Wednesday, February 2, 2011
What a Riot
“Your flight is canceled.” The airline representative in her crisp suit informs us, expressionless. “They’re all canceled. The Cairo airport is closed.”
Our day didn’t begin like this. Just this morning Heather and I were flying home from a wonderful, relaxing vacation. We have a 12 hour layover in Egypt, so decided to sight see, of course! :P We hired a taxi to take us to the pyramids, Sphinx, and Memphis. We rode camels. :0) As it came time to go to Memphis, our taxi driver said it’s too far away, would we mind going to the zoo instead? Always up for a random adventure, Heather and I said yes.
After cotton candy at the zoo, our taxi driver went into a mosque during afternoon prayer time. A couple minutes later, he came back out and asked if he could take us to the airport now. No problem, we said. Heading back, we saw policemen with guns and shields lining up in the city square. Minutes later, as afternoon prayers ended, the protesters came out and flooded the streets. Tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons were used in the attempt to control the “Friday of Wrath” as it has hence become known. And yes, by the grace and protection of God by the taxi cab driver He sent to be with us, we missed the mayhem by minutes.
Although we were in the front part of the airport by early afternoon, we could not get our boarding pass until 8pm (by Cairo rules you can’t sign in until three hours before your flight). You can’t get through security and immigration to the “real” part of the airport unless you have your boarding pass. Heather and I passed the time napping, eating Egyptian nuts (a present from our taxi cab driver), talking and reading. 8pm brings us back to the start of our story…
The airline representative went on, explaining that the pilots were not able to get to the airport due to the rioting in the streets, and other countries canceled their flights TO Cairo. With the combo of no airplanes coming in and no pilots, everything had shut down. And here we are in no-man’s land - not in the “real” airport and not able to leave. This is when we decide we should probably get some help. :P
Using our American charm, we have an officer take us to the police station in the airport so we could use their phone. Politely refusing multiple offers of cigarettes, Heather and I explain that we would like to call a friend in South Africa who can counsel us on what to do. “It is not possible,” we were informed by the very sad guard (he really wanted to be of assistance to us damsels ;). “They have cut all international phone calls and internet. The only thing you can do is call a local number.” I smile and ask if he has the number for the US embassy. Yes, I felt very cool dialing that number. lol.
Exchanging pleasantries and vital info with the embassy representative, he expressed regret because he could not call out, either, but did say he would let anyone who called know that we were safely in the airport. He went on, “I don’t know if you can hear the gunshots and everything going on out here, but GET OUT of Egypt if you can. On any flight, however you can, GET OUT!”
This was a very nice idea, but with all flights canceled, it didn’t look like we were leaving by air, and with gunshots outside it didn’t look like we were leaving by foot. We attempted to have an officer let us through immigration to another (safer) part of the airport, but he said he would have to keep our passports if he let us through. God intervened and his general came striding over, handed us back our passports, and waved us through a back entrance without a stamp or anything of the kind. Again, amazing protection of our Father’s!
Upon entering the back part of the airport, we check with our airlines who say come back at 10am the next day and they could see then if the situation had calmed down. Heather and I had a relaxing supper and had just settled in for the night when this Italian professional boxer dude we were talking to earlier burst into the restaurant where we were and said if we ran we could catch a flight going to Johannesburg – our original flight!!!
We made it.
It left three hours late, but we made it out of Cairo on one of the LAST flights! Praise the Lord! Some people are still stuck there!
Because we left late, we missed our connecting flight home to Madagascar. The airline said we could try standby on the next flight…24 hours later. Rather than sleeping in the Johannesburg airport, we decided to call our wonderful friend, Bob, who lives there. He and his family invited us over for a meal and got us a place to stay so we had a great night’s sleep. The next day God ever-so-awesomely made it to where we didn’t have to pay for another ticket, penalty fees, or anything for missing our flight AND we made our standby flight. Oh praise Him.
Here we are today in the rain forest after stocking up for the next couple months in the city up north. We are home and God is good. What a God of power we serve! :D