Egypt travel blog 2020 – part 3
Egypt travel blog 2020 – 2 ½ weeks in Wadi Lahami part 3
Part 3 – suddenly everything goes very quickly: the retrieval!
On March 16, 2020 the information came that the airports in Egypt should be closed for 14 days. Since we largely received no information about our return flights – see Egypt Travel Blog 2020 Part 2 – we have entered all camp participants in the ELEFAND crisis prevention list of the Federal Foreign Office (if not already done). The website was clearly overloaded and collapsed several times when entering data.
Around 3 a.m. on March 17th, 2020, we finally added all of the not yet registered guests and then tried to approach the days as normal and to spend as much time as possible kitesurfing, on the water and in the sun. After all, due to the poor communication between the airlines regarding return flights, we had more or less hardly any alternatives than enjoying the time in camp as much as possible.
The mood on site was still good – despite the rather chaotic reports from Egypt, Germany and the world, most of our guests (and we too) were of the opinion that we were safer in the camp than in Germany. However, the team ( kitesafe.de and Redsea Divingsafari ) also felt an increasing burden in terms of responsibility and planning:
How long would we be stuck here with the group after the flights were suspended? Do we have enough diesel, water and food in the camp? What happens if somebody injured while kiting? Or somehow ill?
During the closure, the tourist resorts should be disinfected and upgraded (disinfectant dispensers, etc.) – what happens to us if we are still in the camp during this period? What happens if one contact tests positive all at once? There they were again: loads of questions that were initially unanswered.
Next bad news: the checkpoints along the Red Sea Road are to be closed. Nobody comes from south to north and vice versa anymore. That would mean that we could neither get to the airport in Marsa Alam nor the airport in Hurghada. Brief panic with us, then the all-clear: only applies to locals, tourists – especially those who are about to be flown out – continue to get through without any problems.
Phew … one less worry, hurray! And as we learned from our guest on March 19, 2020 through the chaos at FTI, the checkpoints were actually open. So the way to freedom would be … oh no, the way to Corona Europe would be open again. If there is a return flight at all …
In the meantime we have received mail from the German ambassador: the ELEFAND system from the Foreign Office is overloaded and you should re-register on an email specially set up for this purpose in order to be on the correct list when you return. Confident words and a reminder to be prudent – don’t freak out. No sooner said than done, the entire group with us as the contact person was typed in again and sent off.
That will definitely take a while, after all, according to the media, “only” 30 machines are on the road around the world to bring tourists back to Germany. In Egypt alone 35,000 Germans who have to go back. Around 200 people can be flown out per plane (with a safety distance between the seats due to CoViD-19), which makes at least 175 flights for Egypt alone … so that will take a while.
And then the horror scenario for the kitesafe.de team: what to do if we get a return flight, but the rest or parts of the group don’t? Or if their return flight is after ours? Do we then cancel our return flight and stay with the rest until all customers are on their way home again? Short brainstorming and a clear answer: yes, we will stay on site until the last customer is on the return journey. And the hope that we might actually only be able to take our regular flight home at the end of April and spend the time in our little paradise until then.
However, there were already gloomy clouds hanging over this idea in the form of discussions about curfews, the grounding of entire airlines, the cessation of air traffic, quarantine for all foreigners in Egypt and much more. But as is well known, hope dies last – it still has jot jejange, as they say here in Cologne.
On March 19th, 2020 we were a bit exhausted due to the odyssey of Andy, our FTI guest, in the evening, but glad that he arrived halfway lively in Hurghada and that he would apparently just fly to Frankfurt with FTI the next day. So around midnight to bed, the next day it was finally foil wind … and after what felt like 5 minutes of sleep I woke up to a sound that I know but somehow doesn’t associate with Egypt and the tent: the ringing of my mobile phone.
When I opened my eyes and started up the basic functions, I saw: 05: 21h in the morning. A missed call – a number I don’t know. Shortly out of the tent, asked Google for the number and lo and behold, the German embassy in Cairo. Shortly afterwards the cell phone rings again, same number. It is 5:47 a.m. A very friendly German employee of the embassy informed me that we (the entire group) can be flown back to Düsseldorf from Marsa Alam today, March 20th, 2020 at 4:30 p.m.
We chat briefly about alternative flights due to the shortage of time (there are none!), Options to sit out (that’s not an option – according to the embassy we do not want to be in Egyptian quarantine) and we agree that the employee will call me again , while in the meantime I throw our group out of bed and ask for their okay that we will all travel home together in about 11am. There are three problems:
- What happens if one person in the group does not want to fly with you?
- Can we take all of our sports equipment with us?
- Will we somehow get Stephan on the list, because otherwise he would have to stay one day longer than the rest of the wadi – which would mean that Susi and I would also stay?
