Idiots, Thieves & Charlatans – Alexandria

21st March 2008

Well, I’m in Alexandria now and after the hassle I’ve had, I’ve decided to leave. Well, that’s not entirely true. Let me see, where oh where do I begin, ah yes. It all began on a beautiful spring day in Dahab…. my driver from Sharm el Sheikh arrived without his taxi, instead he has brought a normal car. This would have been ok, except for the fact that in Sinai, there are security checks every 100km and Egyptians found with foreigners in their cars are put through rigorous questioning. Mohammed told me to pretend that I was his best mate’s wife and that he was driving me back to Sharm to see him. Shifty bastard. We didn’t get stopped at the first check point, but we did at the second and I saw it coming and put a scarf over my head to make the story seem more convincing. They wanted to see my passport, which I was eternally grateful for, they also bought into the bullshit for which I was also eternally grateful for.

Next dilemma, I had gotten to the airport too early and they wouldn’t even let me through security, I had to wait around for over an hour. Finally, some random walks past and says “Ok, Alexandria you can go now” So off I went and proceeded to get in line, which took forever, because now of course everyone else had arrived. I get up to the desk and the clerk says “No, No, No…” What now I though. He proceeded to show my passport to about six different people, speaking only in Arabic of course. (I hate when they do that), I finally snapped and said, “Can someone please tell me what the hell is going on?” One guy came over me and said “You need to go back to Taba and get them to correct this” pointing at a stamp in my passport. I told him that I had said to them at Taba I would be flying to Alexandria and that they said this would be fine.

I also told him how ridiculous this statement was “Go back to Taba”, Taba is about 500km from Sharm el Sheikh on the border with Israel. “You will not be flying today” he says. “The hell I won’t” I said, I paid for a multiple entry visa before I left Australia. More screwing around. No dice. The idiots at the tour company and the idiots in Taba, had voided my multiple entry visa (Golden Ticket), and I was now not allowed out of Sinai.

Alexander in Alexandria
Statue of Alexander the Great astride his horse Bucephelus

“Ok guys, stop screwing around, bottom line, what’s it gonna take for me to get on this flight”….more hushed conversations in Arabic. Finally, they said, “You need to buy a new visa from the bank”, “Fine what didn’t you just say that in the first place…never mind” I now had about 20 minutes until my flight left before being stranded in Sharm el Sheikh. I actually went and asked one of the security guys to help me as the guys in passport control, kinda reminded me of the playing cards in the Disney movie “Alice in Wonderland”, the way they were running around not knowing what they were doing. I finally paid for a new visa and was rushed onto the plane, with five minutes to spare. Horrors! The idiots at passport control hadn’t given me back my passport. “You go get it!” I screamed at some innocent by stander. The other few crowded around me and proceeded to lecture me about keeping my passports safe! OMG! I lost it “This is what happens when you are as disorganized as you people are.” “You’ve voided my visa and I now have five minutes before my plane leaves!”

I finally got on the plane and laughing to myself with my head against the seat in front of me as I took off, kinda wondered if I thrive on chaos…maybe the evening had pushed my sanity over the edge. I dunno. I got to Alexandria and collected my luggage from the smallest airport I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of airports. I managed to get a cab, who took me to the wrong hotel! I went inside and said, “This isn’t the Union Hotel, is it?” The place looked far too posh for the kind of accommodation I’m used to. I walked back outside, “Oi!” I yelled after the cabbie and made the come here motion with my finger “This is not my hotel” He finally drove me to the right hotel and I checked into the best room they had. Not what I had ordered, and they said they would change it in the morning. They better, I thought, they don’t know who they’re dealing with now!

The next morning, I went down and reminded them to change my room, they had no room with a private bathroom, so I had to have a shared one, pretty good considering, I booked three months ago. I felt totally deflated but decided to go out and about anyways.

I managed to get to Fort Qaitby and to the site of the Light House of Alexandria. That’s 4 out of the 7 Wonders of the World I’ve been to now! I didn’t stay long, as the people about the place didn’t seem too friendly. This place was worse than Cairo, at least in Cairo they had seen tourists before. I decided I didn’t really want to deal with the situation, and was actually seriously contemplating coming back to Oz. I decided to let fate take its course for a while and hightailed it over to an Internet café. Bingo! An email for Vanessa at Fez Travel saying I got the job in Turkey.

I sat up all night deliberating on what I should do. I worked out three options, with all the positive and negatives. They ran as follows:

Option 1: 3/-2

Stick it out

Continue on as planned, go to Siwa, finished what you started. Get to the UK stay with family, head out to Istanbul for May 10.

Option 2: 4/-2

Back to Civilisation

Get out of Egypt ASAP. Change flight dates get to the UK, lay low until 10th May, get to Istanbul

Option 3: 2/-3

Give Up

Go back to Australia, get another crap job, finish Master’s Degree.

Alexandria mosque
Alexandria’s imposing mosque

Buggy ride Alexandria
With the awful buggy man’s horse

The numbers next to them indicate the amount of positives vs negatives I found. I basically decided on option 2 if for no other reason, than, if I run into anymore problems like I did in Sinai, it could ruin everything. So, I put through a call to home to ask Dad to sort out some accommodation for me in the UK. I would have to wait eight hours with the time difference though to see if this was even feasible.

I decided to get a horse and buggy ride around the city to see what there was to do. They guy said 30 for one hour, that sounded fine and off we went. He kept making me get off and taking my picture, sometimes at stuff I wanted to see, others places I had no idea what they were. I was on there for about 2.5 hours, but the bastard tried to charge me 120, insisting we had be going for four hours. He even put the hood of the carriage down to try to intimidate me….No way. “There is no way in hell I’m giving you 120!” “I’m giving you 75 and that’s it, no tip cos you tried to rip me off!” That wasn’t all I said, but I’ll spare you the language. I slapped the 75 in his hand and stormed off. I looked back and I think I saw a faint glimmer of respect in his eye. Boy did you mess with the wrong girl, I thought.

I went back to the hotel and then decided to go for a walk bad idea. I got insanely lost. I mean my hotel is right in front of the Mediterranean Sea! I kept swearing to myself and saying, “How do you lose the Mediterranean for fuck’s sake!” A nice young Egyptian lad pulled over and asked if I wanted a lift insisting, I was now in a really bad area. At times like this you have to make a judgment call, do I take a chance with the potential murderer I have in front of me or the hundreds on the street and it’s getting dark. They guy took me straight back to my hotel and when I asked if he wanted any money he said, “Thank you, but not necessary!” Wow in my eyes mate you just did wonders for your town!

I went back to the hotel and Mum messaged me and said they had lined up somewhere to stay in England for me. I’m staying with Uncle Paul, yay! I love Uncle Paul. English Pubs and steak and ale pie here I come. I set about organising it all today. I managed to change my flight with minimal cost and hassle and tonight I’m off to Cairo on…. get this the train. God help me!

I’m so sick of local men hissing at me it’s not even funny and whoever taught these me the words “Beautiful” and “Very nice” said in the sleaziest tone possible, should be shot on site. Almost everyone in this place is out to take advantage of you and the people, for the most part are horrible, almost reminding me of the spiteful children I went to high school with…picking on me because I’m different. Oh well, wish me luck for my trip to Cairo.

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