If you’ve caught a glimpse of my homepage, you may have easily come to the conclusion that I love me some Egypt. I do. I love Egypt and its people with my very heart and soul. With that being said, I can think of one specific circumstance when my friend and I tasted the proverbial rotten fruit of tourist sabotage.
It was the 13th day of travel and we landed in an Alexandrian bus terminal food court. Dusty and humble, but with all the traditional treasures of Egyptian cuisine. We ordered mango juice, a typical Egyptian summer beverage and I ordered food. It was delicious and the server was charming. Everything was great until the bill came.
We had at this point in our trip, ordered mango juice about 50 times at a variety of places. Mango is in season in June in Egypt as it is in Miami. We knew approximately how much it cost for a glass. But perhaps the mango’s they used at this particular restaurant were harvested from King Tut’s personal garden. I don’t think so.
When the kind waiter brought the bill and saw my face, he ran to get the owner/chef who proceeded to yell at me that the price was correct, and so on and so forth. When she stopped I simply said I refused to pay unless she adjusted the sum to a fair price and told her she could call the Egyptian police stationed directly across from us. My friend went pale. Am I a bad person for chuckling at the memory? No, but really, i’m not sure what it was that inspired me to be so drastic, but I knew we didn’t have much more than 200 Egyptian Pounds with us, about $30 bucks. We were at the end of our trip and had decided to keep the dollars we had unchanged.
Lucky for us, the tactic worked out and not only did we reach a negotiation for the bill, but we added a nice tip and had the chance to fuel up, not knowing that our five hour trip would end up taking twelve due to gas shortages.
This was late June 2013. The 25th to be exact. We knew somewhere in our rational minds that we were tourists caught in the preambles of a revolution. One would think the tensions would be high to say the least. Yet, its hard to describe and do justice to the atmosphere we experienced. Threatening it was not. The long hours in the bus were spent with fellow travelers, exchanging candid opinions, hopes, and beliefs. Those who could, spoke in English so we could understand and participate in the friendly debate. Charades were in order as well. Laughing, we all welcomed the exchanges, acknowledging the fact that we all share in common a wish for basic things like food, shelter, education, and for our voices to actually be heard.