I wouldn’t call it a childhood dream, but it has been quite a while since I have been looking to see a mummy. I am sure a lot of us want to. The Egyptian history is probably one of the most fascinating ones. Mummies and Pyramids would be on the hit list of anyone who even has a little interest in history (or may be with no interest in history, these could still be something which one would like to witness!)
I just had a few hours to spare on an otherwise busy trip to London and had to pick on one thing to see. It was not at all difficult. I had read that the British Museum has a rich section dedicated to Egypt and that made it easy! I rushed to the museum and straightway headed for the Egyptian section. And I was not disappointed at all! Just at the entrance of the section, I witnessed a mummy (the one in the photograph above)! It was really a great feeling, I must say. I always though about a planned trip to Egypt to witness the Pyramids as well as the Mummies. I never knew that I wound witness a mummy here, in London (well the English couldn’t get the Pyramids here 🙂 ) . But then, life does throw surprises.
I also attended a 30 minute guided tour on Egyptian history by one of the curators (and bugged him with a few questions towards the end!). I saw a lot of other things as well, but I don’t really remember what else I saw. Such was the thrill!
If you are in London, don’t miss it out…
Date: 30 June 2011
Time: 10:00 AM.
I have to fly back to Delhi from Mysore. I am taking the 1:15 PM Kingfisher Red flight (that’s the only one which flies out of Mysore I guess). I come to know of an urgent meeting and I decide to cancel my Mysore-Bangalore ticket. I quickly logon to Cleartrip where I had booked my tickets. It says that I can’t cancel it online within four hours of departure (I think it was 4 hours) and I should visit the airline website. That is acceptable. Though I am not sure what the limitation is. Technology or something else.
I immediately logon to the Kingfisher Red website and look for cancellations. They’ve managed to hide the link brilliantly. And then I find it! Relieved. But then, life’s not so easy. I come to know that I can only cancel the ticket online if I have booked it through the Kingfisher website. So I must contact the Kingfisher customer care. Now that is disgusting.
Nevertheless, I call up the customer care. My brain is popping out now. I have to hurry to the office to attend the meeting. After pressing some 1/2/5/3 and what not, I reach the cancellations section. And then the stupid music starts. Occasionally, the lady talks about some new sectors and some enhanced Kingfisher Red experience. I think she is mentioning about the enhanced cancellation experience I am having. 10 minutes have gone by, and my brain is completely out. I cut-it there and quickly move out of the guest house to take the taxi to the office which was supposed to take me to the airport. I always have time to call-up on my way to the office.
So I am in the taxi now and I dial-in the number again. After pressing some 1/2/5/3 and what not, I reach the cancellations section. The same lady speaks the same shit. I can’t hear it properly which is good, else my brain will again pop out. I think I fall asleep. The driver says that the office has come. The call is still on and the lady is still spitting crap. It is 11:00 AM and I rush-in for the meeting. There’s no point calling again as cancellation requests are not entertained within two hours from the scheduled departure.
Date: 1 July 2011
Time: 12:45 P.M.
As I am writing this, I am waiting for the same Kingfisher Red flight to take to me Bangalore! I can’t even say I will never fly Kingfisher Red again. That is the only flight which operates out of Mysore for now. I don’t know what to say.
Last couple of days, I have been at AlBaha, the hill station in the desert! It literally is. The temperature during the day is about 30 degrees and during the night, it becomes really cool. Before coming down, I had read about the place and got an impression of it being a tourist place. I expected it to be a lively city with lots of tourists, especially that it boasts a pleasant climate in a region which is otherwise full of desert. But that was not to be. The airport itself looked deserted. Ours was the only plane seen around. The airport looked as if it is a make-shift arrangement.
The good thing is that the airport is on the top of a hill (scary as well). AlBaha is unlike most of the hill station I’ve seen so far. Lots of hills. Very, mind you, *very* steep roads. Our Maruti 800s from India won’t do. And people drive at 140+ even on such hilly terrains. The place has a potential to be developed as a great tourist destination, but it is far from being so at the moment. Very few people to be seen around. No place to see around. Very few shops. All you can see around is mountains being blasted off to create roads and buildings.
The place is green though. The scenetic beauty is good.
Not too many options for vegetarians. Unlike Riyadh, it is not a commercial place where you have people from India and neighboring counties. There is no ‘little India’ here.
