Extracts from Egypt Magic Guests Mike Miron and Shelley Row Report on a Difficult Few Days.
“We arrived in Cairo at 3:30PM on January 28 2011 .
As we proceeded to the baggage claim area I noticed a man in a dark suit holding a sign with the words “Egypt Magic” printed in bold black letters. We approached him and introduced ourselves. He said his name was Mohamed and he would be our tour leader and main point of contact while we toured the region for the next ten days.
Then he said, “Unfortunately, I have some disappointing news for you. We had some unrest last night in downtown Cairo and the government has imposed a curfew that applies to everyone traveling on the roads this afternoon and evening.” He said we should collect our bags and go with him to the main waiting area in Terminal 3. The curfew was obligatory for all non-Egyptian persons arriving at the airport, but he intended to talk with the security personnel to find out if we could travel to our destination hotel in Giza which was about a 45 minute drive from the airport.
“No matter what, I will stay with you.” He said. For the next four, unnerving days, those words gave us a real appreciation for the dedication, loyalty, protectiveness and compassion that this man, whom we had only just met, gave to us.
We’d spend our first evening in Egypt at the airport.
Early Saturday morning as the curfew was lifted, two of Mohamed’s colleagues – Hussein and Ahmed – arrived to escort us to the hotel in a small eight-passenger van. Another couple from Australia joined us. Mohamed explained that we needed to stop by another hotel to drop this couple off first since they were separated from their tour group under his direction. We hustled out of the airport to the tour bus parking area. Hussein our driver, and Mohamed, quickly loaded the luggage into the back of the van. “Pull the curtains closed over the windows,” Hussein said. We all looked at each other with uncertainty on our faces, but did exactly as we were told. We did not realize it at the time, but our first stop was a hotel in the heart of downtown Cairo, the scene of the previous nights’ unrest.
Traffic was sparse as we exited the airport and made our way to a highway leading into Cairo. Everything seemed normal until we saw the first tank about 5 miles outside of town parked along the highway. Then we saw a few others with soldiers standing beside them with rifles and automatic weapons cradled in their arms with fixed bayonets. Suddenly, we came upon a long column of tanks – at least 20 – parked on the highway in the lane next to us. We all felt intimidated by the sight of this awesome force because we knew why it was there. Other soldiers in personnel carriers were milling about near what seemed like an endless file of military vehicles.
Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel was a welcome sight when we arrived even though two tanks were parked near the entrance. The Three Great Pyramids are close by and the Cheops Pyramid, in particular, was almost a stone’s-throw away. The majesty of this monument brought us some comfort as we walked toward the lobby.
Inside we met Amr, the supervisor, of the tour staff and Ahmed, our tour leader. Together with Mohamed and Hussein, these men became our friends. They were Egyptians and concerned about how the image of their country would be tainted by these demonstrations. It was clear to us they were speaking from their hearts and deeply worried that people from around the world would judge all Egyptians by the acts of violence that occurred the previous day. We felt sad and empathetic and explained to them that we have experienced similar situations in our country as well.
Mohamed, Amr, and Ahmed talked with us more about the tour, but they were uncertain about the curfew situation for Saturday afternoon and Sunday. We decided to rest in the hotel for the remainder of Saturday since we did not get any sleep the night before at the airport. We would check with them later in the day since we were scheduled to begin our first tour of the Pyramids the next morning. We were also instructed not to leave the grounds of the hotel”.
Sadly Mike and Shelley’s tour could not go ahead so. it was decided they would leave Cairo. The y continue “In the end, the decision was clear – leave Cairo as quickly as possible. Easier said than done as curfews were enacted each afternoon prohibiting all movement, the airport descended into chaos, and Internet service remained curtailed. Thankfully, cell service was reestablished allowing us to text and call.
Plus, we had the cavalry on our side in the form of our tour company. The staff with their supervisor, Amr Haggag, never left our side, not once, ever. They stayed overnight at the airport and at the hotel – dressed in their suits and ties. Keep in mind, these are local people with families in the affected areas. They left their wives, kids and parents to ensure the safety and comfort of strangers. One young man wiped a tear from his eye as he told of his frightened mother crying to him on the phone. She lived in one of the buildings threatened by looting. Despite these personal hardships, they checked on us several times a day to see if we were okay. Their manager called personally to ensure our satisfaction. We were more than satisfied. We can’t say enough good things about these people
Mike and Shelley eventually flew out of Cairo late Monday night, her report finishes …
“The real heart-breaker for us were the new friends we made in Egypt, but had to leave behind abruptly. As we said goodbye to Mohamed we felt like we were leaving a family member. In the four short days of our journey in and out of Egypt we will always remember Mohamed, Hussein, Ahmed, and Amr.
“No matter what I will stay with you.” And, they did”.
You can read Mike and Shelleys blog at http://mikeandshelleysfrenchadventures.blogspot.com/ (scroll down for Egypt section).