Invited to a Business Award in Nairobi, Kenya. Haven’t been to the city in years. Looking forward to visiting East Africa again. Flight to Nairobi booked via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Ethiopian Airways. Accommodation booked at the Sankara Nairobi hotel. Looks like a first class hotel.
The day arrives. Time to board Ethiopian Airways and travel to Kenya. Manage to grab a bite and soda at one of OR Tambo‘s coffee shops, located at the most furthest gate ever. Make it onto the plane. Time to locate seating for the next 8-hours. Amazing how a quick look down the isle sets the tone of how the flight is going to be. Make it to the seat as per the airline ticket. Another passenger sitting there. After checking his stub, realize he’s in the wrong seat altogether, on the wrong side of the plane, way too far back. He doesn’t speak English. After some effort, a combination of made up sign language and pointing, the man understands and moves to his seat.
The rest of the flight is fairly pleasant. The cabin crew are friendly and try their best to make the flight a reasonable experience somewhere between the usual airplane cuisine and the remake of “Godzilla“. Eventually make it to Addis Ababa. Probably a world class airport, being the gateway of the African Union and all. Far from it.
The airports restless travelers waiting in transit consist of American tourists dressed in traditional African wear, groups of Chinese interspersed with some passengers resembling the cast and crew of Captain Philips. Time to do some shopping and get some dinner. Easier said than done. Shops at the airport are vast empty spaces with four shelves stocked with cigarettes, fragrances, chocolates and not much else. In every shop. In the whole airport. Looks like some post-apocalyptic movie. This place needs ACSA.
So the retail therapy is a slight disappointment. The handful of local shops selling Bob Marley inspired and color coded clothing with head-wear and some wooden trinkets and souvenirs is also not riveting shopping. Time to get some food. Find a restaurant type establishment, which is packed to the entrance. Decide not to make this a long drawn-out, sit down meal. Rather grab a take-away. Walk up to the cashier to order. Pandemonium. Waitresses pushing customers out of the way to get to the till. No one pays attention. Pull out some dollar bills and ask to be helped. No one is interested. More chaos. End of dinner at disorder diner.
Starving. Time to go somewhere else. Take a walk around the duty free zone, which is buzzing yet looks hopelessly abandoned. Find a small stall that sells cheese and ham baguettes. The owner is happy and enthusiastic to make some money and serve customers. Happily pay him for his sandwich creation wrapped in glad wrap and a soda. It hits the spot.
Take a moment to update the social media feeds and contact home. There’s no WiFi, anywhere. Roaming is a huge letdown, so no 3G or EDGE. Maybe a postcard might have a chance. Maybe not. Time to take on the gatekeeper to the boarding gates. He’s a man who would put a bouncer at a nightclub to shame, as he looks at boarding passes and decides on who may move on. Could’ve been Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller from the movie Titanic as he orders everyone to “Get back…” as dozens of travelers attempt to pass him, run the security gauntlet and board their plane.
Eventually make it through “Second Officer Lightoller” and the security gauntlet. The usual strip show takes place at the X-Ray machine as everyone has to remove their shoes, pull out their belts, take off their watches, do the hokey pokey and eventually get through the security bit of the airport. Another two hour flight to Nairobi and hickory dickory dock, it’s some ridiculous time of the morning. Fingers crossed for this last bit of the trip.
Arriving at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, EBOLA panic is in full swing. More post-apocalyptic movie moments. People dressed in bio-hazard suits and gun like contraptions measuring fever levels, welcome a group of exhausted passengers at the entrance to the luggage section of the airport. Time to fill out the all telling two pages medical form and get scanned. All goes smoothly. Only have to head through passport control, grab a few bags and head off to the hotel. Easier said than done.
Passport controls finger scanner struggles to work properly. Once the luggage is collected customs decides it’s time to do a random selection and another 45-minute process of rummaging through luggage is called for. Eventually it’s over and time to head off to the Sankara Nairobi hotel. Traffic at 3am in Nairobi is a pleasure. Hardly any cars. The usual Nairobi traffic experience is worse than Sandton on a Friday afternoon, during load shedding. Time to get some rest at the Sankara Nairobi hotel.