Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Say Aloha"

I am not sure quite how to condense my experiences on the 11th of August into a concise story. There is so much to tell. When I arrived in Cairo I purchased an on-the-spot visa in order to leave the airport. The only travel agency available at the airport that day was not one I had researched but decided I had no other choice. The men at the counter were quite helpful and arranged for their driver to take me to the Giza Pyramids and back before my next flight. As I walked out to their tour van, I expected to be joining a tour group. No such luck. I had a personal driver. Unfortunately his English was very limited, making conversation impossible. I had a sudden sinking feeling that no one would know where to look for me if I disappeared with this man in his tour van. After about an hour drive we neared the pyramids. He told me that I would have to ride a camel. I was not quite sure what he meant, but did as I was told. I was ushered into a small, dingy perfume shop where several Egyptian men waited.

They told me to wait while my camel was being collected for me to ride. Bad day for a skirt. Didn't know I would be camel riding. As they hoisted me up on the camel, they mentioned this was going to cost extra. I tried to reason with them on the price, and brought it down some but finally gave up and decided I would literally just go along for the ride. You're only in Egypt once right? My camel tour guide was a different man I had not yet seen. As he lead the camel around the pyramids he would stop when he thought I should take a picture and tell me what pose to do. He would not snap the picture until I said "aloha," "cheese," or "Abra cadabra." His favorite phrases. When I looked back at my pictures later I discovered he was taking other pictures of me when I didn't know it as well. He offered several times to be my Egyptian boyfriend for 5 camels. I asked if the current ride would then be for free, and told him I would consider the offer. I am not quite sure what I would do with camels. The pyramids were an amazing sight, I have dreamed all my life of seeing them. It was quite surreal to be riding around on a camel seeing the pyramids and the Sphinx. My guide told me Fox was a magic camel and could take me to the top of the pyramid, I was dissapointed when he didn't deliver on his promise.

After my camel tour of the pyramids ground, they took me back to the dingy perfume shop to have a Pepsi. All stood around and waited for me. It was quite awkward and I wanted to get out of there! They told me they were taking me next to the Egyptian Museum. I assumed that this meant the museum I knew housed all of the artifacts that had been removed from the pyramids. Hardly. It was their own private tourist papyrus museum. Several other men were waiting there for me. By now the crowd of men had grown to almost 10, and me. The official papyrus expert, such as he was, demonstrated for me the ancient techniques of papyrus making. He explained some of the hieroglyphic meanings of various paintings displayed in the shop. Then commenced the sales talk. Two of them were trying to get me to purchase some papyrus paintings. They did not believe me when I tried to explain I could not afford it. When they would not leave me alone I finally decided to just go ahead and get the cheapest one they had to humor them. While they were finishing up the papyrus painting they told me to go and see the perfume shop in the back. I told them no thank you, but a few minutes later they told me to go and sit and wait in there because there were no other seats. Sly. I was then bombarded by the perfume sales man. Greasy and sketchy. Those would be my two adjectives for him. He started putting them on me. He then started to demonstrate the wonders of his Jasmine, mint, and lotus flower oils. Which entailed an arm massage. I was not quite comfortable with this, and especially protested when he started to put it on my face! He didn't listen. He wanted to massage my face with these oils. He also was trying to talk me into finding an Egyptian husband. I got to a breaking point, and said I was done, and left. Due to this whole ordeal I did not have time to see the real Egyptian Museum or have lunch in Cairo as planned. Nor did I have any money left due to their expensive rates.

I was so thankful to get rid of all those men and be back in the van with just my driver. I felt much more comfortable with him. He stopped twice on the way back, once to get me a bread treat from a roadside stand, and once for a Pepsi. I was so relieved to arrive back at the airport. I felt so vulnerable all day, completely at the mercy of these men.

My flight to Ghana was no less exciting. In a nutshell, I was sitting with a woman and her son between the ages of 1-2. He started off by hitting me repeatedly when I sat down, tried to take my Ipod, screamed at me and his mother, projectile vomited for several minutes straight (must have been a record, no exaggeration, the vomit was everywhere!), tried to take the food off my tray, and almost succeeded in flipping it onto my lap. There were points when both mother and son were crying and yelling at each other, as I sat awkwardly next to them, unsure whether to help or ignore them. Thankfully, he finally fell asleep and I prayed that the rest of the flight would be uneventful. I had quite enough adventure for one day and was just ready to finally land in Ghana!


  1. Holy smokes Chels! Ha ha I loved hearing about your jouney in Egypt. Hope you are doing well!

  2. What a story, so thankful you are safe! You write a great story Chels!

  3. Chelsea!! You're killing me with all these red flags!!! I may have to slap you to when you get home! But I still love you!


  5. What an adventure! It sounds wonderfully exciting and amazing (the pyramids?! jealous.), but I was worried for you through the whole story of your day with creepy foreign men in an unknown land. Glad you're safe!