After having lied to my Father about where I was going, and being kind of forced to spend the night at St. Katherine monastery. I decided to not think about the troubles I could get into and just spend a happy night and head back to Sharm el Sheikh first thing in the morning.
But would the morning ever come with the tourism police up my ass for escorting an American citizen?
Before entering the monastery there is a small Tourism Police/Info desk kiosk where they asked us to leave our contacts at their register, we did as asked, while Anna wasn’t asked for any details, I was asked to fill in how I know her, how long are we planning to stay, my phone numbers, address and national ID number! I filled in the register book and headed inside.
Side Note: Anna demanded to talk to one of the monks though it was past the visiting time, and they agreed, she got to stay at the hotel inside the premises of the monastery for free while I had to pay for my single room (unfair! Lol)
Cold War? Again?
So we go have dinner in the restaurant and over hear another group planning to climb Mount Sinai later that night. I encouraged Anna to join them, since it is one of the most beautiful things to do in Egypt is watching sun rise from above Mount Sinai. We talked to their tour guide and he agreed that she’d join them on two conditions:
1- Never mention anything about tourist abductions, the tour he had didn’t hear about it and he wasn’t planning on scaring them until safely dropped in Taba to cross the border to Israel. (Those
Rumors Facts are bad for business!!)
2- Never mention she’s American because they were Russians (turned out they were Ukrainians, but still…is it really still that bad between Americans and Russian “tourists around the world?”
Now you must know that I have never climbed Mount Sinai before. And I was really planning on doing so a couple of weeks before Anna showed up, but got stuck at work and couldn’t leave. And now I really wanted to climb with her, but I thought to myself I better not because I need to drive back to Sharm tomorrow first thing in the morning, so I better not be tired and sleepy.
You Lie…And it hits you back
This is the moment when my mother called, I thought she’s be so angry at me for being in “Dangerous Dahab” right now all alone, and because I haven’t called her all day. I thought my dad told her where I am now! So as soon as I pick up I go like “Ok i know it sounds bad but trust me it’s ok, I’ll just spend the night and leave tomorrow morning!”
“Leave where? where are you??”
“….Oh, dad didn’t call you and tell you that I’m not in Sharm?”
“YOU’RE NOT IN SHARM??”
“Oh crap! Now I’m the one who told you and worried you?? Anyway, it is no big deal trust me I’m safe and I’ll stay safe till tomorrow, no one will want to abduct me, I’m your Egyptian son, value less to the bedouins!”
“Are the bedouins abducting people??!!! And you’re not in Sharm? Are you kidding me?”
“So you haven’t watched the news today and you don’t know it’s not very safe outside, and you didn;t know I wasn’t in Sharm. Why did I let my tongue slip to tell you all this?”
“It’s because I’m your mom and I should know everything”
…. “Yeah ok…etc”
The phone call continues for a bit, and now I know I’m stupid enough to have worried my mother myself while she knew nothing about it. I also learned that my dad was covering my back 🙂 because he knows my mom would be worrying like crazy if she knew I was away with all those stuff the bedouins are doing…
Anyway I go to my room and try to sleep; at 11.30pm my phone rings: It’s the guy at the tourist office asking “are you Mina the guy with the American tourist?” “Yes…?!” “Sorry for bothering you, we are just making sure that everything is fine. Are you leaving tomorrow?” “Maybe…I’m leaving tomorrow at least, Anna might stay one more night, and it’s up to her I’m not sure about it…” “Oh! In that case do you mind informing us before you leave whether she is staying more nights or if she’s leaving?” “Yes I sure will…goodnight”
And this was only the beginning of a series of phone calls, at 2.30am, at 4 in the morning, and finally at 6.30am. This was when I lost it. It was the same guy from the first phone call at 11.30 pm, asking the same questions. I really got mad at him, I was like “I don’t know anything; I’m trying to sleep because I’m traveling tomorrow! I already told you I will meet you at the office before I leave! And I already told you I don’t know where Anna is right now, maybe she’s on top of mount Sinai or maybe she is sleeping in her room, I have no idea, I’ll meet her at breakfast at 9am, after that we’ll take a tour inside the monastery as normal tourists do, and then I’ll meet you. Now can I sleep?”
Now I might have sounded a little bit strong on the phone but I was actually having a hard time falling asleep again, my mind was racing as to whether I might fall in trouble. But what for? But still, I know it will not be big trouble, but just having to do some official work, or having a couple of those phone calls when I’m back to Sharm and my father asking me why the police is calling me? It doesn’t sound correct!
Apologies and goodbyes…only until 8.45, another phone call, this time from a land line, a thicker voice, a harsher tone
“Good morning, is this Mina the driver that drove the American tourist to St. Katherine?”
“This is Mina, I’m not a driver I’m a pharmacist and I drove my friend to St. Katherine. How can I help you?”
In a bit nicer voice now… (If you’re wondering, yes, most people in Egypt would change the way they treat you according to your occupation – and I didn’t just say that ok? ssshhhh)
“Sorry. Dr. Mina, This is officer ‘Osama Amer’ from the tourism police, manager of St. Katherine’s National Park. Please I would like to meet up with you and the American tourist with you to discuss how she will leave St. Katherine today.”
Feeling a little bit more respected, I thought of annoying him just because he woke me up
“But I’m not sure if she’s leaving today or not. She climbed Mount Sinai and maybe she wants a day of rest today and she will leave tomorrow. I will meet her in 20 minutes or so for breakfast, and then I want to visit the monastery and I’m sure she wants that too. And then I’ll meet you”
He sounded so mad but said fine, he’ll meet me at around 11 in the cafeteria of the hotel.
I wouldn’t say I had peace of mind till 11, I got 3 other phone calls, one of them was still the same officer asking if we’re done already.
I was starting to worry that they would now start asking me why she is going to Israel, how I know her again, start questioning me. Yes I could in trouble if one of the
stupid smart officers thought she could be a spy or any of those stuff. Yeah a spying pilgrim.
In the next, final, part of the story: How officer Osama Amer finally meets us and talks to us, and our trip to Taba, and my trip back to Sharm.
Did you ever fall in trouble for doing some nice stuff to someone? Or for being a tourist/with the tourist who everyone is “trying to keep safe” (ie American Citizen :))?
All pictures in this post are not mine, they all link back to their owner’s websites.