Middle East travel
Mon 21 Mar 2011 - Tue 22 Mar 2011 65 °F
A word on The Past: Looking at Travel between Middle Eastern Countries
All we’ve done today is ride the trains to Lyon so we decided to post some lessons we’ve learned and discuss some issues we never mentioned in the past. Since Monica and I live in the Middle East we kind of figured we could offer some travel info or warnings for traveling through the Middle East. Maybe this will just end up being a place where we can list some of our frustrations and vent them, but take it as you will….
o A REEEEALLY LONG BULLET- Flying the friendly skies – Well maybe not so friendly. Perhaps some of these things may be problems you run into all over the world but it seemed to us that “airport security” in Egypt and some other places were wrongfully taking things out of people’s luggage that they were randomly searching. In most other places in the developed world you at the least have some level of leverage as an air traveler in general but in the Middle East you do not. Your leverage is usually by some kind of recognizable social status (like being rich and prestigious) or by some kind of connection to the people who do hold the power. Never the less it is usually corrupt. In the Middle East you can try techniques to hold onto your possessions like inventorying them, printing off the airlines list of prohibited contraband and having it with you, having an important person write (or not so important) and important waiver letter on “important looking” letterhead (works because if it looks important it must be so) but no matter what, you may or may not get your way. It’s a big crap shoot. Security in this instance especially made a point to search all the westerners’ luggage for cool goodies… I mean dangerous contraband. One of the more frustrating events was when I had a small roll of tape taken from me. At this point in travel I was fed up with traveling and wasn’t in the mood for thievery or buffoonery and when the security guard made a “shame on you” noise with his mouth (tsk, tsk, tsk) and took out my tape I got mad. With the little Arabic I knew I protested but he ignored me and I knew it was gone and I had lost this battle. I wondered how I was going to bring down an aircraft with a simple roll of tape. What danger, what terror, and what kind of sinister acts of violence could I attempt with such a piece of material? Perhaps I could fashion out of seemingly arbitrary items some weapon of mass….you get it! It was ridiculous! When this happens once it is tolerable, but when you pass through “security” (the very word inspires such a picture of absolute humor that I have to put it into quotations) several times and have the “agents” (usually with their shirts all un-tucked and some kind of uniform that looks like it was ordered from Halloweencostumes.com) take things every time like it’s a Christmas grab bag it gets really frustrating. This is especially true when on top of this you know you have absolutely no recourse for complaining or ever seeing the object again. So travelers beware.
o Don’t let anyone help you – As you walk through most airports in the Middle East you will notice strangely dressed uniformed men walking about with luggage rollers or alone. Whatever you do learn to pick them out and keep your situational awareness up. If they come to grab your luggage simply tell them no and tell them to leave. You may with some have to say this in a louder sterner voice as they are sometimes laughably persistent. They will continue to pursue you usually until you do this. If you do want them to help you take your luggage the five steps it takes to get to the check-in line ask “how much?” They will give you a price and generally when you get the check-in line make up some ridiculous reason why they need you to give them more money. Maybe grandpa ding-dong has a triple bypass, maybe that was the price for only one suitcase and you have two, maybe he had to take it extra far (10 steps) and your suitcase was extra heavy, maybe his boss is very cruel and takes all his earnings, and worst of all maybe they will tell you “you have the money, you are a rich man” or bull like this. Give them the money quoted, keeping your wallet close, and then tell them to get lost. If they persist tell them in a louder voice and then just act like you’re ignoring them and they don’t exist. You can make a rather big scene if you’d like and if it makes you feel better, as the airport guards will usually not care at all. For most easy going naïve westerners who are non-confrontational and unaware this whole escapade could turn out to be difficult. Do not go to the Middle East if you are not a confrontational person or with one. That’s all with this portion I’ll post more later but for now just writing this much makes me very mad…..