LOST IN SAND NATION
There is an extra sense of excitement when visiting cities via a cruise ship, that you
wouldn't have if you were to travel the world any other way. And that is that every time
you get off the ship, there's a chance that you won't make it back to the boat before it
takes off and leaves you stranded in a foreign country. Now normally what I think I
would do if that were to ever happen, is take a train, or maybe fly to whatever the next
port the ship was heading. Egypt is a whole other situation. You just can't hop on a
train and cross the borders of Egypt. You need your passport, tons of paperwork, a
bull whip and a fedora. So what I like to do is to make sure I don't have any of that
stuff, my credit card and no more than twenty Egyptian lire on me when I enter the land
of sand. That way if I do get left behind in Egypt, I will be as screwed as possible.
Last time I went into Alexandria, I thought that I would dive deep into the city and
do a little exploring. As I ventured away from the ship I generally would walk straight and
only make turns at memorable landmarks, so that I would be able to find my way back.
And once I did begin my return, my landmark system worked pretty good. I passed a hip
little avenue that I hadn't caught earlier in the day, and was making good time, so I
decided to steer off my return path and check out one more avenue of Alexandria
before continuing my way back to the ship. That's when I came across a gold mine. I
peeked in this little snack shop, and saw behind a glass case a sight so beautiful, it
almost brought a tear to my eye. MOUNTAIN DEW!!!!! Mountain dew is like crack
to me. Aside from two cans I found in Naples about a month ago, I hadn't come across
any other mountain dew this entire trip. They just don't have it out here. Coke
products rule the world. Not only that, but the mountain dew label was in Arabic. I had
to get some. I grabbed a couple mountain dews and was told they were two egpytion lire
a piece. Which in american is less than 40 cents. Usually any U.S. soda you find out
here is at least 2 dollars american a can. I was so excited, I said to the shop owner, "You
know what, do you mind if I buy a whole 12 pack?"
So there I am, walking down Alexandria with my
12 pack of mountain dew in one of those cardboard
flats with shrink wrap around the top. I was about to
head back the way I came when I saw the ocean. I
figured that I would head to the ocean, and as long
as I walked along the shore it would eventually lead
to the ship. It was an absolute magnificent walk, but
after twenty minutes I came across what I thought
was my port, but instead was a museum. I headed
towards a pier to look down the coast and didn't see any sign of my ship anywhere.
Queue sick feeling in stomach. When I left the snack shop I had about an hour to get
back to the ship. I had walked too far to have enough time to retrace my steps back to
the shop. I hailed a couple taxis, but when I tried to tell them I needed to go to
'Norwegian Cruise Line', or 'the cruise ship', or 'the port', nobody understood
anything that I said. I was pretty sure that the coast I was walking along was parallel to
my initial path, so I headed towards where I thought my original street was. After fifteen
minutes, I think I find it. I turn left and walk a couple blocks. Nothing looks familiar. I
start running. Running with my twelve pack of arabic
mountain dew with my two arms straight out in front of
me, holding the soda like a serving tray, through the
crazy streets of Egypt. I would run through a nice part
of town, then a shady one. I would pass a four star
kabob restaurant and designer head dress store, then
a minute later be dodging fly covered goats and mud
caked roosters. At this point my shirt is soaked in
sweat. I'm out of breath. I start to panic. I'm completely lost in Egypt. I have twenty
minutes tops to get back to the ship. I'm maniacally searching for something that looks
familiar, starting to freak out. I stop three more taxis and try again explaining where I
need to go. Nobody speaks english and can't even begin to comprehend what I'm talking
about. I say," Port! Cruise Ship! Boat!" At one point I say, "Ship, you know, like (and
right here I make the sound ships make when they blow their horn, yes that's how
desperate I was.) Most of them just shrug. One guy just laughed. I say, "Ship!" to
another guy like five times. Nothing. I give up and start running again. Two blocks later
he pulls up next to me. He leans out the window and says, "Ship!"
I say,"Yes! Ship!"
He says,"Ah yes, ship, like ship. I take you to ship!"
Completely skeptical I get in. I don't have a lot of confidence he knows what I'm
talking about, but right now he's my only hope. It's obvious he doesn't know a lot of
english, still I try to explain that I'll give him nine lire if he gets me there as fast as he can.
His reply is, "Yes ship!"
I say," Yes, ship. umm fast please." and then I point to my wrist in hope to convey
'watch', to convey 'time is of the essence'.
He says," You Captain?"
I say, "Yes, I'm the captain, and I have to
get back to the ship."
He says," Ah captain, yes yes, captain to
I start to feel better about the whole thing,
until two blocks later when he pulls over. I say,
"No, no this isn't it, please, ship."
He then leans out the front passenger
window and strikes up a conversation with someold woman on the side of the road. I say,
"I'm sorry but, I kinda in a hurry, can we please go to the ship?"
He says something to me in Arabic pointing to the woman, then continues to talk to
her. I'm wondering if maybe he's getting directions to the ship from her. After about a
minute I think they're done talking. That's when she opens up the door to the front
seat and starts putting her bags of groceries in the car. I'm sitting in the back thinking,
"What the hell is happening?"
She then scoots all of her groceries over and sits in the front. I almost get out to try
another taxi, but this guy is the closest I've got to anyone speaking english yet. We pull
back out into traffic; now its me, the driver, some old lady, and her groceries on our way
to who knows where. They continued to speak arabic to each other up front. It seems
that they are talking about me. He says something to her, which causes her face to light
up, she turns around, looks at me and says, "Captain?"
I say, "Yes, captain! I'm the captain."
Old Lady: "Ah, Captain!"
Taxi driver: "Captain!"
I look at them both, and give them a salute,"Captain!!"
They both give big smiles and give slight salutes back and say, "Captain!!"
Once again the only thought I have is, "What the hell is happening?"
As amused by the ridiculousness of the situation as I was, I prayed that my taxi
driver didn't decide to pick up any more passengers or their groceries to where ever he
was taking me. I lost more and more faith in ever seeing my boat again by each passing
second. I began to formulate a plan of what I would do if I was left in Egypt. I only had
nine lire on me. I decided that I could probably live off the twelve mountain dews for at
least an hour or so. Maybe I could give tours of Egypt to americans. I don't know where
anything is, but at least my english would be pretty good, I... wait, is that the egyptian
'Little Caesars' I made my first turn at? My driver does know where he's going! I won't
have to spend the rest of my days making meals out of stolen camel feed! We reached
my port, I paid him and he and the old woman saluted me once more with a 'Captain'. I
saluted back and then headed towards the gangway. I walked back on my ship with just
a few minutes to spare, a feeling of relief, and a twelve pack of arabic mountain dew.