When you think of the word “Egypt”, what are the first things that pop up in your mind? Maybe, pyramids. Sphinx. Red Sea. Arabs. Camels. Sahara Desert. Mummies. Nile River. Sand. Sand. Lots of damn sand. This narrative isn’t just about the stereotypical ‘tourist’ experience. It is an account of an adventure turned ordeal that I wouldn’t have preferred any other way. So if you’re looking to read up on where to find the best gelatos in Italy, or the most beautiful beaches to visit in the south of France, turn the page. If not, let’s do this. First day in Cairo was beyond mind-blowingly epic. Remember that list above? I experienced about 90% of that within my first three hours. With a group of young travelers we embarked on a journey to the Pyramids of Giza. As we were driving I tried to figure out the best way to describe the looks and feel of Egypt to my friends back home. Imagine an abandoned ghost town. Now imagine an abandoned ghost city with multi-story buildings. These buildings aren’t completely constructed. They have been partially destroyed in a fire. Or worst case, bombed. Now imagine people scurrying the streets and living among these half demolished structures. That’s the best description I came up with. Soon enough, we reached our destination. In moments, I went from daydreaming on the tour bus, to trekking across the Sahara Desert, riding massive camels in the desert heat, in front of the great Pyramids. I was completely consumed and in astonishing awe in that single most amazing, breathtaking moment. I will never forget that moment for the rest of my life.
As we continued our Egyptian journey through Cairo, Aswan, and Luxor, I started feeling sick. The bacteria-infested currency, food, and water, combined with the hours driving on a tour bus were taking their toll. The bodyguard sitting in front of the bus with two pistols strapped to his body and an AK47 sitting across his lap probably didn’t help either. I experienced chills, high fevers, nausea, and dizziness – all symptoms of one hell of an infection. One morning, I got out of bed and immediately collapsed on the floor. My vision blacked out and my body felt paralyzed. When I awoke again, my two tour guides hurriedly asked me, “Stephanie, do you want to go across the street to the pharmacy to get a shot? We still have a 10 hour drive to get back to Cairo so we can catch a flight to Greece the next morning.” Yes. Hell yes I needed a shot! I was so desperate I needed anything to keep me alive for the dreadful long bus ride back to Cairo!
The tour guides dragged me under both arms to the pharmacy. The pharmacist immediately took out an ampule of antibiotics, a needle, and a syringe and placed them on the glass counter. He and I looked at each other dumbly for a minute waiting for someone to do something. “Well are you going to give her the shot or what,” my tour guide jumped in. He responded, “No, I cannot. I am not a nurse.” Well great. All of us looked at each other confused and bewildered of what to do next. “I cannot give it,” said tour guide number one. “I would if I could, but neither can I,” said tour guide number two. “Well I am a nurse, can I give it to myself,” I sheepishly asked, hoping the pharmacist would object and give in to administering the injection himself. “Of course! I don’t see why not!” he exclaimed. Unable to think of another excuse, I was hurried back to the bus.
As I nervously made my way to the back of the bus I thought, Great. Just what I need. I’m about to shoot up on the back of a moving bus. Just like a real junkie. I cracked open the ampule of antibiotics and the glass shattered in my hands causing my fingers to bleed. I attached the syringe to the needle, drew up the medication, and injected myself in the ass. With a huge needle stuck to my rear swaying to the rhythm of the bus trundling down a road only fit for the third world, I allowed myself to think. What was my life? How did I end up shooting up in the back of a moving bus, in the middle of Egypt? 11 hours later, our bus arrived in Cairo around 11:30 p.m. My tour guide and friends dragged me off the bus into a wheelchair. They tried to rush me as fast as possible to the nearest Emergency Room, but to be honest, that was a massive fail. Along the way, the wheelchair kept getting stuck in the potholes and dirt trenches on the street. My head jerked back and forth, every single time we hit a damn hole. Dammit!
To think my nausea and massive headache couldn’t get any worse! After enough of hell’s rollercoaster ride, they gave up and propped the wheelchair onto the back two wheels. With my head rolling backwards, they wheelbarrowed the rest of the way. Once we entered the ER, I saw tons of people coughing, bleeding, and in overall misery. As they wheeled me into a room with a single bed, I noticed that there was blood on the sheets. As nauseous and delusional as I was in my mental and physical state, I pointed it out to the medical ‘professionals’ and was not about to hop into an unsanitary, disgusting, bloody bed. However, my vision started to blur and I was unceremoniously dumped into the bloody bed anyway. The doctor came and began his assessment, but midway through I passed out — again. I awoke and immediately wished I hadn’t as another man entered the room holding an IV needle. He didn’t wash his hands prior. He wasn’t wearing any gloves. And for all I knew, the needle was being reused! Three hours, another fainting spell, one bag of IV fluids, and one bag of antibiotics later, I was wheeled out of my Arabian nightmare to my hotel. The next morning, I was on a freedom flight to Greece.
Egypt was the life and death of me. I saw and experienced some of the great wonders of the world that people could only dream of. I was pushed to the full extent of my mental and physical limits. But hey, you know what? The total cost of my emergency room visit only came out to $20. Now isn’t that something? From riding camels in front of the amazing Pyramids of Giza, to injecting myself on a bus and ending up in an Egyptian ER, I am happy to have had this memorable, once in a lifetime experience. Now all I have to do is stay away from an Egyptian prison.