Within 30 minutes everyone is on their feet and starts packing – unanimous departure, we still have about 4 hours for packing and breakfast, the transfer is organized by the Redsea Divingsafari (thanks Hisham & Islam!) And will get us to the airport in time bring. And as already mentioned in the travel blog 2020 part 1 : there was a lot to pack …
At 6:56 a.m. my phone rings, it’s the message again. We clarify the open points 2 & 3 (luggage will fold and we can still get Stephan under!) And with that it is clear: we will be flown out of Egypt today by the return campaign by the Foreign Office and the German embassy in Cairo!
On the way to the airport we find out that nothing works in Hughada (see above), we are in constant contact with Andy and the RSDS and try to help from afar. Short stop in the main camp, 15min crisis meeting, no solution, on to the airport. On the way message from Andy: FTI and Condor won’t take him with them. Shit. We send him to look for embassy staff who should be in the airport of Hurghada.
After what seemed like an endless time, the good news shortly before our check-in: Andy found the embassy staff in Hurghada, suddenly everything went very quickly and now he’s already sitting on the plane to Frankfurt and waiting for the start … a whole massif fell from our hearts, otherwise Susi and / or I would have had to give up our flight and drive to Hurghada to get through the mess with Andy. So we can save ourselves that, hurray!
In Marsa Alam, meanwhile, everything is going as planned: we are all on a list, luggage and people are checked in without any problems and we even have enough time to relax and eat a pizza at the airport – mind you, the very first time for Susi and me. So a highlight in this somewhat turbulent Egypt camp.
In the TUI ( T hilo- U nd- IShit – is clear, right?) – We are received by a Spanish crew on the plane, who asks all passengers to distribute themselves as far as possible to all free rows for the first part of the route (Marsa Alam – Cairo) and thus distance themselves from potentially infected passengers to keep. We decide on seats at the emergency exit – it works!
The flight to Cairo is fast and very calm, we ponder what happened there today. When we arrived in Cairo, we stood on the tarmac for about 40 minutes, the machine continued to fill up. Fortunately, nobody was seated at the emergency exit, which meant that the onward flight to Düsseldorf with an X-Leg-Room could take place. Runs here too!
The flight to Düsseldorf feels long and inconspicuous. The crew is friendly but aloof: masks and language form a well-functioning barrier. We pass the time with audio books, books, films and sleeping. After landing in Düsseldorf we roll into the parking position, after which almost all passengers jump up and want to get out – the usual behavior of stressed travelers. However, the crew announced that health papers still had to be filled out, which the federal police were about to hand in. Only then does it continue.
In addition to the place of residence and contact options, the form also asks for the seats, symptoms and contact with symptom carriers or infected persons during the last 14 days. The forms were filled in within 15 minutes (apart from a few exceptions, where passengers thought the wording was unclear and refused) and returned them to the crew.
But instead of getting off, we had to wait almost 2 hours, because 2 passengers had ticked the box truthfully and thus fell under the group of potentially infected passengers. What called the appearance of a completely protective clothing mediteam on the scene – unfortunately the crew had neglected to announce this (we suspect that they also had no information about the further process).
And as a result, chaos broke out – at least in small herds: people wanted “to get out of here immediately, I’m hungry and want to sleep”. Or “That’s crazy, they must be crazy, let me out of here immediately!” Also, “I’m not going to sit down anymore – throw me out of the machine!” Was a hit for a short time.
In view of the fact that around 200 passengers were flown out of a risk area by a Spanish crew without any effort on their own, regardless of their own health, a highlight on the subject of “shame of others”. And I would be happy if somebody actually did. of the passengers reading this post – what “you” have delivered has shaken me deeply. Instead of gratitude, only rampage. Instead of friendliness and cooperation, only hatred and bad words. Shame on you!!!
Shortly after the mediteam had completed the questioning of the potentially infected, they went out of the machine and through passport control and baggage claim. Everything went smoothly here, no luggage lost, everything was fine. Families, friends, cars and taxis were already waiting at the airport and took us to Betten – Susi and I were in Cologne at 02:30, the day was definitely exciting, long and exhausting. And even if 2 hours in an airplane after landing may not be the dream solution, as the chance of spreading viruses was certainly not low during that time, we are glad that the crew stayed cool and friendly.
At the end of the travel blog 2020 about our supervised kite trip to Egypt we would like to – I think also on behalf of everyone involved – thank you very much to all the people who were involved in this story:
- With all of our customers – whether on site or with us in mind. You are the best!!!
- With the Redsea Divingsafari team – especially with Sarah, Eli, Hisham, Rafik and Ahmed. Shukran ketir, habibis & habibas!
- At the friendly employee of the German embassy in Cairo , who organized the return flight for us – unfortunately I only know that he comes from the Rhineland, I forgot the rest in the hustle and bustle. If you’re reading this, I look forward to hearing from you!
- At TUIfly and above all the Spanish crew, who handled the return flight professionally despite the high risk and did not allow themselves to be disturbed by the spinners in the plane.
We hope that you enjoyed our Egypt travel blog 2020 and wish you and everyone peace and quiet for the next few weeks. Stay healthy and see you hopefully soon!
Thilo & Susi