Camel-Jacked

Egypt – December 2010

I have wanted to visit Egypt since elementary school, when my fifth-grade class made a school presentation and I was in charge of narrating the section on ancient Egypt. I quickly became enamored with pyramids and hieroglyphics. It was also around this time that the King Tut exhibit came to Los Angeles, seeing my mom and I standing in a long line, eager to witness history. It is also a country visited by the father of history, Herodotus. He writes in Chapter 2 of The Histories, “Concerning Egypt itself I shall extend my remarks to a great length, because there is no country that possesses so many wonders, nor any that has such a number of works which defy description.”

We arrive in Cairo an hour late, only we’re staying in Giza, not Cairo, so it’s another hour to our hotel. The following day is a full one, beginning with the pyramids at Giza. The Great Pyramid is the Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops in Greek). While this is the largest of the pyramids here, I spend most of my time exploring the Pyramid of Khafre. This pyramid is distinct as its top still has some of the limestone casing that once covered the entire pyramid.

While on my way to explore the Great Pyramid, I am pulled beside a camel and a cloth is tied around my head. “Good photo,” I’m told by the camel handler. Next thing I know, I’m atop the camel and am being paraded around for more “good photos.” Just when I think I’m finally being let down, the owner jumps in front of my camel and runs off with me to ask for money. I tell him that I have no money, my wife has our money. As we continue this back-and-forth, my wife catches up with me and I ask her to pay for my rescue.

Surprisingly, this is not the only time I’m unintentionally on a camel this trip. About a week later, we’re on a boat taking us to a Nubian village for the night. When we come ashore, I’m the first off, only to discover that this stop is solely for those who wanted to ride a camel into the village—nearly everyone else is still on the boat, including my confused wife. All goes smoothly until I notice that the rest of my group is going up a hill whereas I’m going down. Turns out it’s a shortcut to the finish point and my camel handler wants to ask for more money.

When we return to Luxor, tensions are high as a Coptic Christian church was attacked only a few days before in Alexandria. A few weeks later the January 25 Revolution began, and we witnessed sites we’d just been to being vandalized or destroyed. Unfortunately, this will not be the first or last time such an occurrence has happened.

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