Cairo Chaos: My Chatoic Story in Cario, Egypt2/4/2011
Currently, the front page of Yahoo News reads Cairo square chaos intensifies, violence spreads. Unless you just woke up from a long coma or, well, you live in an internet-less Egypt, the city has experienced violent protests in recent days. Cairo chaos reigns!
The country is furious at the current state of leadership and demands change. I support the people of Egypt, but am saddened by their methods. Hopefully, a peacefully resolution is in the near future.
My first day in Cairo was filled with chaos as well. I remember the verbal and physical confrontations experienced with a few Egyptians.
Below is the story of my first day in Cairo. I briefly mention my adventures in a previous post, Walking like an Egyptian.
Mickey Mouse waits patiently as I slowly climb one of the Pyramids of Giza. My tour guide, a confident 9 year old boy, asks me to pause for a photograph. I cannot believe I am standing on top of the last original wonder of the world. I’m sure this is illegal.
My guide assures me everything is OK. I proceed higher to the second level of the pyramid, pausing yet for another picture. The sun bears down on my pasty, white skin. The summer Sahara heat sizzles my face, arms, and legs every moment I stand on the old structure. I open up my arms, like the wings of an eagle, feeling untouchable from Mother Nature.
“OK, one more, sir”. The tour guy yells.
I climb to the 5th story of the pyramid, wave, and wait to hear confirmation from the guide.
Suddenly, I hear whistles coming from all directions. Men on camels rapidly make their way to my position. Whistles and shouting fill the arid Egyptian air. I don’t speak Egyptian, but I can tell they aren’t happy. As fast as I can, I make my way down the pyramid, landing on the desert sand in about 10 seconds.
It’s the police! I’m screwed!
Watching the young boy talk trash to those grown men helps ease my anxious nerves. I’ve never seen such bravado from a small child. During the conversation the Egyptian police give me big wide smiles and ask me questions like, “Where are you from?” and “How long are you in Egypt”.
On the other hand, their facial expressions change when exchanging verbal barbs with the boy. The police resort to yelling tactics and point adamantly at the pyramid I scaled minutes ago.
I begin to feel uneasy. I’m clueless to the nature of the conversations. My guide informs me the police couldn’t care less about throwing an American tourist in jail. They all want money!
I let my guide do all the talking while I hop back on my camel, Mickey Mouse. The young boy exchanges his last pleasantries, and off we go. I have no idea what he said or how he convinced the ambitious police men to leave us alone, but he pulled it off.
Absolute chaos ends in a peaceful resolution. Somewhere the great magician Houdini smiles in appreciation.
Photo of my “intimidating” guide on a horse
The tour lasts another 30 minutes for a total of two hours. The camel ride is fantastic. However, at this point I’m completely exhausted, and looking forward to a nap.
Earlier in the day, I arrived In Egypt on a two hour flight from Istanbul, found my hostel through Cairo traffic, headed straight to the Pyramids, and spent another 2 hours sightseeing.
I plan on canceling the Valley of the Kings tour as soon as I get back to the hostel.
I did very little research before arriving in Cairo, and paid dearly for this mistake. My itinerary included 3 days in Egypt before heading to Johannesburg for World Cup 2010. The only way I can visit the Pyramids and Valley of the Kings is to leave Cairo via overnight train.
Little did I know as soon as I reach the hostel, I’m in for another confrontation.
Yelling back and forth, nothing is getting accomplished. I’m exhausted and want to cancel my tour, which leaves in about an hour. I begin screaming at front desk to cancel the tour, but they won’t budge. I’m extremely frustrated with the sleaziness of the Egyptian people. Everywhere I go they try and rip me off. I believe one of them has finally succeeded.
In most countries, issuing a refund is a common courtesy we take for granted. In Egypt, however, you’d have to rob the merchant to receive any sort of cash settlement.
My frustration turns to anger. I lose it when one particular Egyptian makes a particular snide comment towards me.
I tell him to “Go fuck yourself!”
That comment sets off all kinds of pushing and shouting. (Note to self: Telling someone “fuck you” never settles anything. Especially in a deeply religious country like Egypt).
The rest of the staff separates us before things get really out of control. The kid working behind the desk is about 5’6 150 pounds. I’m 6’0 180. That’s not a fair fight. However, I’m in a foreign country and do not want to cause a crisis over a tour. In addition, I just survived the wrath of the Egyptian police an hour ago climbing the Pyramids. I’m not so sure I’d be as lucky next time around.
Cooler heads prevail, and I’m able to get 25% of my original investment back.
Twice in a matter of hours I encounter major arguments with two Egyptians over money, and it’s my first day! My flaw relates to failing to understand the culture of Egyptian people. Cairo is a very poor city filled with corruption and endless streams of traffic.
In both my situations the conflict ends with a peaceful resolution. Though I came out unscathed in the Pyramid story, I conceded a fair amount of money in the Valley of the Kings conflict.
To restore sanity in Egypt, the chaos in Cairo needs to end. The only way that can occur is if both sides concede the right to equal opportunity and freedom for all. The people of Cairo must stop the violence while government supports its people by stamping out corruption. I hope the resolution of Egypt’s tumultuous events helps the country learn from their mistakes, just as I did.
I officially hit the 100 post mark today! I reached the milestone over a year and half after starting my travel blog. Slow progress, I know! However, I promise to pump out the next 100 faster than the first batch.