October: “Not allowed.” The security guard says. Here we go again… the grift.
On our way out of Jordan, Jean and I transit through the Cairo, Egypt airport a second time. Destination… Greece.
As before, we face a gauntlet of airport security. Bags and security documents are scanned and checked multiple times before we can even think about checking bags or getting a boarding pass. They know travelers are leaving the country and in a hurry to make a flight. The last time we were here, they coveted and confiscated my (used) Gillette safety razors. What now?
As my bags come through the scanner, a hustler grabs them and loads them onto a cart, intending to demand a tip for a service I don’t want or need. While I am distracted by the hustler, the security guard pulls aside one of Jean’s bags. It’s the bag Jean checks, the one with some cooking gear and her treasured Swiss Army knife.
Not Allowed, Part 2
“Knife! Not allowed!” the guard declares. Then he switches to Arabic, talking hard and fast at Jean. Alarmed, I pull my bags off the cart, say no (again) to the hustler, and walk over to see what the trouble is.
“This bag will be checked. Not carry on,” Jean says. Then she realizes that the guard is weirdly ignoring her kitchen knife but is highly interested in the shiny, red Swiss Army knife. The guard continues in Arabic, motioning over a particularly large military guy with an intimidating pistol strapped to his hip. He, too, refuses eye contact with Jean as she repeats, “Not carry on. This bag will be checked.” He confiscates her passport and turns away, ignoring her.
Suddenly, the hustler turns Good Samaritan, intervening in animated, extended Arabic. We have no idea what he is saying to the guard and the military guy, but suddenly he miraculously prevails and starts loading Jean’s bags on the cart.
He assures Jean, “I tell them it is fine, you will check the bag, and I will escort you to the counter to be sure.” Resigned, I put my bags back on the cart. As we queue in the long check-in line, he leans close Jean, puts out his hand, and whispers emphatically, “Tip.” It is not a request.
Not wanting to risk any more troubles, we part with the only Egyptian bill we have, a 200 EP note worth about $13. The hustler politely says, “Thank you very much,” and immediately returns to the security queue.
Good Samaritan, or Good Grift?
As we finish waiting in line for the check-in counter, we wonder… Good Samaritan, or well-practiced grift? The guard, the military guy, and the hustler creating distraction and distress to induce foreigners to part with a few dollars so they can make their flight?
I wish they would have just taken the rest of my old, used safety razors.