TRAVEL THERE: WISHING FOR AN X-RAY MACHINE
You can complain all you want to about airport security in America, but I don’t plan to pay you any attention. That’s because I’ve been through Egyptian security several times now and of all my experiences, this midday experience at the Cairo Airport takes the cake.
Unloading the Car
Bill and I are do-it-yourself-ers by nature, but you have to get over that if you want to board a plane in Cairo. When you pull up to the terminal you get your going-through-security buddy and he’s not optional. Our new buddy loaded our stuff onto his cart and led us through the terminal. A lot of what happened in transit is a bit of a fog, because Bill handled all of it in Arabic. Yes, I know I should learn the language, but I’m still learning English!
Unable to understand what was being said and done, I just shuffled along behind Bill and hoped I was getting it right. Here in America you go through security and you are done. It’s a pain, but it is one pain. In Cairo, you go through security, you go through security again and before its all over there’s no telling exactly how many more times you will be put through the fun of taking off your shoes, emptying your pockets, having your luggage x-rayed and yourself patted down. They vary the pattern so it won’t be predictable.
Going through the Process
The first pass went pretty well. You weren’t allowed to offload your checked luggage at the airline counter before entering security, so it was somewhat of a hassle. You and all your stuff had to go through the process together. I can see the value of that from a security standpoint, so while I would have loved to get rid of the big stuff, that didn’t happen until later and I didn’t mind. I guess that’s one of the reasons you get you going-through-security buddy.
The American in me felt some relief after that first pass. I assumed we were through, but suddenly we had to go through the whole rigmarole again. I was a little surprised, but only a little, because I’d already been in Egypt for days and going through some kind of security was an activity we did over and over and over. At the hotels, they went over you with a fine tooth comb at the gate, then again at the front door and then a various areas through out the property. You went through security to enter an attraction and for good measure you’d have to go through it again inside. You went through security to enter churches, museums and if you didn’t actually go through a security gate, you knew you were being watched.
The surprise came after I stepped through the metal detector. I was used to being patted down afterwards. I was not used to being fondled. Yep, you read that right. Just like in the US, women pat down women and men pat down men, but I got a fondler. I stepped out of the metal detector and a hajib’ed woman signaled for me to assume the Vetruvian Man position. I did. She reached out and grabbed my boobs. I’m not kidding. It wasn’t a pat down. It was like she was testing them to see if they were real. I was so shocked, I was speechless. I didn’t know if the treatment proved she had been poorly trained or whether she was doing exactly what she was supposed to do!
I wanted to swat her hands away and give her a piece of my mind, but I wanted to be through with the process and on my way to Sharm, too. I also didn’t want Bill defending my honor. On a previous trip to Egypt a man in a crowd had pinched my buttocks and I’d spontaneously complained about it. Bill took off after a guy and I died a million deaths in the few seconds before I could get him to come back. I didn’t want to draw any attention to us, so I just carried on through the rest of multiple security measures – but no one else grabbed anything I thought they shouldn’t, so I assume the treatment was specific to that one lady.
The flight to Sharm was a hoot. Come back next week and I’ll share the experience.