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Egyptian Students at the Pyramids

By Wren Chan

          After going through the hassle of haggling with the camel driver, I was left alone walking around the Pyramids.  Although others would talk about the size of the Pyramids and how long they have been standing, I was more amazed at the vast desert that stood before the Pyramids, which triumphed over the other monuments built by the pharaohs.  Upon walking some distance towards the main Pyramid, I was approached by three Egyptian college students who perhaps were interested in why a Chinese guy would be alone at the Pyramids. After a brief chat and learning that they were students at a nearby university, they accompanied me towards the ticket office for the inside of one of the pyramids.

           As we walked, we attempted to communicate with each with whatever cues we could though it was mostly the three students asking me questions.  First they conveyed wrestling to me by repeatedly using a wrestler’s name.  This part I only understood due to wrestling being a fad back in junior high school where I learned a bit about it from other students.  The three asked about whether women in the United States are really “loose” like the media presents them.  This question took me aback as I started to reevaluate my impressions of the three.  Thinking that I didn’t understand them, they repeatedly commented on girls, more specifically about American girls being better looking than Egyptian girls.  With whatever tools I had I tried to explain the media is exaggerating the sex part due to the fact that it is cheaper to have violence and sex since these don’t need to be translated.  As we approached the ticket office I had given up though the three guys had understood at this point that they should drop the subject.

           After purchasing our tickets we went down towards the person that stood in front of the entrance to the Pyramid.  Upon seeing my empty camera case and the huge backpack that I was carrying, the old man thoroughly searched my backpack while the three guys descended into the Pyramid with my camera, which they intended to carry down for me since cameras aren’t allowed inside the Pyramid and large groups of tourists had arrived making a run to the ticket office to hold the camera improbable.  Suspecting that I was trying to smuggle my camera into the Pyramid, the old man did whatever he could to delay me which annoyed me greatly as the prospect of the three guys leaving the area with the camera was high on my mind.

           To my relief the three guys came out and after proving to the old man that the three guys held my camera, I proceeded on an agonizing trip to the inside alone with the camera in my mind as the three guys held onto it.  We left the Pyramids of Giza area with my camera in my own hands.  As if the events of the day weren’t straining enough for me, what I could gather from the three guys was that they wanted money for food or something to drink.  Thinking that they were asking for a tip for accompanying me, I tried to make sense of it but my fear of being ripped off caused me to constantly evoke the tourist police, which caused them to lower the amount of money they were asking for.  After some 10 minutes of negotiations for some matters that weren’t very clear to me, I just gave them five pounds to go to a nearby restaurant and get whatever they needed.  As soon as they went inside, I ran as fast as I could away because if they were asking for a tip, they would likely ask for more.

           It was quite an awkward experience.  Even though it might have been rude if their intentions were good, it wasn’t worth the risk for me.  While running through Giza to catch the most accessible transportation system, the buildings around me reminded me somewhat of Farha Ghannam’s Recreating and the Creation of a Global City which talked about projects in which residents were evicted from downtown Cairo to other areas of Cairo in an attempt to make room for newer buildings.  The relative new condition of the buildings in Giza compared to the rest of Cairo made me wonder whether the residents had been evicted or the area was largely uninhabited before the tourist industry boomed.  In either case I met up with the three guys some time later and had to lie about having to meet with some people at the American University in Cairo, thus explaining why I left them.  This seems to satisfied them and ended my somewhat hectic day, though I never figured out whether they wanted a tip or they ran out of money and wanted some money for water.

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