Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cairo International and the Star Alliance Lounge

CAIRO - I left my hotel, the just-opened Fairmont Nile City, at 6:55 this morning for Cairo International Airport and my flight to Rome. By 8:10, I had checked-in at the special first and business class station at one end of the new Terminal 3 concourse, passed through security and found the lounge that Egyptair shares with its Star Alliance partners. Here, I found four free PCs; I am writing this post on one of them. This all took 75 minutes; not bad.

Travel is splendid when things work as they're supposed to. As all travelers know, this is not always the case, but so far Egyptair and Cairo International have made it easy. I've got a freshly brewed coffee at my side, an incredibly good Egyptian sweet with chopped nuts and honey and a wedge of tasty goat's cheese. The lounge is relatively modest in size but well-appointed and well-run. Staffers are attentive without being obtrusive, there are big portholes in the wall facing the runway, admitting welcome natural light, plentiful places to plug-in laptops, rows of chairs facing a wide-screen TV that's showing the news in Arabic (naturally).

The main concourse of the several-month-old terminal has a soaring roof and plenty of room for standing, strolling, shopping in the expansive and brightly lit mall ... and lining up. This is good because the place is packed this morning. The terminal handles both international and domestic flights and is a definite upgrade from the airport as I experienced it just over a year ago on my first visit to Egypt.

So, farewell to Cairo, with its minarets, palms, jaw-dropping drivers, rubble, fantastic antiquities and of course the majestic Nile. And to the Egyptians, who have impressed me as being among the warmest and most welcoming people I've met on my travels.

Now, onward to the Eternal City.

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