Arriving in Barcelona

March 4, 2010 at 1:50 am Leave a comment

1:30am Just finished my class assignment. At last. I’ve been working for 16 straight hours. Now I have 90 minutes to pack and relax.

3:45am Sitting at Starbucks in Terminal 1 at the old Cairo Airport…can’t believe the Alitalia airline. They made us queue OUTSIDE the terminal! And when I told the guy I didn’t print my e-ticket he made me find my name from a 6-foot sheet of paper! Eventually checked in, and headed up. Saw a group of people with Anna Lindh bags but couldn’t be bothered to introduce myself and make small talk with people I don’t know. Then I’d have to wait for them and they’re such a big group, etc

4:20am So the speakerphone lady almost gives me a heart attack at 4:10am “Alitalia announces the departure of it’s flight to Rome” I run downstairs only to find out, of course, she just meant the gate was open. I still don’t understand why people run to stand in line. It’s not like it’s first come first served or that you’ll catch the first plane and the people last in line will catch the later one. Might as well work while I wait. Watch the coffee shop guy come tell me off for the Starbucks cup. Ahha, he just came, I was right.

10:30am Currently on a plane from Rome to Barcelona. I cannot describe how horrendous the flight from Cairo to Rome was. 4 hours and I couldn’t sleep for a second, it was so uncomfortable. I didn’t eat and I didn’t even open my eyes, but still couldn’t get any sleep.

Then we reach the airport in Rome 30 minutes late, rush to board our next flight, only to find around 200 people gathered around the one and only booth and people jumping the queue and fighting. I stamp my passport at 8:55 (bearing in mind the flight is supposed to depart at 9:05), RUN to the gate, only to find that there was a loooooooooong line of people who still hadn’t boarded! Uff ya’ni. So now I’m on the plane and am dying to catch some Zzz’s but it’s only a 90 minute flight.

2pm Finally at the hotel. The plane landed at 11am, and I waited for my bag along with the Anna Lindh people for over an hour. Thank God the bags eventually made it, apparently Alitalia has a reputation for losing bags. Got to the hotel at 1pm, and checked in.

I met Andreu Claret, the executive director of the Anna Lindh Foundation, who told me he was expecting something “short, sharp and witty,” from me at the inauguration, which would address “youth, civil society, dialogue, and media” in 2-3 minutes. Um, no pressure!

I’m in the very cool hotel room now at the Princess Barcelona. 25th floor, sea view. Gorgeous.

It’s raining outside and freezing, and I’m v.tired, but hey, it’s my first time in Spain. I’m heading out. I googled and found the name of a company that does tours and called them, and luckily they said they had a tour at 3pm of “artistic Barcelona.” That’ll do.

7pm: Back at the hotel. Had a wonderful time. Sooooo cold and tired and hungry though.

So I wait for the tour bus at 3pm, and this absolutely gigantic bus rolls up. Only surprise, there’s only 6 of us: A Brazilian couple, me, and three old women from New York.

One of the coolest things I love about traveling is meeting people and just talking to them.

The three women were in their 80’s, and hilarious. Exactly like The Golden Girls. All “Thank you, dear” and “you’re such a doll” when I helped them up the stairs. Complaining about their bad knees and their umbrellas which they got from “the dollar store,” and telling me how much they had enjoyed touring Spain. It was fun.

Saw the absolute coolest buildings in Paseo de Gracia, and then went to Parc Guell. There was a Chinese wedding going on, kids using whistles that sounded like animal sounds, and an altogether very whimsical mood. Those houses looked exactly like something out of a Grim fairly tale. Gingerbread house/ Hansel & Gretel.

Then we headed to La Sagrada Familia cathedral, and it took my breath away. Absolutely stunning. Four different styles and gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Last stop was the Cathedral Sta Maria del Mar, the gothic church, and hung out there for 20 minutes or so.

I think it’s amazing that I could sit in the pews of the cathedral and feel the same sense of peace and serenity that I do in some of our holiest mosques back in Egypt. Because when you get right down to it, faith is faith, and belief in the divine is the same.

So I’m back in the hotel, and I’m pondering weather to head out to La Rambla to try and catch a Flamenco show, or just chill here and try and find a channel that will air Egypt’s football match against England…

12:30am Ok, so I’m so glad I braved the rain and the cold and went out again. I had an absolutely brilliant time. Had dinner first since I was starving, and then caught the show.

I ended up at La Rambla #35, where the Tablao Cordobes were. And it was absolutely brilliant. So much emotion and passion and energy—the air simply crackled with it. I actually felt that I was really in Spain. Loved it.

Tomorrow the forum begins.

Ethar El-Katatney

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