Holy mother of chaos

I'm not sure that Steve's description of our departure from Saudi was really accurate.  It was probably the most hectic, busy, crazy, chaotic experience of my life, and it all began at the wrong airport terminal.  We had caught the shuttle bus from campus to the Mall of Arabia and after that had haggled for a trip to the airport.  Either the driver didn't understand which terminal we needed to go to or he didn't care because we ended up at the terminal for all of the foreign airlines when we were flying on Saudi's airline.  Terminals here at the JED are not like most in the US where you've either got a big walk ahead of you or a short little train ride.  The two terminals are several kilometers apart requiring another taxi ride.  After arriving at the correct terminal, we wandered around to figure out what line we needed to be in.  After snaking around each of the placed elastic ropes, it continued as Steve said at least another 100 yards around the airport basically ending near the entrance to the airport.  It was completely disheartening.  We'd gotten there about 3 1/2 hours before our flight and we knew that there was no hope of making it through that line in time.  The worst part was that this was just the line to check in and get boarding passes; we weren't even going to check any luggage.  Steve poked around some, found a much shorter line off to the side behind a very large pillar and then we started waiting again.  After another 10 or so minutes of waiting, Steve wandered off and found some self service kiosks, but unfortunately they didn't work for international flights.  It was bizarre to be standing around such chaos.  One person in line near us said that he had never seen the airport so busy before, and I'd imagine it was because of the beginning of the Eid holiday.  Every one had boxes and boxes of luggage (yes literally boxes, very few suitcases) pushed around on carts while all we had was one of the small rolling carry one bags, a bookbag, and my purse.  After an incredibly long day getting ready to leave, going to classes, project meetings, and the prospect of a very stressful return from break, this was exactly what I did not want or need to deal with.  Eventually one of the security guards managed to yell at the airline workers and got the booth we were in line for staffed, although it was very intermittently so.  They like to get up and walk over to the other booths at very random intervals.  We finally got our tickets and headed through security, which compared to the US is a relative breeze.

Getting on the plane managed to be equally hectic as well.  First, our flight was simultaneously listed as "cancelled" and "on-time" which was strange, but it did turn out to board on time.  Boarding planes in the US can get a bit crazy as people try to get ahead of their assigned boarding group and get on sooner, but here there aren't boarding groups; everyone makes a mad dash for the boarding gate as soon as it opens feeling no remorse physically pushing people along the way.  We then had our passports checked again and boarded buses that would take us out to our plane.  When the bus let us out at the plane there was more pushing and jostling as everyone boarded the stairs to the plane.

If ever there was a time when the intricate nature of human beings trying to fill a limited number of seats needs to be overcome, it is when filling a plane.  Two of the worst words for this situation would be "free seating" which is exactly what we were told when we got onto the plane.  For us, it worked out great, we grabbed seats at the beginning of a section, those ones with all the leg room because there's no one directly in front of you.  It ended up taking and extra 30 minutes or so to seat everyone because some of the parents of infants put their kids in seats, leaving others with no where to sit.

The flight went pretty smoothly, except for the old woman beside me scolding me for not cleaning my lemon before putting it in my tea.  Who knows where I was going to have the means to clean a lemon peel; at that point, pesticides were the least of my concerns!

Up next on our Cairo journey: Cairo Day 0