I have no words to express the way I felt. I was traumatized, sad, disorientated and bewildered … And although at that time I was not aware of it, this was something that would be hard to overcome.
It had been six months since Tere, my Mexican friend that I had met during my vacation in Chiapas, and I had planned the trip to Egypt. Tere, a lover of Egyptian culture, sent a text to me one day telling me of her intention to make a trip to Egypt. The mysterious pyramids of Egypt with their labyrinths and traps, the hieroglyphics and the ancient pharaohs had always drawn my attention. They appeared in my mind like cartoons of an animated film. However, for security reasons I had never decided to visit it. It seemed that the situation had changed and tourism in Egypt was booming, so without hesitation I offered to accompany her.
Around the beginning of November and, although it had been barely four months since my visit to Bali, little was left of that peace and tranquility that made me feel alive again. In a short time I had gone back into that tiresome spiral of work trips, hours in front of the computer and telephone conferences. I felt so exhausted that I have to admit that I was not looking forward to going to Egypt, even if it was for a vacation. So, there we were, me despondent and Tere excited, as it was the first time she had left Mexico. We arrived in Cairo after 5 hours of direct flight.
After enduring long queues for visa control, and just when it looked like we were leaving, I turned around and saw that a young, handsome and smiling Egyptian security inspector had stopped Tere. She speaks neither English, nor Arabic, nor any other language other than Spanish. As a good friend, I ran fast to her rescue. The security inspector spoke perfect Spanish, so my presence, instead of helping, made things worse. Immediately the shower of questions began: If you live in Mexico City and you are Mexican and you are in Madrid and you are Spanish, why are you friends? How and where do you meet? How long have you known each other? What do you work at? Can you prove that you work there? Do you have an organized tour?
Aaaahhhhh, I was upset and overwhelmed. No, of course I did not have my work contract with me. I’m not used to travelling with it. And no, we did not have an organized tour. I still do not know if it was due to nerves on her part, or lack of awareness of the seriousness of the situation, the reason why Tere answered the inspector with a smile from ear to ear, sweet tone and bright eyes saying that we had no guide but that if he wanted to he could be our guide!! My face fell, I could not believe it! Was she really flirting with him? I looked at her defiantly and in a serious tone I told her that she should not joke. We were in a delicate situation.
After confiscating our passports and bags for inspection, I found myself sitting on a cold iron bench, surrounded by Egyptian inspectors who opened suitcases of suspicious passengers and scattered all their belongings, violating any right to privacy. In those moments I felt like a protagonist of the “customs control” program that on boring Sundays I had seen on Dmax.
The situation was tense, very tense. We had been told not to worry and that if everything went well in half an hour we would be out, but we had been there for more than an hour and a half. Meanwhile, I kept receiving calls and texts from the taxi driver, the owner of the hotel where we had the reservation and the guide with whom we had arranged to have dinner. One wanted to know when we would be out because it was late and he wanted to go home; another pressured me to tell them to hurry up and check our bags; another that had a friend who was an inspector who told him that they always made thorough searches on the Latin-Americans due to problems occurred in the past but that if we did not carry drugs or anything illegal that everything would go well.
Passengers arrived after us, were searched and let go but not us, we were still there. All those waiting for us were beginning to lose their patience and we as well. I got up in desperation and with tears in my eyes I pleaded with them that we had been traveling for so many hours, that we were exhausted and that we just wanted to get out of there.
It became evident at the time of inspection that the problem was Tere’s nationality. They searched her suitcase carefully, while they barely looked at mine. Everything was fine. An intense relief invaded us, it seemed that the nightmare had already come to an end, but what we could not imagine was that the worst was yet to come. One by one, they took us to a small room, with dim lighting, white and chipped walls and a single chair in the middle. There an inspector covered by the hijab told us to take off our clothes. She touched each and every one of our body parts, including our intimate ones.
I have no words to express the way I felt. I was traumatized, sad, disorientated and bewildered … And although at that time I was not aware of it, this was something that would be hard to overcome. Tere felt guilty and even apologized for being Mexican! But my dear friend was not at fault. The fault is this society in which we live, which still does not understand that people are people regardless of our nationality, skin color, sex, etc.
So it was with a bitter taste we started our trip to Egypt.
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With the best of my smiles.