Egypt The Future: Man from The International given the red carpet treatment in Cairo

It is not often that my arrival at an airport is filmed by a waiting TV crew. But for a moment I feel like Rihanna.

Welcome to Egypt the Future. Or at least welcome to the welcome committee at Cairo International Airport.

A bored TV crew, it transpires, has been waiting all morning for someone, anyone, to arrive so they can get some footage.

Some of the biggest names in global finance are coming to Egypt this weekend to attend the investment conference that everyone has been talking about, but it’s clearly been a slow morning for arriving captains of industry. So instead of capturing Christine Lagarde or Jeff Immelt striding purposefully towards the future, they get me shuffling and dishevelled, pulling a trolley suitcase that has lost its extendable handle in a Mr Bean-like baggage carousel incident.

The ladies on the welcome desk give me the sort of slow up and down appraisal I recognise from my wife’s extensive repertoire of similarly withering looks.

It looks like the textbook “Are you really going out like that?” look. Or it could be the “I mean really, how many check shirts is it possible to own in one lifetime?” look.

They are all smiling, but with the sort of smile you use when talking to someone who has just lost a long-term pet.

Still, I get the full red carpet treatment – literally.

Everybody seems to be set to hospitality whisk speed. One takes my passport, another my bag and a third hurries away with my crumpled itinerary.

In the VIP arrivals, there is a large group of teenage pharaohs lounging lazily on the sofas waiting for the proper VIPs to arrive.

I meet one official after another, all effusively friendly and urging me to tuck into the waiting buffet laid out in a room furnished with the kind of chairs that you only ever see ambassadors or heads of state sitting on.

Some officials arrive, others leave.

“He is from The International,” says one to another solemnly.

“It’s actually The National,” I try to interject – but the conversation has moved on and more officials come to inspect the guy from The International.

The man from the local TV crew is still filming me sitting on a swanky sofa in what could be the most boring B-roll ever recorded in post-Arab Spring Egypt. Questions will surely be asked back at the studio when they produce their morning’s work.

Then the whisking recommences and we quick-step to the domestic terminal to fly to Sharm El Sheikh. We pass more groups of bored-looking teenagers dressed as pharaohs.

I’ve managed to bag what could be the last remaining seat on a flight to the Red Sea resort for the weekend of the big conference, and as we climb over the sprawling Cairo skyline I start to relax. Thirty minutes into the flight there’s still lots of Cairo skyline and we don’t seem to be gaining altitude. Then comes the announcement. The plane has technical problems and we need to return to the airport.

I hope the TV people are still there.

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Sean Cronin

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