Surviving Protests and Spiked Drinks in Cairo
For months before leaving Australia, I had been carefully monitoring the African news. The political hot pot that had been spilling over onto the streets in Egypt for the previous year had cooled down, the new government had been elected and things were looking a bit more peachy than they had been, so I decided to end my eight-week camping trip across Africa with a flight up to Cairo to spend a rude amount of time listening to the Bangles’ Walk like an Egyptian and embracing hookah.
When I arrived in the capital, everyone was freaking out. At this point, I was pretty used to being stared at for being a white female travelling alone in places where I guess that doesn’t happen so much, but the attention here was exorbitant. I was used to being nervous before reaching a new destination and finding within the first few minutes that there was nothing to be worried about, but Egypt was the opposite: there seemed to be a distinct distaste towards me in the air when I walked down the street.
When I arrived at my hostel, the man behind reception appeared surprised to see me. It was empty apart from the two Egyptian men working there; doubtless, the tourism industry had taken a hit from the violent protest of the revolution. Unfortunately, I had also arrived in the week a Youtube clip inciting religious hatred had landed in the hands of the wrong Muslims, so shit was kicking off; however, having camped the last two months across Africa, I was blissfully unaware of anything going on outside the walls of my tent and how many flat tires we had encountered that week.
Evidently, a wall had been constructed around the US embassy, protesters were standing atop raising the black Islamist flag in place of the American one and, like many other times in the last year in Egypt, tension was at breaking point. To survive, I decided to adopt the most ignorant over-the-top outback Australian accent I possibly could, dropping the word “mate” more often than Steve Irwin and embracing the inner bogan we all really have buried deep beneath varied levels of self-respect. At my lowest point, I almost found myself wishing for a Southern Cross tattoo.
Regardless, I managed to make it around the streets of Cairo without too much fuss, and generally found Egyptians to be some of the friendliest people I had encountered. After being pleasantly surprised day after day by Egyptian hospitality, I found myself in a shop one afternoon drinking tea with the owner and discussing the finer points of his perfume that frankly smelled like something I would wash my dog in. He had graciously offered to help me cross the road because, as well as embracing my inner bogan, I had opted to also embrace my inner 80-year-old woman and literally could not cross the havoc-run streets by myself.
Naturally, the help across the road came at the price of the old, “You have to come drink a cup of tea while I sell the shit out of my bullshit store to you and try to pressure you into buying my piece-of-shit goods.” I was ready for this, I expected this and I had encountered this relentlessly throughout Turkey. What I was not expecting was to be drugged.
What I had stupidly presumed was going to be a pressure sale ended up being me drinking tea laced with god knows what. Luckily, I was keen as fuck to get out of his dingy store, so forced my way out and – surprise surprise – had to cross the road by myself regardless. I managed to tag along next to someone else and make it across safely, so headed towards the Egyptian Museum where I began to feel increasingly nauseous, breaking out into cold sweats and feeling like I was sure to pass out and ruin some ridiculously valuable relic and be royally fucked (unaware at this point that I had in fact just been royally fucked).
Eventually, due to illness and admittedly boredom, I left the museum and headed back to the hostel, where I fell asleep at 4pm and woke up the next day incredibly lucky to still have all my belongings and be unscathed.