Editor’s Letter | March/April 2013

Steve Wrubel

The question I’m asked a lot at this magazine is WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TRAVELING TO CAIRO? It’s one of many asked of the departures team, albeit one of the more difficult. The reasons, of course, are obvious and succinctly stated by Joshua Hammer, our man in Cairo and author of “CAIRO: SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?” “For nearly two years,” he writes, “since mass protests in Tahrir Square brought down the country’s dictator, Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s tourism industry has struggled to overcome the perception that the country is dangerous.” The answer, alas, is decidedly more complex. And it illustrates a point: that we take you and our travel recommendations seriously—a keystone of this magazine. Hammer, a former Nieman Fellow, the former Africa bureau chief for Newsweek and a wise observer of what’s happening in the Middle East right now, lays it all out—the good, the bad, the ugly.

We’ve always tried to point you in the right direction—or at least give you the facts to decide for yourself—whether it’s traveling to a complicated destination or not. It’s important to address tricky situations, but it’s our combination of pursuits, from traveling to dining out, that makes departures unlike anything else out there. In this issue, we’ve covered everything from David Bowie, the subject of a retrospective opening March 23 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, to Sid Evans’s profile of Mike Lata, Charleston’s most-talked-about chef. And if on occasion we’ve missed covering someone, someplace that you’d like to hear more of or feel strongly about, let us know. Every magazine, in the end, is only as engaged as its readers demand it be. So please, I would encourage you to write me directly at Richard.D.Story@aexp.com. In the meantime, enjoy the issue.

One final note.

This past January I found myself settling nicely in a seat on Emirates Flight 722 from Dubai to New York. We were offered a little something to drink—orange juice, Champagne or sparkling water. The staff was predictably attentive, not to mention impeccably polite and extremely helpful, especially when my iPhone slipped out of my hand and disappeared deep within the recess of my seat and very much out of reach. “Please, don’t worry; we’re used to this,” said the attendant. “Sometimes we find a dozen phones or iPods under the seats that people don’t even realize they’ve lost.” Luckily, I did know. The selection of in-flight entertainment was great—I couldn’t wait to watch all those movies I hadn’t got around to seeing over the holidays. Perfect, right? If you haven’t yet flown Emirates, it is, I can assure you, everything it’s cracked up to be. At least in premium class.

I was on the return flight from Nairobi via Dubai, where I had traveled to begin research for this year’s upcoming October special destination issue on Africa. We hadn’t been airborne for more than 30 minutes when the announcement came across loud and clear: You can now activate your cell phones for in-flight conversations. In-flight conversation?

Yes, it’s finally here. In October Emirates gave the go-ahead for passengers on its A380 planes to use cell phones during flight. “Emirates has always taken the approach that providing the latest in in-flight service and connectivity is a key part of our passenger’s journey,” a representative for the airline said.

And so it is.

It would appear that “I’m headed home” is now part of the global soundtrack even 35,000 feet above sea level.

FYI: In accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration ban, the service will be shut off 250 miles from the edge of the United States.