In January 2011 I packed my bags to go on my very first business trip to Egypt to finally meet Sakkara’s suppliers in person after more than two years of intensive e-mail or phone contact. I was excited to finally being able to add a face to the voice on the phone or the written e-mails in my inbox. With lots of good wishes and very useful tips we, a colleague of mine, my boss and I, started our trip to Cairo at the Frankfurt airport. After we caused an “almost-bomb-alert” since we forgot a purse in one of the airport bathrooms, we already knew that this would be an exciting, unforgettable trip. A big bag of gummy-bears (500 grams) helped us getting over this excitement.
So far the experiences in Germany. After our arrival in Cairo I did not have to wait long for the next, nerve-wrecking experience: the drive by taxi to the hotel. While the Egyptian taxi drivers seem to have nerves made out of steal, I had problems staying calm in the rush-hour traffic of downtown Cairo. While my two colleagues who had been to Cairo several times in the past and knew about the special Egyptian driving skills, enjoyed their drive into the city of Cairo a lot, I had to fight which one attack of sweating after the other… Not only did I have no possibility to buckle up, the driver also had a very scary way of driving his car through the narrow, tiny streets past pedestrians, other drivers or bikers. Whoever or whatever was in our way had to make sure to get out of it as soon as possible. I was very relieved when we had made to our hotel without any accidents or road-kills.
After an also very exciting night at the hotel – we lived right next to a mosque hearing the call to prayer of the muezzin at night and very early in the morning – my first day in Cairo started.
I am not sure where to start with my Egyptian experience since the few days spent there were so full of new impressions that I would have to write at least ten pages if I wanted to get everything into this report. Let’s start with a look out of our hotel room in the morning: the song of the muezzin is wandering through the street, a man is selling oranges in a beautiful pile of fresh fruit at the corner, another man is passing by on his bike transporting a whole load of bread on his head, veiled women are walking by and above all there is the pall of smog typical for Cairo in the morning.
On the way to our several suppliers there is a lot to see. We drove by beautifully decorated mosques and other oriental buildings, passed the most secret corners of Cairo and finally found our way right into – at least for each belly dancer - the very heart of Cairo: the Khan El Khalili. Friendly sellers try to get us into their shops, one tries to sell his products cheaper than the previous seller. And those who do not want to sell things want to buy us – of course as a joke –for a considerable amount of camels.
Our suppliers greet me very friendly and heartwarmingly. They seem to be as happy as me to get to know them personally. Thanks to the longstanding, very good business relationship between Sakkara and the Egyptian suppliers I almost feel like a family member during our stay. We are asked to sit down and have a cup of the very famous, delicious Egyptian coffee – sometimes with cardamom sometimes without it – while we talk about the latest trends and are shown the latest belly dancing highlights.
During our little free time, my two colleagues, who both have a lot of experience as far as travelling in Egpyt is concerned, took me to some amazing cafés and restaurants where we had the most delicious strawberry milk shakes and falafels. One secret tip followed the other and I was hardly able to absorb all the great experiences at once.
All in all, the trip to Egypt was an unforgettable experience. I was able to collect lots of new impressions, opened up my horizon both privately and professionally, got to know lots of very friendly, nice people and spent a few fun days with my colleagues. At this point I would also like to thank those two who gave me an understanding for the Egyptian culture and way of life in a very patient, humoristic and experienced way.