Here was something I was completely unprepared for: the police escort. It was bad enough, in my mind, that I was confined to a tour group itinerary, a tour guide and the company of the same people; a police escort made it all sound even more stifling.
Egypt relies heavily, depressingly heavily, on tourism, and some extremist groups have exploited this by targeting tourists in several bloody attacks including the Luxor Massacre at Queen Hatshepsut’s temple, and the bombings in Sharm el Sheik and Dahab. Nevertheless, the police escort strategy has been in effect since before these attacks and, although I question their effectiveness, they did provide some comic relief at times:
–Somewhere in the desert: The men in the police car (Chinese import vehicle that I had never heard of) calling out at us in our land cruiser. I thought we were being told off for driving too fast but, no, there was no speed limit; they were just asking us to keep slower than 80km/h because their car couldn’t reach that speed.
–Our last night in the desert: We were apparently supposed to have a police escort stay with us every night that we camped out in the desert. One only showed up on the last night. He creeped me out (see previous post) and spent the evening singing loudly and very badly along with his mp3 player – interrupting the music of our Bedouin friends, who all fell around laughing.
–The tourist convoy to Abu Simbel: Nothing noteworthy to say about it, just to grumble that, as only one was allowed per day, it required a 3:30am wake-up call. And really, “tourist convoy,” what an ugly couple of words.
–Crossing into the Sinai region: We waited at the checkpoint for an hour so that the police could decide amongst themselves who would travel with us while a couple of young soldiers engaged in some dramatic play fighting in an attempt to impress us. In the end a bunch of them piled into a truck and drove ahead of us…for 10 minutes then disappeared. This was the first time I had seen our tour guide get pissed off about anything.