My Trip To Egypt During the Revolution -August 2013
Here is a conversation I had with my Brother via face book when I told him I might go to Egypt:
Hey, I've been watching BBC world news. They say Egypt is on the verge of another revolution, they want the president thrown out. It looks like they're heading towards a civil war
The government and police work for Allah. It's extremely unsafe for anyone who does something secular, like not being Muslim. Egypt has morphed into something really bad.
CNN reports the same. 13 killed at Cairo University. President vs. Military. Major Clashes. I'm not asking you to not go; I'm begging as your brother. Please avoid Egypt.
Dare I go to Egypt?
I accessed my decisions with the Pro’s and Con’s…
Pro’s of going to Egypt:
If I did not go I would not get a refund for my plane ticket I booked 5 months ago. I also have travelled around the world on a 5 month journey. My goal was to join one of 2,000 members of World Century Club. A club exclusively for people who have travelled to over 100 countries. I also wanted to see all the wonders of the world. This Civil War was getting in the way of my goal.
Con’s of going to Egypt:
I could get shot, beat up, or robbed. Thrown in jail. Be a political prisoner. Get kidnapped. Lots of ugly options here. It seemed like a no brainer not to go.
I thought about it for several weeks and came to the conclusion:
I was not going to go around the world and not see the Great Giza Pyramids! I would feel like an unaccomplished traveling fool to have traveled around the world and not see the pyramids. I don’t care if I get shot, beat up, or robbed! I was going to see those damn pyramids. I felt like a stubborn child who would refuse to listen to his wise elders. But I didn’t care. With this final decision my stubborn hard headed nature was truly revealed.
The day before my departure to Cairo I became nervous. I told my friends at my hostel in Israel that I was going to Cairo tomorrow. They thought I was crazy. In some ways I agreed with them. My stubbornness defied logic and common sense. I was simply that stubborn.
I arrived in Cairo late Thursday close to midnight. Once I got my luggage at the baggage claim midnight had passed and it became Friday early morning. The sun had not come up and it was still very dark. I then realized the dilemma of my situations. I had arrived at precisely the wrong place and the wrong time in Cairo. This was a receipt for disaster. Friday is “The day of Rage,” for the Muslim Brotherhood. The day where the Muslims come back from their Mosques and protest against the fall of President Mohammed Morsi Regime. Two weeks ago a protest left 1,500 protesters dead as well as many injuries. The high death toll shook financial markets around the world and lead to heavy criticism from the United Nations. The Protest was held 7 km or an estimated 4.5 miles from my hotel. Am I crazy? Maybe. But a wise American Billionaire Entrepreneur named Warren Buffet once said, “When those are fearful be Greedy. When those are Greedy be fearful.” I know this is out of context as it applies to the Stock Market. But for some strange reason I felt it applied to my dire predicament that I foolishly placed myself in.
As I walked through the airport I noticed it was empty. There was no sign of tourists. Only a lot of military guarding the airport with machine guns. They guarded the airport as if it was a fort that needed to be protected. On second thought maybe it was.
As I walked out of the airport it was pitch black. A horde of Muslim Taxi drivers waited for me like vultures. One aggressively approached me and grabbed my luggage out of my hand. He pushed me aggressively in order to grab my luggage. I pushed him back and reclaimed my things.
“I do not need a taxi!” I yelled as I puffed my chest to look more intimidating.
“Ok. Ok!” he yelled back. He then turned around to go back to the horde of taxi drivers waiting hopelessly at the empty airport.
“You scared him away!” a taxi driver screamed. They then starting yelling at another and a fight ensued. Several taxi drivers started beating one another up. I was worried I was next. I hurried back to the airport entrance. The automatic door did not open and I was locked out. I knocked furiously on the windows. A guard opened the automatic door with a key. I told him about the situation and he said he would get me a cab I could trust. The cab driver arrived after about 15 minutes. The Military police escorted me to the car. The military turned around back to the airport entrance. As I negotiated with the cab driver about the fare outside of the cab.
I turned my head and noticed at the corner of my eye that5 Muslims approached me.
Where are you from!?!” yelled one of them.
“Are you American?!” he yelled.
I didn’t know what to say. I knew I couldn’t say I was American. Who knows what would happen. They obviously were pissed off that I might be American. My survival instincts kicked in and I stopped negotiating with the taxi driver. I threw my things in the back of the cab promptly and slammed the door as hard as I could. I then locked the door.
The man then yelled again from outside the cab,” Hey I was talking to you! Are you America?!?
I thought of a clever plan: I pointed at my ears and raised my hands and pointed at my mouth. I was signing that I was deaf. I didn’t mutter a word. It threw them off guard for a moment. One of the men reached into the slightly opened window to unlock the door latch from the inside of the taxi. I punched the man’s arm a few times and yelled at my taxi man, “Drive!!!”
This wasn’t the best start to my trip in Egypt. I just hope this taxi ride to my hotel doesn’t take too long…
Long story short. My taxi ride to my hotel took a long, long time. About 7 hours longer than what my G.P.S. reported as about a 40 minute taxi drive. I was questioned by dozens of military for hours at a time at 3 check points. The freeways and all roads were barricaded by military personnel and tanks after sundown. There was no where to go but through the check points. At the check points the military searched through my bags thoroughly. They concluded that my vitamins in my bag were, “Chemical weapons.” after hours of persuasion they let me go. I finally arrived to my hotel and stayed in my hotel all day and slept. I was told not to go outside by the hotel staff as it was too dangerous. It was pointless to go outside as well because all the major tourist attractions in Egypt became closed down on that day. Bad timing…
But the following day on a Saturday. The sun was bright. The air just felt right. I triumphed. The Great Giza Pyramids became open again that day. The protests had died down. First thing in the morning I took a taxi to my destination. On the way to my final destination the streets were empty. There were signs of mass protests on the roads from the day before. Trash and broken windows was a common scene. As well as ambulance sirens. The taxi dropped me off. As I arrived I negotiated with a man to borrow his camel. After paying $30 US dollars I hopped up on my Camel. He was a very stubborn camel and took some time to tame. He was almost as stubborn as me. I put on my white Turban. Then smoked a victory Cigarette on my camel’s back. I then approached the Great Giza Pyramids. We were the only stubborn crazy ones there. It was empty and what a sight. Right in front of me stood the 2,000 year old Remnants of the most fascinating civilization of all time. It was well worth it and I had it all to myself.
The next few weeks I did not have any trouble with the Egyptian military and the protests died down. The rest of the trip was a smooth ride. I visited Luxor, Aswan, and Alexandria in addition to Cairo. I was the only tourist in the Valley of Kings, The Temple of Karnak, and the Library of Alexandria. As a photographer this was heaven. Not only did I have the treasures of Egypt all to myself to take countless unobstructed photos. But I stayed at 5 star hotels for $30 US Dollars a night overlooking the pyramids and Luxor. There were more hotel staff than guests so the service was unmatched. Buffet meals included as well as some discounted taxi rides. Most of the time being stubborn doesn't pay off. Especially for a American tourist in the middle of a violent conflict between Military and Civilians. Luckily for me it did.
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