I recently returned to Europe after a journey to Cairo, Egypt to cover the Riseup Summit. The conference itself was quite good, but I did have a few “experiences” whilst coming in, in, and getting out of the country.
I can certainly understand and appreciate that seeing a 6″1′ mohawked, eye liner wearing, metal studded vest, guy with a case full of electronics isn’t something the Egyptians see everyday, and I do realise just how strange I must have appeared to them, but what I didn’t really get (nor have ever understood) is the concept of because something is different from you, or what you’re used to, that it’s something to immediately be suspicious of. It’s exactly this type of behaviour and attitude that really makes me sad.
Granted I’m sure they have their reasons, just like there’s a large number of westerners that immediately cast suspicion on any non-caucasian, but it’s still a very unsettling feeling. I was pulled to the side upon arrival and asked if I had papers for my cameras. Papers? Ummm … no. “Well sir, otherwise, you can pay a tax to bring them into the country.” … This is after I’ve already paid $25 USD to get a visa. You know, the “Welcome to the country, where you’ll most likely spend money. Let’s start right now by charging you 25 bucks to get in,” tax.
While I was there, a bomb went off. Yeah. That was kinda interesting. I’ve never been anywhere where a bomb went off. So I can now add that to the collection. My current list stands at:
… and now a bombing.
So, statistically, whenever you’re with me, you’re incredibly safe, because the odds of those things happening to me twice in one life are incredibly low.
But I digress.
On the way out of the country I had more or less the same experience with my cameras, in so much as that British Airways flying out of Cairo won’t permit them to be brought on board as a carry on. Now, nowhere on any website, ANYWHERE is this mentioned. At all. So you can imagine my shock when airport security informed me that my entire professional career had to be removed from me and *maybe* placed in the cargo hold. Ummm…no.
Luckily, after several phone calls, 7 security guards, including two who were rather heavily armed, I was escorted to the plane, boarded first, and my cameras were secured in a locked wardrobe at the front of the plane with the key stored in the locked cockpit.
Yeah. So … that was fun. 🙂
Other than the in/out fiasco, oh, and you know, a bombing, I had a great time. And in all seriousness, I really do mean that. The conference itself was incredible, the people amazing, and the street photography out of this world. Perhaps the best way to put this is to repost my thoughts that originally went up on facebook.
Every time I travel to the Middle East/North Africa, I speak to people about the situation of the world. And they all tell me a slight variation of the same theme – there are millions of us, and unfortunately a relatively small number of wackos are fucking things up for everyone.
At the end of the day we all want the same thing. A decent living, good food and drink, a better place for our children, and to love.
I won’t say my travels were completely unnerving, but common sense, reason, and cooler heads always prevail.
Glad to be back in the West, but always glad to put my feet on the ground and hear it directly from the horses mouth.
So the next time you turn on the news (or get your fake news from fb), try for a minute to remember, “a decent living, good food and drink, a better place for our children, and to love.”
… and to love. ❤️