I'm rather embarrassed to write this account of shame, deception and *gasp* getting taken for a ride. Really. Embarrassed.
Dare I say my pride is wounded because of the following experience? Yes, yes I dare say it is. Because I consider myself to be somewhat travel savvy. I mean, traveling to 44 countries has to mean you've gathered some travel know-how, right?
That's what I thought before. That infamous day I set off down the streets of Cairo (yes, nervously) on foot and I had no intention of falling into any tourist traps or spending money on stupid souvenirs. It was the furthest thing from my mind. (Perhaps therein lies the problem.) Shopping-wise, there was one item I wanted to attain: a tiny miniature pyramid. (Which I never did get, by the way.) Anything else was completely uninteresting to me. Or so I thought.
And at one point in my Cairo walkabout I found myself on the wrong side of a very busy Egyptian street. Having lived on a verrrrrry busy street (complete with railroad tracks next door) at one point in my young life, and also having crossed that verrrrry busy street regularly, you know, to get to the other side (my little friends lived over yonder) I would cross that street without any problems. So with the confidence instilled by my childhood in tow, I crossed 1/2 of the crazy street (barely, and getting yelled at in Egyptian in the process - all words that I'm sure were just lovely and fuzzy warm good words) and came to rest on a median in the middle of the six-lane roadway. And I stayed there in the middle for quite a while... because the second half, it turns out, was the hardest half to cross. Every time I thought about setting out for the other side, another mad, speed-demon auto-macchina would come barreling at me out of nowhere, shouting at me and making lovely hand gestures.
And then, just as I was finally going to cross the street in a mad dash, I was distracted by a tall, thin Egyptian man running across the street towards me, from the direction I wanted to go.
He sidled right up to me and say "Hello there! I think you do not know how to cross our Egyptian streets, come I will show you." And with that, he dashed back the way he came, with me following closely behind. There was something shady about him, and being that I had been about to self-rescue myself from my predicament, I tried to quickly thank him and made to keep walking to my destination (the spa-hotel that was now just yards away).
But he kept talking to me. "Whereareyooofrom, yoooarewelcomed, dooyouvork? Wheredooyouvork? Ahhh, theeeseeseaverrrygudcompany." And so on, and so forth. Finally, I found myself a block to the left of my destination, following a few steps behind the fellow, prepared at any moment to make a mad-dash for my life. But as we entered a small store, and he disappeared I realized that he was a schill. His job was to get me into the store to buy stuff. The store was filled with seriously overpriced Egyptian art and perfumes. And when I left the store with a small vial of perfume and a Papyrus with my name written on it in ancient Egyptian (actually it doesn't have my name on it because I wouldn't write my real name down as they'd requested - I made one up, having violent daydreams of credit-card and identity theft) for an exorbitant price. (In dollars!)
Inside the store: The guy's "Sister" who supposedly was getting married
the next day, painting a Papyrus with my name on it in "ancient Egyptian."