Monday, October 5, 2009

Abducted by a Crazy Camel Driver!!

Some would say I go to extreme lengths in my efforts to gain real life experiences for my books, but being abducted by a money-hungry camel driver was not something I’d ever planned to do. Now that I’m safely back from my trip, I can laugh about it, but at the time I was not in a laughing mood. Irate is a better word. Spitting angry, perhaps. Me and the camel both.

One of the destinations on our cruise was Alexandria, Egypt, so we signed up for a trip to the pyramids of Giza. You know. THE pyramids. And the sphinx. And indeed, they were awesome. Not so awesome were the people that awaited us at each stop. Aggressive, in-your-face local men and boys who would go to any length to part us from our money.

On our way to Giza, our Egyptian tour guide had warned us not to let anyone take our cameras, claiming to want to snap our photos, as they were wont to hold the cameras hostage until a sum of money was handed over. We were also told not to ride the camels across the parking lot because a) we would be taking a real camel ride across the sand dunes later; and, b) they would gouge us.

Immediately upon stepping off the bus, our entire group was surrounded by camel drivers, their sons, and their Very Large Camels, hawking rides and offering to take our photos, as the guide had warned. As my husband was arguing with a particularly annoying boy, who kept grabbing for his camera, a big burly guy behind me took my sun hat off my head and put it on his. I spun to face him, and he said, “Want to take your picture on a camel?” as he lifted me off my feet and set me on his kneeling camel. Alarmed, I yelled, “Get me off!” and was about to swing a leg over when the big brute wrapped his turban around my head and shouted at me, “Lean back, lean back!” The camel began to rise, hind end first, so I had no choice but to grab onto the pommel and lean back, all the while shouting at him to let me down. Like that would work.

Then his son led the camel away from the group of tourists, separating me from the crowd – a tummy-churning moment, let me tell you – although the ride was quite pleasant. My husband was still arguing about the camera and insisting he would take the photos, which he did, as you can see above, and didn’t seem to notice my distress. My hero!

Because the ploy to grab our camera didn’t work, the camel driver decided to hold me hostage instead. As you can imagine, this didn’t sit well with me, and I began to yell at him. He wanted 50 Euros ($75) to let me down, which, now that I think about it, was quite a bargain, but at the time seemed outrageous.

After bartering with the burly dude failed, my quick-thinking husband told him I had all the money, so he’d have to put me down so I could pay. The ruse worked, the camel sank to his knees, and I climbed off, a bit shaken but none the worse for wearing a greasy turban. Once off, the man held out his thick hand and demanded money, at which point I began to call for the Tourist Police, who were standing all around the area watching as tourists were fleeced. After that, I called for the real police, who were sitting in their cars watching as tourists were fleeced. They had quite a system going. But the camel driver apparently didn’t like all the attention, so he settled for 5 Euros. Thus my net worth fell to a little over $7.50. Talk abut humiliation. But we sure got a great shot of me on the camel in front of a pyramid!

I’m not sure how I’ll ever work that adventure into a Flower Shop mystery, but somewhere, somehow, it’ll show up in one of my books. Next week, I’ll tell you about my surprise visitor in Athens, Greece, 5000 miles from home.

Have you ever had a frightening tourist experience? Been fleeced at a tourist trap? Been to the pyramids? Ridden a camel?
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