Many people worried about us going to Egypt, but they needn’t have. Our hotel lobby had metal detectors and guards at every entrance. We had plainclothesmen and armed guards on our buses at all times. In fact, armed guards were stationed pretty much everywhere.
And street crime is negligible. Never have I felt so safe without a money belt. When traveling, we are accustomed to keeping an eye out for pickpockets and drive-by purse snatchers; it doesn’t happen in Egypt.
David and I loved our interactions with the friendly Egyptian people. One morning I ventured into the ship’s lounge for an Early Riser cup of coffee. I said, “Ahwa, min fadlack” (coffee, please). The bartender politely corrected me, adding “Habib.” So, I repeated, “Ahwa, min fadlack, Habib.” He grinned and filled my cup. Later that day I noticed his name tag said “George,” not “Habib.” Then our program director told us that “Habibi” was a feminine term of endearment. So did the bartender get me to call him “Sweetie”?
In the spice market, we had had enough of vendors and their constant cries of “What are you looking for?” “Where are you from?” “It costs nothing to look,” “Here, madam, just come see what I have,” etc. I finally told a particularly insistent salesman, “Nothing! I want nothing!” His response: “I have it in all colors.”
We were pleasantly surprised by people who didn’t take advantage of us. I had paid several prices for two-liter bottles of water, and two for five Egyptian pounds was the best price I’d found. So, I asked a vendor, “Two for five pounds?” instead of “How much?” He answered, “Ok, if you want; but I only charge two pounds each.” An honest man! Later that day, after e-mailing home from an Internet café, I went to pay my five pounds for a half hour on the computer, and was told, “Four will be enough; you did not use all your time.” Amazing!
We were also amazed by the free gardenias given to us at the florist kiosk where we bought a phone card, just because I tried to ask for the card in Arabic, and by the eager youngsters who paddled up close to our felucca (sailboat) in Aswan and serenaded us with “She’ll be Comin’ ’Round the Mountain” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Children and adults waved to us in our buses, and from the shore as we passed by on our boat.
Kids were especially friendly. They are all accomplished photo bombers and popped up in many of our photos, always with big grins. Anxious to practice their English, they would follow us crying, “Hallo. What’s your name?” “Hallo. Where you from?” “I love you. What’s your name?”
Fifteen days in the Land of the Pharaohs was not long enough, but we did indeed return with wonderful memories.
Paula Prindle wrote and submitted this travel column to be published in The Circleville Herald. David Prindle is the photographer.