I hope that this place will grow to be a great tourist place in the coming years!
Continuing from where I had left the last post, the taxi had to be tracked somehow. But how? How could we track down the taxi without having any clue about it? Suddenly my friends got reminded of something magical. On our way to the hotel from the airport, the entire journey was captured as a motion video in the camera. Could there be some clues in the video? At least it was worth investigating.
The video was long, so we had to quickly glance through it and find clues. Most of the video had captured the mountains and greeneries (yes Madinah is surprisingly much greener than Riyadh!). We went through the entire video, and there was nothing which could help us track it down. We saw it all over again. And suddenly we realized that we had captured the driver’s face for a couple of seconds!!!! There was a ray of hope now. If we went to the airport and showed this photograph to the taxi drivers out there, someone must be able to recognize him and help us get in touch. This was really promising. To help us out came one of the hotel staff who was from India. He called up a taxi fellow he knew so that we could go to the airport. The taxi arrived in a few minutes and we rushed to the driver to show him the image and ask if he recognized him.
Bingo! We showed him the image and he didn’t even take a second to recognize the guy! Wow! This was just awesome. It seemed as if I already had the passport. The taxi in which I had left the passport belonged to an Arab guy, while the driver who recognized him was from Pakistan. He didn’t have his number. However, he was confident that we can track him at the airport. We lost no time to rush to the airport. The way the Pakistani guy (Ghulam Ali) assured me about getting the passport was really promising. I thought for a moment, it is only when I am in India, there’s a negative mentality about Pakistan . Over here, it feels like they just belong to some state in India! I’ve met quite a few people from Pakistan here, and all of them have been exceedingly helpful in making my stay comfortable over here, in some or the other way. That deserves a post.
Getting back to the passport hunt, we reached the airport and Ghulam Ali went on to hunt the driver. He was back in about 5 minutes, not with the Arab driver, but his phone number! He called him up and asked for the passport. The Arab guy said he has passengers and will check immediately upon dropping them. We headed back to the hotel. We called up the guy again midway and he confirmed that he has the passport with him. I felt so relaxed! All jailed abroad stuff vanished. Ghulam Ali dropped us to the hotel as the Arab guy was in the Madinah city where I wasn’t permitted to go. One of my colleagues went on with him. In about 15 minutes they got back with my passport!!!!!!!!!
I thought Ghulam Ali would demand a good sum of money to have helped. To my surprise, he just asked for the taxi fares to the airport and back (which was half of what the Arab driver had charged us!). This was really something which moved me. I gave him the fare with some extra money for the calls and all he made and a million thanks from my heart!
Ghulam Ali, this post is dedicated to you. I will never forget your kind gesture to have helped me track down my passport. A zillion thanks from the core of my heart!
We reached Madinah airport in the evening. Small airport. Walked out and took a taxi to the hotel. The ride was long, but pleasant. Madinah does not feel like a desert surprisingly. I will possibly describe Madinah in another post. When the receptionist at the hotel asked me for my passport while checking-in at the hotel in Madinah, I realized that I had left my passport in the taxi. Not having the passport literally meant all movements blocked. It would have been tough for me to even get out of this country! A couple of episodes of ‘Jailed Abroad’ flashed across my mind. I definitely didn’t intend my story to feature in one of the episodes!
Usually I remain calm and composed while in such situations and there was something from within which assured me that things would get alright. But how?
The taxi had left. We obviously didn’t note the taxi number. No identifier whatsoever. Out of thousands of taxis in the city, how would one track it down? Someone suddenly came up with a ray of hope! We had taken the receipt. I quickly checked the receipt and realized I should have learnt some Arabic. It was all in Arabic! Anyways, not a big deal. We asked our friend at the hotel reception to demystify it for us. And to our surprise, there was absolutely no identifier. No taxi number. No phone number. No address. Nothing at all. Apparently all taxis here carry some kind of a generic receipt. The taxi drivers just write the origin and drop points, the time and the fare and pass it on.
All this time, I was just thinking that the passport would be of no use to the taxi driver. So if he finds it, he would definitely return it to the hotel. But the question was, will he find it soon enough? My stay in Madinah was just for a couple of days.
So I had to track down the taxi somehow. There didn’t seem to be another option. I guess I would stop here. The rest of the story deserves another post!