel! This bloke was huge, of Big Daddy proportions! Mohamed negotiated the fare and handed over seven Egyptian notes totalling 35 Egyptian pounds (English £1.75). Seven notes for £1.75……
The Egyptian economy is really struggling and you get 20 Egyptian pounds to £1 of our Queens currency, some years back we used to get 10 Egyptians to the £ so its great value here at present.
By this stage I’m sat in the back seat of our cab, relaxing now the driver having finished his food, enquires of us about directions to Terminal 3 (in Arabic of course). We are in Cairo Airport at Terminal 1 and he’s parked there in his taxi asking an English bloke directions to Terminal 3, you couldn’t make it up.
A few minutes later we are back at Le Meredian Hotel (opposite Terminal 3).
Making our way through hotel security is also entertaining. They insist that you put your phone in a box on the side, before you walk through a scanner. The scanner that bleeps every time you go through, but to no avail as a nice smile and a Hey Bash soon gets you past. Not forgetting to pick up my phone from the same box, this time the other side of the scanner, we’re soon through to the pool. By this stage Mrs R has fallen asleep having given up hope of either seeing us or cold remedies ever again:-
We had been gone for about 90 minutes including walking around airport service roads, taking two taxis, numerous Hey Bash’s, spent 100 Egyptian pounds (£5 English), been though a shopping mall (closed) and a supermarket (purchased two Fanta Orange’s) and no small matter of getting into an International Air Terminal without passports. But our objective had been achieved and the medicine was delivered to the sunbed, by the pool, in the hotel, near the terminal at Cairo Airport.
What an adventure and another great story to tell over the years about ‘The Greatest’ our good friend Mohamed Ali, there can surely be only one Mohamed Ali?