Trip Start May 22, 2009
Trip End Feb 16, 2010

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Flag of Egypt  , Al Qāhirah,
Thursday, January 28, 2010

It only takes a moment, a glance even and we’re recognized:  foreigners!  That puts us in a special category.  But not the category of kindness and special care we were accustomed to in Syria.  Here it’s a special category of pricing and annoyance.  As if we’re some sort of bank machine that dispenses whatever number they say and who will buy things merely because they suggest it. 

As soon as we got out of the bus we were hit up for a taxi.  Sharing with another woman, we tried to negotiate a group rate, he but cabbie wanted to charge individual prices.  Bouncing from cab to cab we finally found one with a meter, but after we were all settled inside, the meter magically doesn’t work!

Finally, we arrived at the train station to secure our tickets for the night train to Aswan.  Found a little hole in a construction zone which would store our bags for the day.  But not without it’s own hassles, and everyone who interacted with us demanded their own ‘baksheesh’ for the privilege. 

Feeling a bit bitter and taken advantage of, we stomped off to found our tickets.  I’d heard that there was a nice overnight sleeper train we could take to Aswan.  On arrival at the office, I was overwhelmed with large glossy photos of white faces dressed up in fancy dining cars sipping wine.  I didn’t think this was the type of traveler we were, but a bed would be nice - especially after sleeping on a bus last night. 

However, out of all the train times running, there are only 2 that tourists were allowed to ride on.  Plus, the price was very high and had to be paid in Euro or Dollars???

Off to find another option, we were shuffled from platform to platform and finally found a train going to Aswan.  Again, out of the almost hourly trains throughout day and night, we had the selection of choosing one:  10pm.  Then we were also given the flexibility of choosing 1st class, 1st class, or  1st class.  I have to wonder what the purpose of segregating foreigners like this is.  What are they keeping us from, or perhaps what are they protecting the Egyptians from?

That sorted, we could finally head out to do something.  On the public transportation, there was only one class and price.  But I did notice that the booths for purchasing tickets were segregated.  This time not by national and foreigner, but by male and female.  I noticed that the ticket booths had both male and female attendants (noticeably simply because I’ve seen only men for sooo long) and women seemed to prefer to go to the woman worker and men to the man.  Later when boarding the metro, I noticed that women got onto their own special car, while men (and me) piled onto the rest. 

Arriving at the museum, it was bus after bus of Sharm el-Shek tourists.  Again, I wondered where we were - certainly not Egypt it seemed!.  Girls in skin tight pants and spaghetti straps showing off their cleavage while they draped themselves over sphinx replicas and the like (sorry, I’ve been away from my own culture for awhile).  I wished that I could be segregated from this lot, but knew I was lumped in all the same. 

Payment was another big issue for segregation.  As an adult foreigner, I had to pay 60 Egyptian pounds to get into the Museum (about $12 Canadian Dollars) and Egyptians had to pay 1 (about 20 cents).  This is surely going to happen wherever we go throughout all of Egypt.  It does seem a little unfair, but I think it’s a good idea.  If only Canada had these options it could help increase tourism.  Imagine, if the Maid of the Mist tickets were price for Canadians, or if it only cost a couple of bucks to go up the CN tower?  I think I may be in favor of 2 tiered pricing - as long as I’m the one gaining the benefits. 

But whatever bad tastes may have been left in my mouth disappeared as we drove through Cairo and pyramid silhouettes became part of the city skyline.  How cool is that?  These ancient giants are still gracing the landscape and people can’t seem to get enough of them.  The first moment walking out was a ‘wow, I can’t believe I’m here’ moments.  Even the camel hagglers and pharaoh bust salesmen couldn’t dampen the experience. 

Finally, we’re in EGYPT!
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Steven on

Great article, can totally relate the hassling in Egypt and the segregation between national and tourist I'm also finding as I travel. Hope you're both well :-)

Fay on

I laughed through your whole write-up. You are funny and a good writer. I love speghetti straps!!!

2totango on

I do too!!! Just not in THIS place :S

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