I never expected leaving Cairo to feel quite so much like hitting a home run. And I mean that quite literally. Get your mind out of the gutter.
After a full day of seeing the Pyramids and hanging out in Zamalek, it was time to head out for Luxor. I got my backpack and my small backpack, and walked from my hostel to the train station. It’s a bit over 100 degrees in Cairo (or at least it was Wednesday when I was walking), and I was carrying my 15 kg main backpack with my 7kg front backpack (the whole “only 15kg total” thing didn’t work out so perfectly).
The train station is approximately a mile from my hostel. So I march down the Egyptian street (which is one of the primary streets in Cairo) complete with my backpacks – one on the back and one on the front. And my blonde hair. And for good measure, a hot pink tshirt. You could definitely pick me out of the crowd.
I was a bit afraid of getting hassled walking to the train station, especially with luggage (I walked because I did think the hassle would be less than trying to use public transit or a cab… sigh). I was surprised – walking down the street I had a number of women stop me and say “Welcome to Egypt!” (I think they thought I was arriving rather than leaving, but with luggage it was clear I’m not an ex-pat). I did feel very welcome – it’s sad and hard, but I always accept women’s greetings more honestly than men’s in the streets – the women clearly weren’t thinking I’m “easy” or anything.
After all of the horror stories you read about travelers in Cairo, I never once felt unsafe from a personal safety standpoint. There were a few times I felt a little unwelcome because of the stares that I got, but never unsafe. And many times I felt unsafe about getting scammed, but that’s a different unsafe.
By the time I got to the train station, I was drenched in sweat! I’m surprised by how much stronger I am now just because of carrying the pack – this time around, I didn’t notice the pack’s weight as much as just the heat and the part where it sort of traps sweat in. It was disgusting, but I was congratulating myself for part one of the evening – making it down the street to the train station.
I took the sleeper train from Cairo to Luxor, which leaves from Ramses station in Cairo. I’d read online that it’s the green sleeper train, and there’s really only one because it’s the only train they’ll sell foreigners tickets to, etc. My ticket said the train left at 7:40pm, but online it says 8:15. The ticket said to be there 30 minutes early, so in good American fashion, I made it to the train station at approximately 6:45. And waited around to see my train pull in.
I felt completely lost because the signage at the train station is (like most expected signage in Egypt) entirely nonexistent. They have platforms numbered (with the digital boards!) but alas, they don’t actually put which train is where or goes where on them.
So I was nervous but also know Egyptian time runs a bit late when I didn’t see the train at 7:30. And then I saw it! A train with green sleeper cars backed into my platform. So I waited about five minutes. The doors never opened.
I kind of walked back to the main area of the platform, and then I saw it… what was definitely my train. And what was definitely beginning to pull out quite a bit away from me.
It was clear that a few Egyptian folks saw it too and about five guys in sequence started motioning to me like I was rounding third base and trying to get home. It was the exact “GO GO GO GO GO” that the third base coach gives in baseball. I basically sprinted.
Thank God for marathon training… because I was running, in 100 degree heat, with 22 kg of luggage. It was, I’m sure, a sight to behold. You can probably find me on Cairo snapchat or Instagrams with people noticing what a crazy person I looked like! I’m also glad that my sneakers were not cooperating with being packed, so I was wearing them instead of my flip flops.
I made it. I got on the train as it was moving (It really was like the movies – thank goodness I have my backpack for luggage or it would have been bad). I handed my ticket to the conductor in car four – the last car and the only car still in the station.
He pointed me up to car one, where I happily found my cabin! I cannot believe I barely made my train to Luxor. It was one of those moments that as I was running onto the train I was just laughing thinking how incredibly crazy it was. Me. Running through the Cairo train station. Because after arriving an hour early, I still almost missed my train.
But I made it.
It was one of those times in travel that I remember – things work out in the end. Things go crazy, you get lost, you have no clue what’s going on – but ultimately, you find your way.