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Walking next to an Israeli in Egypt

February 20, 2010

Walking in the streets of Cairo or Alexandria for an Arab citizen shouldn’t be a problem, but being next to an Israeli woman? It kind of worried me a little. On the one hand, she is from a country that has gone into wars with Arab states, namely Egypt, several times. But on the other hand, the growing sentiments of hatred and rage we hear and see in the news among the Egyptians was even more worrying.

An Egyptian Woman carrying on her head a bag with three chickens and a duck in it

The first day we arrived to Alexandria to take part in a conference on the future of electronic media in the digital age, and reporting across cultures, I honestly was reluctant to say who she was when we first arrived to the Windsor Hotel on Friday. I mean why should I tell them? ” She had a UK passport and that could have been easier for me. But I opted to challenge my fears.
Considering the fact that she and I have been participating in similar conferences many times before, we had built a good friendship, which made me feel responsible for her safety.
The next day we wanted to go to Cairo and see the pyramids. I kept thinking all the way how to introduce her to people whenever I had to. On that day, as we arrived to the train station waiting for the French train, my Israeli friend asked if she could take pictures of Egyptians who were getting off the train or those who were waiting to go onboard. How naive I was when I told her that it was ok, forgetting for a second, before I realized my mistake when it was too late, that we were not in Europe where nobody cares.
An old woman got off the train with a big basket on her head containing three chickens and a duck. It was kind of funny and surprising for both of us and worth taking the picture. So she did.
“Hey” a big man shouted from a distance. “Why is she taking pictures?”. He was wearing civilian clothes and held a wireless device in his hand. I realized that he was the station’s undercover police. “She is a tourist,” I yelled back with confidence. And that was my biggest mistake. I saw him shouting at another man, who was also holding a wireless device in his hand. But the latter couldn’t understand what his boss, obviously, was saying due to the fact that the train station was packed with people and everyone was shouting for no obvious reason.
It freaked me out and I had to take action before my friend and I get in trouble. My brain started functioning like a Pentium 4 processor. “Think Hani, Think” I said to myself. It took the policeman seconds till he eventually pinpointed us among the crowd.
“What’s wrong? What’s going on?” he asked with a tone of anger and seriousness. And in nanoseconds I said “we are going to Alexandria and we don’t know if we are on the right platform or not. Could you please show us the way?”
“With pleasure,” he replied in a more friendly voice. “I am one of the station’s undercover police. Wait here and I will show you the way when the train comes,” he said with a smile on his face. Thank God, as I took a sigh of relief and looked at my Israeli friend telling her that the panic was over after the moments of fear we had.
Few minutes later the train showed up and the policeman came again and walked us to the first class compartment where we sat and enjoyed a three-hour trip to Cairo.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Amanda Wilson permalink
    February 20, 2010 9:06 pm

    How unexpected! Glad the undercover police turned out to be helpful. So I guess you got the picture after all?

  2. February 21, 2010 5:51 am

    thanks for your quick thinking Hani! I could have gotten into all sorts of trouble… oh dear! Amanda, the photo is great….

  3. Amanda Wilson permalink
    February 21, 2010 4:01 pm

    I saw that you posted the picture! Thanks 🙂

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