Carl and Linda Baessler dreamed all their lives of going to Egypt. It turned out to be more than they could possibly have imagined.
The Atlantic Beach couple headed there Jan. 20 for an eight-day adventure exploring Egypt’s 5,000-year history. Their trip, as expected, included stories of Pharaoh Ramses II and ancient tombs and a cruise up the Nile River.
But soldiers, tanks and long lines? Those things were waiting for them when they headed back to Cairo International Airport on Jan. 28 for the trip home.
They arrived at the airport as civil protests in Cairo’s streets prompted the airport's closure. Protesters had begun demonstrating Jan. 25, calling for Egypt's then-President Hosni Mubarak to step down after 30 years as the country's leader, but hadn't impacted the couple's vacation until it was time to go home. The Egyptian army responded with safety precautions, one of which was shutting down the airport. The Baesslers said they didn’t feel threatened despite the surreal events.
In the three extra days they were in Egypt, the couple, both of whom are 60, witnessed protests, rioting in the streets and poverty, along with something they didn’t expect -- overwhelming kindness. One of the first things Carl Baessler recalls about the uprising was a man who was walking on the street in front of their hotel.
“He apologized for our vacation being ruined,” Baessler said, gleaming. “I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ ”