Travel There: Photos, Metal Detectors and Machine Guns
So it was here, the reason we had come to Egypt. My nephew Bassem is very dear to both of us and his wedding is just about the only thing that could have convinced Bill to go Egypt. On the afternoon of the wedding, we left our room at the appointed hour and headed to the lobby for pictures.
Pictures at Four
Family members were told to be in the lobby at four for pictures, but it quickly became obvious that was 4 PM Egyptian time. The American contingency was dutifully in the lobby by 4:15, but it was a very lonely lobby. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the time I spent visiting with the guys, Bill, Steven and John, but in spite of myself, I was wishing I’d had a little more time to solve the electrical emergency. I had really wanted those tendrils.
About 4:45 the Egyptian contingency wandered into the lobby and we were a good-looking bunch. When everyone was assembled we were marched out onto the lawn to be photographed. There was a certain amount of frisson, but I blamed it on wedding jitters and a ticking clock. What I didn’t know was that the bus to take us to the wedding hadn’t arrived yet and there were serious negotiations going on with the hotel about how many guards with machine guns would escort us to the wedding.
Yes, I Said Machine Guns
There was a certain amount of friction throughout the trip about the status of the people in our party. We were visiting just days after the Palm Sunday bombings, so security was high. Most of the members of the family were Egyptian, in origin if not in passport, but they considered themselves Egyptian. Some of the exceptions were pint-sized kids born in the US to Egyptian parents, but they looked just like any kid born to an Egyptian – olive skin, dark curly hair and big brown eyes. The other exceptions were Steven, John and myself. We looked like tourists, plain and simple, and American tourists at that.
Even though most of the people in our party considered themselves Egyptian, that’s not how the other Egyptians saw us at all. To them we were a bunch of foreigners. The idea of 20 or 30 of theses foreigners traveling by bus from the Fairmont to a Coptic Church created fear and trembling to the hotel’s staff. They intended to keep their name off the evening news by providing us with protection, and that protection was two guys with machine guns.
To my Egyptians, the armed guards seemed like a red neon arrow pointing to us saying, “Blow this bus up!” While the photographer tried to get pictures of the whole crew smiling at once, some very tense conversations were going on behind the scenes. The bus arrived and a compromise was reached. We’d have one armed guard and his machine gun would stay out of sight unless needed.
The machine gun guy did pretty good. He looked just like most of the rest of the guys on the bus – dressed in a suit, headed to a wedding. As we approached the church, he unbuttoned his coat and wrapped his fingers around the gun. I can assure you that did not make me feel more secure.
Entering the church was just like entering a hotel, museum or other area. You either put your purse on the table or cleaned out your pockets. Then you entered the metal detector. On the other side, someone would rifle through your belongings to be sure that tiny beaded bag didn’t have a weapon in it. Perhaps they would frisk you for whatever reason they picked out, be it concern or just a random practice. We stood around on the steps of the church for awhile and then it was showtime.
Come back next week and hear all about it.