gypsy wanderings: that time we went to Egypt

Remember when I went to Egypt? Well, there are moments I feel it was all part of a dream. I had never been in a middle eastern culture and it was certaintly one of the best trips of my life. Together with a friend, we went to take a type of "inner healing" course. After the course was done, some of the people leading the event, organized a tour for us in Cairo. We were going to see the pyramids, find out about Egyptian perfume and go to a papyrus musuem.

It was incredible, I mean, for someone who has had her nose in books for most of her adolescent life, being in a place she had only read about in books, was quite something! However, as much as I would like to write once again about my camel ride, I will tell you another story.

For some reason, my friend and I, misread our return date, we unfortunately found this out when we arrived at the airport. It was really late, we didn't have the number of the guy who brought us, so we decided to find a spot to sleep and wait until the morning.

In the morning, we called our tour guide, who had given us his card and explained our situation. He talked to the person on the information desk and this man wrote down his address for us. Maybe they should really put Arabic into the American curriculum, for all we knew, he could be sending us anywhere!

He let me know how much a taxi would cost and made sure I knew I had to bargain with the taxi driver. Yeah, I was not thrilled about that, I prefer when prices are fixed but it's part of the culture so I prepared myself for the conversation. Once we stepped outside, there was a man standing close to a car. He had dark skin and sported a moustache. I approached him and despite his broken English we came to an understanding.

As soon as we were in the car and he pulled out, he put on an Islamic radio station. We both realized that it was a sermon and it sounded like the guy was yelling. I soon became nervous, I had seen the tv show 24, and I felt I was in one of the episodes. Soon, he looked at us in the mirror and said, "You know what? I can't take you there for the price of 150, you'll have to pay 200."

Frustrated, I responded, "We already had a deal. You can't go back on what we had agreed on" ...something to that extent.

His brows furrowed together and he got really mad. It was a bit frightening, after all, we were both women and my imagination is vivid. Anyways, he then said, "No, that's not enough for me. It'll be 200."

I looked at my friend and she protested once more but we decided it was best for us to pay what he wanted. After ten minutes, he pulled over on the side of the road, and bought some mint tea. He offered it to us and we both looked at him, "really?" and said that we didn't have money because we had to pay him. He looked offended and said that it was a gift. After what had happened, we felt we couldn't trust him. In the end, we accepted, especially since he kept insisting.

We arrived safely to the address and our guide was there to recieve us. I was relieved. As we rode on the back of his car, he asked me how much we had paid for the ride. We told him the whole story and after only complaining once about paying too much for the taxi ride, he told us we had been in a black taxi.

There are some taxi drivers, who are part of an extremist Islamic group, often take advantage of their customers. If you are ever in Egypt, make sure to look at what color taxi you decide to take. Any color but black.

It was a kind of adventure I wouldn't wish on anybody, but it did help me realize, how calm you can be in such a foreign situation. Never panic, God is watching and protecting you. After this little mishap, I am quite certain of it!


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