I posted a while ago about my wild and crazy younger days, with a photo of me in front of the Pyramids of Giza. What I didn’t post was the really stupid thing I did in Cairo the next day.
This is probably the dumbest thing I have ever done in my life, and it definitely qualifies me as a “stupid American.” I locked myself out of my hotel room wearing only a nightgown – a SHORT nightgown – in a Muslim country.
Cairo is beautiful and full of amazing history, but it is also HOT and SANDY. One of the guys I met there said it smelled like a mix of “urine and curry.” It was August when we were there, so it was especially uncomfortable. And, I was trying to be respectful. I started my time in the city wearing long sleeves and long pants, trying to cover up my skin. Once I was there, however, I saw other women in shorts and short sleeves, so I happily switched.
Anyway, after we went to Giza, we went out. I probably had a little too much to drink (OK, I DID have too much to drink), because I was not feeling well the next day. We were standing in line at the museum and I started feeling a little queasy. I knew if I could just make it inside to the air conditioning, I would be fine. Well, guess what? The museum in Cairo, where they keep all the mummies and precious ancient artifacts, IS NOT CLIMATE CONTROLLED. I couldn’t believe it. I did a very quick tour, and headed back to the hotel.
I was staying at the Hilton (I had stayed in youth hostels for other parts of my travels, but was a little scared to do that alone in Cairo), which had both air conditioning and room service. I got back to the room, took a shower, and cooled off. I was finally feeling up to eating, so I ordered room service – a real Western style burger and French Fries.
When I was finished, I opened the door and put the room service tray in the hall. Before I could catch it, the door closed behind me. I had that horrible twisting feeling of panic in my stomach. I was wearing a night gown that came down to my mid-thigh, and NOTHING else. I was FREAKING out. I looked around for a housekeeper, a maintenance worker, or a house phone, but there were none to be found.
I stood there frozen, having no idea what to do next. Finally, a little boy came out of a room. I asked, “Do you speak English?” but he ran back into his room without answering. Then his dad came out. He spoke English fairly well, but I’m sure I was making him fumble his words a bit. I tried to get him to call the front desk for me, but instead he kept telling me to come into his room. My options were limited, and I figured I wasn’t very safe standing half naked in the hallway either, so I went in.
As he indicated where the phone was, I saw his wife, who was covered from head to toe in a burqa, with only her eyes showing. She was kneeling on the floor praying. I had to brush up against her to get to the phone, and she did not even acknowledge my presence. I was humiliated.
I got the front desk on the phone and they asked me to come get a key. I explained that I could not do that and that I needed them to come let me in my room VERY QUICKLY. I said I would be waiting outside my door. I thanked the man whose phone I had used profusely and then went to try to blend in with the hallway wallpaper. I don’t think it worked. Something tells me that a half naked 23-year-old white woman would stand out pretty much anywhere in Egypt. A man from the front desk came up in a few minutes to let me in the room.
I’m sure that all parties involved thought I was a “stupid American,” not to mention a disrespectful one. In this case I have to agree with them.
By the way, I waited until I was back on U.S. soil before I told my mother about ANY of this!