Monday, May 16, 2011

What about having a big vault with US$ 80,000,000,000?


Just the other day I was contemplating on what I would do if I had US$ 80,000,000,000 and I have to admit I wasn't able to even spend half of it. I'm just not that much up to date on what people that have that kind of cash spend it on.
Now former president of Egypt Mubarak supposedly has or should I say had that kind of money. And since Egypt is very much a cash economy, I envision him having this massive vault somewhere safe in the dessert just like Scrooge McDuck (Dagobert Duck in Dutch). And when he feels sad he goes there swimming in all that money.

I wonder whether you really care about money when you have that much. Would he really have bargained his way across the local market shopping for groceries? I guess so, because it's part of the Egyptian culture and after all Mubarak was the self proclaimed father of the people.
But when you have so much money that it would take you a lifetime to count it, do you really care whether something costs 1 Egyptian Pound or 1 Piaster? I think everything feels to be for free. You would probably act the way. Or not.
I remember coming here about a year and a half ago and still thinking in €'s and constantly doing the math to translate all prices to €'s and time after time be amazed about the local prices. People telling me that I'm shopping for my groceries at the expensive supermarket and I am wondering how things could be even cheaper.
But you adjust and everything turns out to be relative. That can of Coke (the drink) that is only LE 2.53, which is about 30 €ct's used to be only LE 2,16 before the revolution I remember. Which is also about 30 €ct. I guess Mubarak was facing the same after getting used to be able to buy everything edible available in the Egyptian markets.

So what is your biggest worry then, when it isn't what you can and cannot buy? I guess it is loosing all that wealth. I mean that even when you take all the stories with a big bag of salt, Mubarak went out of his way to protect that vault in the dessert. He had a whole army of policemen roaming the streets 24x7, constantly on the look out to spot possible threats to public and private safety.
And then there was the army of... Well just the army that supported Mubarak and I would think that that was the reason why he could stay in office for that long (roughly 30 years). Of course being re-elected all the time also helps but that only counts when you have proper opposition and the people
voting actually have a selection of presidential candidates to chose from.
Now think with me, you're supporting a person that has 80bln is cash stashed somewhere in a vault in the dessert. And this person can only acquire that kind of money and keep it hidden because of you.  What does this mean to you? Exactly, you're probably the nicest supporter, the biggest fan or an
extremist altruistic devotee. Or, and I realize I might seem a bit paranoid or conspirational here, you're securing that same amount of money as the guy he takes the fall when everything falls to shambles. But that is unlikely, that's like thinking former president Bush knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but he just wanted to invade that part of the world to show his dad (former president Bush) that he could out-war him in the gulf.
I think that everybody here is a victim of misconception, misunderstanding and demonization by the media. I mean, everybody is innocent until proven guilty, but more importantly, everybody has the universal right (mandated by the UN no less) to pursue his or her happiness. And when somebody gets
of the right track and forgets about the fact that his fellow man has the same basic human rights, it just proves that he's merely human.

And so I am digressing once again and by realizing this, I realize that I should put an end to this post. Please feel free to comment and when I offended you in anyway, it was not my intention at all.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getting in and out...

Well, this is kind of odd since "getting in and out" implies quickness. Okay rewinding my thoughts a bit. This post is supposed to be about flying between Amsterdam and Cairo. My flights are always booked Amsterdam - Cairo - Amsterdam, it's something that has to do with the first ticket I bought.
But I stay relatively long in Cairo compared to my stays in Holland. I stay 11 days in Cairo to every 3 days in Holland, although ever since the Revolution in Egypt it's 10 to 4 (of which I spend 2 in transit).

Basically in terms of airliners there are 2 options: Egypt Air and KLM/Air France (or is it Air France/KLM?). Although KLM and Air France are really 2 separate airliners. They really have nothing in common. So I have 3 options then.

Egypt Air is, just like KLM, offering direct flights, Air France offers a flight with a transfer in Paris.

At the time I started my job in Cairo I chose KLM over the others because they had red eyes (night flights) which would leave on Sunday night 21:00 from Amsterdam, which would allow me to spend the whole day with the family. And I would arrive at 08:00 in the morning in Amsterdam again so I
could spend the whole Friday with the family as well. 3 days with wife and sons.

But ever since the revolution in Egypt on January 25th, there is a curfew which to me means that the red-eyes are no longer an option. Understandably when you're not allowed to be outside, KLM doesn't fly at those times. So the flights moved from 9 PM on Sunday to 8 AM the next morning and from 4 AM Friday to 3 PM Friday. This therefore means that the Friday I could spend with my family is now spend in transit and I either have to sacrifice another vacation day to be the whole of Sunday with the family and fly on Monday or I sacrifice a day with the family and fly back on Sunday morning.

