The layover in Egypt was supposed to be the icing on the proverbial cake, and Egypt Air did nothing to prepare me for the reality of what we would encounter once we landed at the airport. So let me start with Egypt Air. Unlike many people who I know are diehard U.S. airliners, we have after many years of traveling with whoever had the best rate realized that like so many other areas of industry the U.S. does not have the corner market as it relates to the best quality or service planes on the market. So traveling with a foreign airline for me has usually been a step up the ladder rather than a step-down and Egypt Air was definitely a step up the ladder. So it was shocking when we landed in Egypt both coming and going from Israel. My experience at the airport was disappointing. First, when you land and enter the airport you see people laid out like they were homeless on the few chairs they provide for their patrons. The bulk of the space was reserved for those who were dining within their airport but none of the chairs were comfortable for lounging.
While I must admit I have grown accustomed to going to places where there were many people who spoke English, but it was clear that speaking English was not a priority for working at this airport, but learning or discovering ways to get our money for doing absolutely nothing seemed to be par for the course. One side of the airport clearly didn’t pay the electric bill as we would have to move into another wing to be the recipient of air conditioning, and apparently it was up to us to pay for that. This brings me to how, my friend and I went to the restroom in which lets be clear although there were cleaning people in every restroom we visited cleaning was clearly not the priority of those who were in it. It was not uncommon to find nasty, wet floors, toilets, and sinks. My friend who accompanied me ended up finishing her visit in the restroom before me and was immediately accosted by a so-called cleaning woman who would not let her leave unless she gave her money. While she couldn’t say anything else in English and did absolutely nothing to earn any of our money, she knew how to say money. Knowing that I was still in there she paid her $2.00 one dollar for me and the other for herself. If the bathroom wasn’t so nasty it might not have been such an insulting request, yet a dollar was a steep price to use a toilet. My friend had told me this cleaning lady would ask me for money before she left the restroom and that she had paid her for both of us. When I was ready to leave this cleaning lady literally blocked the door as if to say you will not leave here unless you pay me.
My friend who was standing right outside the door told her she paid for both of us and I suppose with both of us in her face she finally conceded to let me go. Fortunately, we were not short on time trying to get to our plane to take us to Israel because it would have been ugly had it gotten to that point. As I had nothing less than a $5.00 bill in U.S. cash and she for sure would not get that.
I was preparing myself for having to get physical if necessary to gain my freedom, while American I am a “sistuh” we are used to having to defend ourselves a lesson we have learned all too well coming up American.
Egypt does not differ from how the rest of the world sees us as American’s. As though we are all rich and made of money they just have absolutely no filters in their request for it. However, they chose the right one this time because one thing I do well and that is review and whistle blow sharing the good, bad, and the ugly so that others can be aware as they journey through the land. It was easy to see the long-lasting effect that YHVH had on the land of Egypt and how that spirit of manipulation, and the stench of poverty remains as a residue of their defeat by the God of the Earth. It wouldn’t be hard at all for me to see why plagues in the new millennium would still have to be sent there because the people will refuse to come to Israel for the Feast of Tabernacles. We observed that the only people getting asked for money from the restrooms were Americans or at least appeared to be such. I guess I was so surprised by the fact that I was being asked, and since my phone was not with me but being charged where my husband was sitting, I had no means to snap a picture of this crook. First of all it was posted on the door of their restroom not to give money to the cleaning staff. So by you taking their picture you can report them and this will take them off guard and they probably will back down from requiring you to give them money when they realize that you have a picture of them.
The experience along with the news we heard while in Israel concerning the instability in Egypt was enough for one of the people who accompanied us on the trip to choose to stay in the airport on the way back. Our layover returning from Israel in Egypt was 13 hours and after a change in the airports flight it was moved from 13 hours to 17 hours. Well, what I knew was I had no plans of staying in that airport for that long especially after the experience I already had, but because of the inconvenience the airline caused us we didn’t have to. They provided a hotel and food for us for that day. At first this seemed like a blessing in disguise, and my plans were to at least see the pyramids or perhaps do the ride on the Nile River, but that was until the hustle began. Before we could get out the airport, we met a lady who we thought worked for the airport and was trying to assist us with getting to our hotel destination. We provided her with our information so she could direct us where to go but soon found out she was only interested in selling us a tour package for the short time we would be there. Apparently, that was the only thing important to her about reading our flight schedule. First we were already upset with the Airline for having to interrupt our trip to accommodate their limited flight schedule so we didn’t miss our separate flight schedule returning home. Then we were upset because until now we have never had to pay for a Visa and after being told either we pay for the Visa to keep our passport or we leave our passport until the next day when we return home. This would not work for us after our experience in Egypt we didn’t trust that option so now we were forced to pay $25 for a Visa or stay in the airport for 17 hours. The lady trying to grab us for her tour didn’t have this backdrop so her attempts to get us to take her up on her offer for a river cruise on the Nile and going by the Pyramid just came at a terrible time. Perhaps if we had gotten settled in our hotel, which turned out to be fairly decent, had a chance to just settle down a bit we might have considered her offer. But when we decided not to take her up on her offer another guy approaches us who must have seen or was told that we didn’t accept her offer made us another offer to see the same pyramids accept instead of $60 per person he would only charge $50.00 for all of us. Well this dramatic drop only made us even more apprehensive about what Egypt had to offer. After having to go in and out of an airport that requires going through security and metal detectors, the search get’s old. Particularly old when you have to go back and forth numerous times to locate a shuttle service that is two hours late on its every 20 minute route to and from the airport. After this, I was committed to not spending another red cent in this country as it was clear to me that these people were a bunch of charlatans that could not be trusted.
