No Problem

June 8, 2007

The Egypt Chronicles, Part 2

Most of the guys in the hostel room were awake before the alarm went off at 4:45 AM. We did not need a clock to wake us up; excitement for a new day of adventure had already done that.

Four taxis were waiting outside the Beit Ha’Arava Hostel to take us to the Egyptian Border. We moved through the border with no difficulty, and within an hour we were in a new country—Egypt. Here is my group, ready to take on anything Egypt might throw at us.

Our first task inside Egypt was to find a way to Cairo, which is about a six hour drive from Taba, the border town we were now in. Since it was only 5AM, our transportation options were quite limited. We found a small fleet of old mini-vans, and hired two of them to take the sixteen of us to Cairo. Each van came with a driver and a security guard. These guards wore suits and were packing some serious equipment. They both carried a small machine gun on their belt.

Our two vans comprised a small caravan that moved through the desert that Saturday morning. Even with no scenery that drive was new and interesting. Every so often, we would stop at military checkpoints. The soldiers were always quite curious when they discovered we were Americans and occasionally decided to send along another car to escort our caravan. Here you can see our two vans and the escort car at a stop along the way.

Eventually, we arrived in Cairo, and nothing in my life had prepared me for Cairo traffic. Many of the roads do not even have painted lanes; cars just converge into the mix at whatever speed they wish. Once we did safely arrive at the Ramses Train Station, my group bought tickets for the 10 PM train to Luxor that night. After this was accomplished, we hurried off to see what everyone goes to Egypt to see—the Pyramids.

We bartered with our first Egyptian taxi with ease and were almost at the Pyramids when we began discussing what we wanted to do there. Abi mentioned that she might want to ride a camel. Immediately, our taxi driver said, “You want to ride camel? I get you camel?” This is when our day really started to get interesting. Our driver turned the taxi around and started driving down some crowded alleys before stopping outside one shop. We could see some camels close by, and we could tell that we were not far from the pyramids.

A friendly, English speaking Egyptian greeted us with a smile. We tried to explain that we just wanted to go to the pyramids. He said we could ride the camels there in two minutes. However, we wanted to get to the pyramids before riding camels, and we were also looking for a place to eat lunch by the pyramids. We then tried to explain that we were looking for food, and he said he could give us falafel. The way he talked, he almost made it sounds like he was offering to give us lunch for free. PC tried to verify this, and he responded with something like, “No problem.”

This was the first of many instances that would teach us an important lesson: Whenever someone says, “No problem,” you’ve got a big problem.

He ushered us into a back room in his shop that was filled with nice furniture and perfume bottles. Some friendly Egyptian women were in the shop and asked us our names. Before long, one of them brought us mixings to make falafels. We ate what they gave us, but we were still very unsure if this guy was just very nice or if he was trying to get as much of our money as he could. On top of all this, we are still not certain what is safe to eat and what is not. Here we are, eating the questionable Egytpian grub.

Before long, we realized we needed to get out of this place and get to the pyramids, so we got up and started walking through the shop. We thought our host had been nice, so we thought we would give him a small tip. However, when our host saw us leaving, he was quite confused and tried to charge us for the food. Since we has understood that it was free, PC handed him the small tip (1 Egyptian pound), and we walked off. As we walked quickly away from the store and toward the pyramids, we were all in disbelief at what had happened. We were also not sure if the Egyptian mafia was now chasing us or not. We had so much to learn about foreign ways.

However, as we left the alley and turned the corner, we were met by a picture that we had all seen many times in books and movies, but now we were beholding it with our own eyes. We had arrived at the gates of the Giza pyramids.

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One Response to “No Problem”

  1. Evan said

    Ben Blakey you are crazy. Way to rip a man off… lol.

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