As a kid, Egypt is somewhere I had always wanted to go. Ancient Egypt was one of my biggest fascinations at school along with the Titanic off course. I always said to myself that when I grow up, I’m going to see the giant pyramids. I was over the moon when I was able to finally go there early last year. However, all those years of waiting to see those magnificent pyramids, in no way prepared me for the disappointing visit which was hurling towards me at a thousand miles an hour. Never in my wildest childhood fantasies would I ever have imagined that I would be at a point in my visit where I could not wait to get on a damn plane and get the hell out of Egypt.
What happened I hear you thinking? Well, here is the whole sorry saga from start to finish in a Readers Digest version.
I only spent four nights there but the harassment from the moment I stepped off the plane was something I never imagined could happen. The harassment took form for most part of people trying to sell us cheap accommodation and transfer flights. It took forever to get through immigration and just when I did, I saw someone trying to take off with my one bag I brought along from the baggage carousel. I stopped him and he said something to me (I had no idea what it was) started to argue and when I caught a glimpse of a security guy and motioned him over, the guy just took off. Welcome to Egypt Billie!
I’m not sure what it was but I think I had a sticker on my back saying ‘this guy is a chump”. It was very early morning when I arrived, was very tired and after a lot of harassment, I agreed to let a guy drive me to a nearby hotel. I thought he was an Uber driver or something. I got in his car and it seemed we were traveling for an hour. All the way he was trying to sell me on one of his cousins tours of Cairo. We finally got to a hotel but he wouldn’t let me out unless I gave him a huge tip. I then realised that the airport was only about a kilometre away because I could see the planes taking off and landing. It was late, I was bloody tired and son I threatened him and said unless he opened the damn door, I was going to smash his windows and give him a black eye. I’m not a violent person but enough was enough. He popped the locks, I paid him, I got out and he sped off.
Finally I thought, a piece of sanity. A hotel chain that I recognized. I walked in the main door, and it was on! There must be people in the lobby of these hotels waiting for weary travelers to come in and fleece them of their money. A couple of women were trying to sell me again, guided tours of Cairo. After fending them off as politely as I could, another man approached me and apologized for the women and said he worked for the hotel. I went to the front desk, checked in and there it was again. Pressure tactics to make me use their car services and bus tours while I stayed in their hotel. All I wanted to do was to go to my room and sleep for a day. I grabbed my key off the counter, apologized at my rudeness of wanting to get to my room and a porter led the way. The way I was feeling, the quicker I get to my room the better without having to think of where I was going. I got to the room, I opened the door, walked in and the porter put his foot in the door putting his hand out. I sighed heavily, found some cash, put it in his hand and went to close the door. I looked at him and the smile disappeared form his face and he gestured for more. At that point I lost it. I told him to f#&@ off, pushed him away from the door and slammed it so hard I think I woke most of the guests up on that floor.
That was just on day 1. However, I’m a very positive person and don’t like to dwell on this stuff. The reason I wrote this is so that you are aware of the types of hustles that go on in a lot of places and not just Cairo. You need to be aware of the local customs. While some are just part and parcel of the tourist industry no matter where you go, others are just outright cons. But the good news is that once you know one con, it doesn’t matter where you go in the world, they are all generally the same. Con artists on the whole are not that imaginative and take their cues from fellow con artists. So, the bottom line is: be a smart and informed traveller, let your yes mean yes and your no mean a definite NO!