This was very frustrating to me as Egypt is like the bedrock of history and as I stated the reason I chose this flight schedule was because we would witness with our eyes the discoveries we have read and only seen on documentaries. What I can say is this, I predict that Egypt will continue to be a victim of its own poverty and eventually collapse economically if something doesn’t change. Which truly is sad because they have a lot to offer, to lose it all because they lack skills in hospitality is unfortunate.
Despite their abundant security it is the breech in security that is scary. As I told you I was determined not to spend another dime after the airport fiasco. However, we would yet again be accosted on our way out of this country. But before I go there, I want to share this experience with another. The offsite airport hotel that we stayed in also required you to go through a metal detector and security. This made me uneasy, after traveling many places I have never had to go through a metal detector at a hotel. Which only attests to the fact that no one apparently can be trusted. The one impact abundant security has on me is making me feel more unsecure. The hotel we stayed in was fairly decent it was obvious they were going through some renovations and hadn’t quite completed the updates in our hotel rooms but they were still fairly nice, especially for complimentary rooms. After the fiasco at the airport I really didn’t know what to expect. But being that you had to pass a closed gate to get into the hotel area from the street and then had to go through security to get into the hotel one thing was communicated for sure and that was that Egypt was not a safe place to travel on your own.
Before I discuss our return trip to the airport, I would like to say that the hotel we stayed in was called LePassage though its shuttle service lacked much to be desired their buffet service was right on point. The food was good, and the service was very attentive. I mean you could barely finish your plate before they were scooping it up off the table. The food options were unique and most choices tasty. The desserts were elaborate yet light, wasn’t as heavy as we are used to in the U.S. You know the cakes, pies, and cheesecakes were replaced with fruit inspired desserts, mousses, and what is a common item in Middle Eastern culture this thing called “sweets”. Which are like a cross between candy and a glazed over nutty, fruit cake. I would say unlike the airport personnel it would appear as though these workers are probably getting paid decent wages as they weren’t looking for payment to use bathrooms or coaxing us for cash and tips.
So back to the airport we go, and sure enough we couldn’t get through the first round of security without one worker asking for money. The couple that traveled with us gave him $2.00 to cover allowing them to go through security and keep their water bottles. My husband goes through and they are asking him for money. I find it interesting that they didn’t directly come to me for money, but asked him for money. It is not clear why as we didn’t have any water in our bottles and therefore didn’t need to slip through security. This brings about the other security risk when dealing with an impoverished country, if we can get through security with a few bucks and keep our water, this means that any unscrupulous person would likewise ease through security. Again, they like to give the appearance of security but the reality is far different. My husband didn’t have small change, and for the pleasure of being personally searched, having my things x-rayed I have to admit paying for this privilege is an injustice. I found a $5.00 bill but of course I wanted change to which he gave me the $2.00 that our friends gave him as change. Which means we gave this man $3.00 for absolutely nothing.
The sister in me wonders if this treatment is not only because we are American, but possibly because we are African American that they feel they can do such a thing and get away with it. However, I am not saying conclusively that this was the issue I firmly believe they prey on all American’s no matter what their particular ethnic background is because this is what poor people do. They believe just because you come from America and you travel that you have lots of money and won’t miss it, therefore it is justifiable for you to take advantage of us because after all we can afford it. However, they would be grossly wrong, we work hard for the money we get and our value of travel comes at our own personal expense, so no I do not appreciate being swindled out of money by people who have done absolutely nothing to earn it; whether it’s the lazy cleaning staff who like to appear as though they are working when in reality they are hustling, or security who uses a search to help people smuggle items in that are not allowed in breaching security for us all. While 99% of the time those carrying water through security is that, water, the reality is the purpose of requiring security is to provide safety and security for those who are traveling. Any breach in your security system only means that you are opening the door to a dangerous situation for people who travel there.
Needless to say, unless there is a massive overhaul in Egypt’s security and ultimately the corruption from within that country it will remain an impoverished country with unfulfilled potential. It was indeed a learning experience and as much as I would have enjoyed exploring all that Egypt had to offer I fear the only way that I could ever see myself doing so is through a cruise line in which NO ONE from Egypt was a part of organizing activities, the cruise line or anything else.
I would be interested in knowing if anyone could recommend any tour companies in Egypt that can be trusted. I would appreciate any reviews of service with fair rates. I am always open to change and would welcome a different experience from the horrible one I encountered.