When we got on the train in Alexandria we thought it odd our train car wasn’t full because they told us the train was full and we had reserved seats but really didn’t think anything more about it. Our group of 17, with Ahmed our Egyptologist, was met at the Alexandria train station by some Egyptian police, he talked to them and we got on the train. In our train car were two of the police and about 4 civilians that kept getting up and walking around, but again we didn’t think much of it. The police were not the normal we have been seeing around but looked like a much more elite group. Things really started changing when we started pulling into the station in Cairo. The civilians all of a sudden were all carrying Uzi automatic weapons. The civilians and the police armed to the teeth, then moved to cover both doors of our train car. At that point Holly said “please stay very close to me when we get off the train”. When we stepped off the train we were kept in a very tight little group and surrounded by 25 – 30 more of the elite looking police all with automatic weapons, some of them wearing very high rank on their shoulders. There were also more civilians surrounding us. The train station was very crowded and all of the other passengers departing the train were kept away from us. Once our luggage was off loaded we moved from the train platform to our awaiting bus as a Phalanx with everyone else being pushed aside. We later learned that the civilians were Egyptian Intelligence. Ahmed told us that they were all there just as a courtesy to help us leave the train station quickly, but no one in our group really believed that they did that for all tourists. Since tourism is the number one industry of Egypt they can not afford to have an incident and Egyptian Intelligence must have been tipped off to the possibility of a threat. Needless to say I didn’t take out my camera and start shooting pictures, these guys looked serious and would have probably taken the camera. This will probably be our most talked about event of the entire trip.
Today I have also noticed increased security at the hotel. We have to drive through two barricades prior to reaching the front of the hotel, and today there were bomb sniffing dogs and multiple armed guards at each barricade. They are also really enforcing going through the medal detector located at the entrance door to the hotel. It is a cultural experience, and all part of the adventure.
Holly thoughts on the event: When two of the armed police were standing at the exit and one hiding behind the wall in our train car, I knew this was no ordinary protection. Our personal guard, who had been with us all day, also sprung into action. That is when I asked Tom to stay close. He is usually a city block ahead of me. When we got off the train, and I saw all of the police, I said, “They are all here for us.” Tom says, “Oh, I don’t think so.” I was right. He also forgot to mention the three people with dogs. No doubt these dogs would attack. Beautiful German Shepherds. The only good looking dogs I have seen in all of Egypt. The dogs at the hotel are also bomb sniffing dog. He walks around each car before they lift the gate in front of this long drive way leading to the entrance.
This morning we are flying to Amman Jordan so the next e-mail should be from Petra.