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One way ticket to Africa


EGYPT | Sunday, 15 June 2008 | Views [837]

Well after surviving the much less developed parts of Africa, maybe I became a little too relaxed arriving in what is in many ways, close to the developed nation of Eygpt - including not just the exploitation of tourist funds but the active process of getting money off them for no effort apart from immediate personal gain.

My first scam I think was not planned and niether to anyone's beneifit except my story telling. With the usual occurrence of a self-appointed guide, I was attempting to cross the extremely chaotic streets of Downtown Cairo when a well dressed, well spoken middle age man began insisting on granting me his Egyptian hospitality. I was intending simply to eat my bakery lunch looking at the Nile, which was about 100m away and he knidly decided it was his civic duty to escort me this distance.

Sensing something akward on the horizon I decided a sprite was in order to accompany my lunch and tried to back track with this excuse and loose my host. Unsuccessfully, he insisted sprite was available in the direction we were already walking and continued divulging his personal details, including of course,  his 'Australian girlfriend's' business card - haven't we all heard that one before!

Walking for 3 minutes too long I began to question why we couldn't find a sprite down one of the side streets we perpetually passed. Insisting on knowing a noce place and his Egyptian hospitality, along with my loss for how to extract myself form the situation had me following along until the lush 30m high windows of the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Hotel - Doh!

After divulging my pocket knife to the lobby guards, I began my assertive (rude in our terms) expression of questioning why he brought me there and how uncomfortable I felt given the normal Louis Vuttion luggage toting clientle comapred my daily backpacking fashion. His insistance of 'being somewherwe nice' and 'his Egyptian hospitality' had me resigning to a recogniasably gracious thankyou, after which he then excused himself for the toilet.

The drinks arrived and my sprite was downed instantanously. Fifteen minutes later I was still looking at his untouched pot of tea and the penny started to drop. Twenty minutes later and I was divising my own composed escap plan assuming the scam was well under way and I wouldn't be embarassed by his return to find me skulling his tea before hop tailing it out of there.

Three quick cups of quality tea and one fine choc chip biscuit later, I calmly recieved and paid the completely overpriced (as expected) 40 Egyptian pound bill with a generous 5 pound tip and hop tailed as quickly as possible with the smirk of a gera story and a purse a grand total of $10 lighter. 

The second scam one week later was however, much more planned, much more suprising and cost me three times as much - yes a disgusting AUS$30...I love travelling in Africa :)

The strike of the random again but this fellow was my age, apparently a PhD student and put in much more effort convincing me he was decent. He put a good hour in finding me stamps, travel agents and supermarkets, and then mentioned the very attractive idea of the commonly forged international student card and had me sucked in.

"They will pretend like their not happy about doing it at all but they don't survive without this extra under-the-table business. Just let me do the talking" was the strategy and obviuosly aware that i was attempting to pull a scam of my own, agreed and went along accompanied by some nerves. We readied my passport complete with enclosed passport-sized photo and 140 Egyptian pounds - 100 for the card and 40 for 'her'.

Things went along as expected with her asking for some proof of my student status and me lying that i had none on me and that uni was closed for holidays. I'm not a good liar at all. My 'friend' (can't actually remembered what his name was meant to be) told me to have a seat and let him talk to her, which I was glad to do. A minute later he said she would do it but I should give her another 20 pounds, which I gave to him, and then we left with him saying that we will return in 2 hours to pick it up.

We killed the time drinking tea and looking into more travel destinations for me and about the time to start returning to pick up the card the classic line fooled me once more..."I'm just going to find a toilet. I'l meet you back here."

Fifteen minutes later the realisation of my idiocy was dawning. The man at the cafe I was waiting outside of asked me if I wanted to sit down and I took that as my cue to give up and leave. I decided to go back to the office where we gave the money for the card just in case he had still got the card with the bonus of extra money swindled for himself.

When I got there the girl looked at me and said the same thing as she had said 2 hours before - "you need student proof". I asked her if she had taken any money off my friend earlier and her answer of 'no' confirmed scam number 2. 

I certainly wasn't amused as quickly as from scam #1 but considering that it was still only $30 and I had been trying to scam the system anyway, I figured it was karma coming around immediately rather than having to wait for it. Him on the other hand, can enjoy my money until karma, or Allah, catches up with him. 

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