Saturday, August 1, 2009

A run in with the tourist police and some rash decisions!

On Saturday, as those of you who have been following our progress will know, we were scheduled to get on a cruise from Aswan to Luxor. We planned to eat breakfast, visit the Nubian Museum, say bye to the felucca captain (of previous posts) and then join the cruise. But a series of events led to a complete change in plans. Whilst we were stitting eating the usual hotel breakfast fare of day-old pitta and slightly soggy triangle cheese, the hotel man told us that our cruise man had come to collect us. We finished breakfast and met him. We both took an immediate dislike to the guy, which I think is pretty unusual for us. He had disgustingly greased back hair, a briefcase (!) and an extremely over enthusiastic manner. He was also not the man we'd been told would meet us and didn't know our names or even which boat we were going on. However, we went to get our bags and came down to hand in the key and join the cruise.

When we handed in the key, the hotel men claimed we had not paid. This was complete rubbish (and far too boring to go inot the details now) but led to us spending at least 45 minutes at the hotel desk talking round in circles. The main problem was that we are women and therefore know nothing and can not possibly be trusted to know what we're talking about. That and the fact that the hotel men clearly thought they spoke better English than us and could understand the Expedia voucher better. Hmmm. Given our problems in checking into the hotel and general standard of the hotel we were pretty unimpressed. As usual in these situations we started speaking French, which gives us some privacy and we also got talking to a very nice french family. Our slimy guide was not helping matters by urging me to pay so that we didn't miss any of his tour of Aswan and siding with the hotel men. He also said we had no time to go to the Nubian museum and could not say bye to the felucca captain. He then decided to list the entire itinerary of the day in an attempt to show me how silly I was wasting time with the hotel bill. We were to arrive in Luxor the next morning and then just do coach trips from the boat. He also revealed that he spoke French, which was probably the final straw. At this point I said to Rachel "I've half a mind to jack in this whole cruise thing and get Hamada to take us to Luxor on the felucca." Much to my surprise she agreed and ran off at full speed, coming back 5 minutes later with an agreed price and departure time. We were so excited. It was a reckless and rash and incredibly silly but without a doubt one of the best decisions of our lives (Rachel will post about what we got up to for 4 days and 4 nights on a 9 metre sailing boat!)

Meanwhile the hotel men were threatening me with the police. They seemed quite shocked when I didn't seem bothered. They started smoking and drinking tea with the slimy guide and we waited. I knew that eventually I would end up paying again and claiming back from Expedia or travel insurance because the police are so corrupt here but I wanted to cause them all maximum inconvenience. The Policeman eventually arrived and there were hearty handshakes all round. All round the men that is. Clearly as a woman, and a wannabe criminal (!) I was not to be included and in true Egyptian style they would just talk about me in Arabic and then tell me what to do. I was having none of this and put my hand out to shake the Policeman's hand. The look on his face was priceless and clearly the men took an even greater disliking of this feisty Westerner than they had already. As predicted, the Policeman sided with the hotel and, short of actually going to the Police station and getting my bank details up online, which would have been unsafe and they would not have believed anyway, I had no choice but to pay. I made it very inconvenient and told them loudly and clearly that they should be ashamed of themselves and that we would make it our mission to ruin their hotel on the internet. Never go to the MEMNON HOTEL in Aswan.

But we were excited because of our rash decision and now had to get rid of slimy guide. This was quite hard. He refused to believe that we were serious and told us how he had left home at 2 am to pick us up and how he had done this and that already for us. I pointed out that it was our money and we could do what we liked. He eventually gave up, we dumped our bags on the felucca and headed to the Nubian Museum. That would have been good but we were too excited to take it in and anyway, a man shouted at Rachel for using her flash even though she hadn't. Obviously he was right as he was a man and it took a firm 'Oh, for goodness sake go away and leave us alone' from me to get rid of him.

Lessons learnt: Egyptian men are, generally, pretty horrible and have no respect for women. Nubian felucca captains are, however, a different thing all together. And impetuous decisions should be encouraged!

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