Alternatives are Air France, which has a better flight on Friday, they leave in the morning meaning that I get to my home in Holland Friday late afternoon, but they also fly on Monday morning, so I still loose that vacation day. Until now that Monday hasn't really been a big problem due to the many public and bank holidays in Egypt in the first half of the year and those are pretty much always around the weekend. At least this year, but from now on, that is no longer the case.
Egypt air has the better flights as they fly Friday during the day and I would arrive at my home around 4 PM and fly back to Cairo on the Sunday around 4 PM. Not as perfect as KLM's flights used to be, but not too bad either. Down side, the Egypt Air flights don't add to my KLM status since Egypt Air is Star Alliance and not Sky Team which is the alliance KLM belongs to.

Anyhow, apart from the flights I still prefer KLM over both Egypt Air and Air France as well. In general I think that the cabin crew of KLM is very friendly and not that formal. Always greeted by a smile and a friendly face, something that doesn't come natural with the Air France flight attendants. The Egypt Air crew is very Egyptian. Which is not a bad thing at all. They're very helpful, as pretty much every Egyptian I've met so far. But they're also very business, or let me put it this way. They won't stop for a second to do a little chitchat. I've flown a couple of times with Egypt Air and I've never seen them display a friendly interest in the people they're serving during the flight. Same goes for Air France by the way, all business.
But more importantly for a 4-5 hour flight is the inflight entertainment system, which lacks on the flight to Amsterdam in Egypt Air flights. At least in economy. And recently the same goes for the KLM flights as well. So I thank Steve and Jeff for the iPod and the Kindle to get me through these hours.
There's a good thing about the Air France flights, although you're longer in transit, you're also flying double the flights that add to your status. KLM is a direct flight, so you're adding two flights to your total, Air France is thourgh Paris, with a real transfer, thus you're adding 4 flights. And better status means better chance to get upgraded to business when relevant.

I've become quite a routine traveler, at least on the flights between Amsterdam and Cairo. I'm lucky to have KLM's gold status so I get to hang out in the KLM Crown Lounge and the Air France business lounge when flying either one of them. And I get priority boarding and priority this and that.
But on top of that, I applied for Privium, a service at Amsterdam Schiphol airport (and supposedly also at New York airports), which gets me through immigration by iris-scan. No long lines with people from all over the world, some with questionable visa, some with other challenges. This is a real time saver. Especially coming back to Holland because I get to the train pretty fast and therefore I'm home as soon as possible. Same goes for the chip-card with the Dutch public transportation system. No more tickets to be bought, with long lines in front of the ticket machines.

Well I now realize that this might be a boring post, but thanks for reading until here any way. Highly appreciated. Next time I'll try to make it more interesting.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why you want to suffer from food poisoning in Egypt

Okay, first of all, you shouldn't want to have food poisoning at all, not even in Egypt, but if you are ever going to suffer from food poisoning, it's best to suffer from it in Egypt. And I'm talking from experience... I think.

Last week I got hit by "Nuerburg's disease", I got the racing shitters. When there's something I really don't like in sickness it's the unconventional way your food tends to leave your body. I hate having to puke all the time, but having the shitters I think is even worse (of course, both at the same time is even more horrible). I can handle pain, well Ibuprofen can.

But let me get back on track.

So I got a serious case of diarrhea last week and I think it was due to food poisoning. My guess I had a salad or something that wasn't cleaned with clean water or not clean at all. Something like that. It started on Tuesday and it took me until yesterday to consider myself cured. Imodium was what saved me in the end.

So what does this have to do with Egypt? Simple, I have never, seriously, experienced such soft toilet paper. And I am not kidding here. Especially the toilet paper from Fine is extremely soft. It's as if you're wiping yourself with a fresh cloth of the most exquisite cotton. I kid you not.
You have to look for it though because even Fine has some less soft toilet paper in the shops. And anybody who's had the dubious pleasure of suffering from "Nuerburg's disease" can attest that one of the worst parts is the soreness resulting from all the wiping. Even baby sudocreme doesn't handle that.

Once I was on a scuba trip with a couple of guys and one of them actually was working for Fine, Aly. He explained about the whole deal behind toilet paper and the research and all. And I was kind of not taking it too serious. Who would? But now I am very thankful of Aly's work or I believe it was his colleagues work at Fine for their great job.

I've had the shitters in other countries (Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, USA, UK, Belgium, Greece, Spain, Brasil, Mexico) and always the toilet paper was what made me hate most about the whole thing. The soreness after wiping. But this honestly was not the case last couple of days.

Now I'm all done with the diarrhea and apart from a funny feeling in my bowels it's all over now. All but the toilet paper. I still have some and relish it. I'm not keeping it for the next food poisoning, I'm just going to make sure I buy the right paper next time I'm running out of it.