Eid al-Adha/el-Kibir is fast approaching. It typically begins 70 days after the end of Ramadan and in Islam commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for Allah. But Allah rewards Abraham by substituting a lamb in place of his son for the sacrifice. This leads to the current feast of the Eid (Feast of the Sacrifice), which is celebrated by sacrificing lambs… all over the place. So Cairo is full of lambs and goats right now, but not for long.
We knew months ago that we wanted to get out of town for this “holiday.” A friend who was here last year at this time said that Zamalek in particular had blood running through the streets for days. I’ll take his word for it. Initially we thought of just going up to Alexandria on the Mediterranean for a few days, but then we talked about going on a proper vacation to celebrate our belated anniversary. (Ron’s online course is done as of tomorrow – YEAH!) So we started discussing locales. Considering the time of year, December, a lot of Europe was not necessarily what we were looking for. I suggested Jordan or Tunisia, but Ron begged to go somewhere “not sandy.” And considering he hasn’t left Egypt since April, I can understand. So suddenly I had a thought – Madagascar. It’s been on the top of my must-see list for over a decade – they have over 70 living species of lemurs – pure Heaven! So I spent the next four weeks, reading guide books, researching online, talking with travel agents and essentially going full steam ahead.
It took a lot of planning. Madagascar is a large island off the east coast of Africa, and there are only so many flights going into and out of the country per week. Plus, once you get there, you can rent a car, but you’re not allowed to drive it, so you have to hire a driver as well – some speak English, some don’t (French and Malagasy are the two primary languages). And then there’s the added fun of there being a limited number of roads that are actually passable. I did find a great travel agency in London whose employees specialize in African countries, so the gentleman I dealt with had actually been to Madagascar. (I was quite delighted with this, and realized that I rarely deal with a travel agent who’s actually been to the place I’m going – what a novelty!) So, with Sam’s help, we set up a 10-day tour focusing on lemurs, lemurs, and more lemurs, with some giant chameleons thrown in, and lots of beautiful birds. Madagascar really is amazing. Not only does it have species of all kinds that cannot be found anywhere else on earth, but it also has diversity reaching from rainforests to desert to mountains to beaches. I think you could spend months there and only see a sliver.
So the remaining issue was how to get there. The primary option was Cairo, through Khartoum, Sudan, to Nairobi, then on to Madagascar. Considering current conditions, Ron and I were none too thrilled to spend any time, even if it was only on the tarmac, in Sudan. So that led to a bit of flight juggling, but I was able to find a flight that went from Cairo to Nairobi, then another airline for Nairobi to Madagascar. This did leave us with a 12+ hour layover in Nairobi coming back, which wasn’t great, but we were willing to do it. On a Friday morning, I sent in our payment details to Sam for the tour and was planning on finalizing the flights the next day. That afternoon I got an email from Sam saying that he noticed our flight into Madagascar had been cancelled. What? Are you kidding? He wasn’t. Maybe due to the Hajj that would precede the Eid, Kenya Air decided to pull a flight? Who knows, but now our whole trip had to be moved two days forward or two days back. Plus, the flights, providing we still wanted to avoid Sudan (yes, please), now had us going from Cairo to Dubai, Dubai to Nairobi, Nairobi to Madagascar. At this point there were actual tears of frustration forming. My dream trip was crumbling before my eyes. I felt that fate was sending up flares left and right telling us this wasn’t the time to go. So I cancelled everything, and became quite cranky for a few days.
But, still wanting to celebrate our anniversary, and desperately wanting to get out of Cairo, we persevered and opted for Rome, Italy. I know, such suffering. It just took a bit of a mind flip to go from rustic and lemurs to ancient beauty. But I’m a toughie, I can do it. So in about four days we had our airline tickets booked and hotel booked, and I’ve bought two guide books (I can’t do anything new without buying a book to accompany me). So for December 8 through 18, we will be traipsing about Rome, enjoying the blood-free streets (hopefully), reveling in architecture and art, and wallowing in pasta. And despite being to Italy before, I’ve never been to Rome, and neither has Ron. We may take a jaunt to Naples or Florence as well, but we’ll see. I’m not feeling as compelled to over-plan this trip. We’ll relax and enjoy it. And the lemurs remain in first place, so hopefully we’ll be hanging with them in the near future.