The 45-Hour Flight To Africa

On: April 16, 2009
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About Ali Balunywa
I have 20 years experience in the print media in Africa and Europe. I am in possession of a Bachelors degree in social sciences from Makerere University in Kampala and a post graduate diploma in Journalism and Media management. I am currently following a Masters of Media in New Media studies at the University of Amsterdam.


Ben and I booked the same flight to Uganda: Egypt Air. The flight was supposed to take off at 3.30pm from Schiphol airport (Amsterdam) on Saturday 4 April 2009.  We were to transit through Cairo in Egypt lasting one hour and proceed to Entebbe in Uganda.

We boarded the plane in time and sat for almost an hour. The pilot had realized that the altimeter was not working and it needed repair. We were asked to disembark and given vouchers for a meal at any restaurant at the airport. 

We waited for almost 5 hours before the fault was repaired. We again went through the airport security to board the plane. Like the first time, I was searched thoroughly and asked by the customs officers how much money I had! Ben was angry and wondered whether it wasn’t discrimination since no white person had been asked a similar question!

We arrived in Cairo at around 3.00 am. Egypt air organized the Sheraton hotel for us. We were allocated rooms and informed that we would fly the next day in evening via Nairobi in Kenya for Entebbe.

We had a good morning’s sleep and next day after breakfast decided to visit the pyramids at Giza. We hired a taxi and off we went. Foreign currency is not accepted, so we had to look for a machine to draw local Egyptian pounds. At the entrance to the pyramids there is a local bank whose ATM was not functional. Electricity had gone off and the teller could not change our money. Nobody had any idea when power would return! 

Later we identified a man who changed our Euros. He certainly cheated us, but we had no choice. We were 4 people having met a German lady and her daughter who too were travelling to Uganda. We paid the equivalent of 12 euro each to enter the pyramid area. We took some photos and bought some trinkets. We were mesmerized by the sheer size of the pyramids and the history it stores. The Sphinx stands proud in front of the biggest pyramid. One might assume it is the custodian of history. 

Later we visited the famous 5 star Oberoi hotel in Cairo for refreshments. Back at the hotel we had dinner and returned to the airport. To Ben’s dismay, I was again thoroughly checked at the check in counter, yet he and the Germans made their way through without being checked.

After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Nairobi at 4.00 am. Our Entebbe flight was departing at 8.40 am, so we had several hours of waiting. We collected our boarding passes and went to the departure gate. The expected was done; another thorough check on me was conducted again to Ben’s disgust. He actually commented that this was the worst discrimination case he ever encountered! 

Our sense of humor was restored when we were offered seats in the first class section of the plane! A welcome drink; Champaign, water, juice or soda was offered. The region’s newspapers and international magazines were offered to us. A wide variety breakfast was offered. This time real steel cutlery and china crockery are used. We were pampered and spoilt by the hostesses who were at hand to satisfy all our needs. Unfortunately we did not enjoy for long as the flight took only 50 minutes.

At Entebbe airport we paid for our visas with so much ceremony.  Ben had US dollars that were rejected because they were manufactured before 1990! His pleas that he was American and that dollars were genuine fell on deaf ears. He instead used Euros to pay and we proceeded to collect our baggage.

Not to disappoint at the exit, I was again singled out and my luggage searched again by the customs. But finally, we had arrived in Uganda at 10.00 am on a Monday morning having left Amsterdam on a Saturday afternoon!

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