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Transportation Mishaps Sinai to Cairo

Minibus Fiascoes and the Dirtiest Toilets in the Egypt – Israel to Cairo, part 2 of 3The road through the Sinai was very straight. We traveled it very quickly. There was nothing in our way in any direction, and the minibus full of Israeli Arabs, Chaya and I moved through the desert like a breathe [...]

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Minibus Fiascoes and the Dirtiest Toilets in the Egypt – Israel to Cairo, part 2 of 3

The road through the Sinai was very straight. We traveled it very quickly. There was nothing in our way in any direction, and the minibus full of Israeli Arabs, Chaya and I moved through the desert like a breathe of dusty wind.

We knew that we were going to be cheated by the driver, the only questions were:

  1. For how much, and . . .
  2. how long we would spend arguing about it.

The deal that we made with the crooked bus company clerk to exchange our bus tickets for a ride in this minibus would not go through smoothly — this, we knew.

The driver’s “no more money” guarantee at the onset of the journey would mean nothing once we were out in the wide open and empty desert.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Egypt- May, 2009
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I talked a little with the Israeli Arabs who were our traveling companions. One of them was in Egypt studying to be a doctor.

“I study medicine,” he told me.

“That’s cool,” I replied, not knowing what more to say.

“No, it isn’t,” the Israeli snapped with a laugh, “you study for six years and then it is all cows. There are no people, just cows. Look out there.”

He pointed out the window.

I looked out there — he was right, there were no people, but there were also not even any cows: only desert, sun, and the road. But I believed the Israeli anyway.

He gave me a sandwich that his mother had packed for him prior to his return trip to school in Cairo. He had a huge care package sitting in his lap. The sandwich consisted of bologna, olives, and hot peppers stuffed in between two slices of smushed bread.

I thanked him.

“Don’t thank me, thank my mom,” he replied with a laugh.

This kid was a good traveling companion.

The bus then turned silent for a couple hours with everyone thinking their own thoughts. After riding for a couple of hours and having a good rhythm of thoughts jiving well with the RPM’s of the bus, everything came to halt.

I now knew that I would be getting the “give me money” wrap from the driver. There was no way that this guy was going to keep his word — he probably made too much money as a liar to afford any other way of life.

I couldn’t really blame him: it is probably a good living scamming money out of people who actually pay up. It is amazing to me how much money a person in the world can make for doing nothing other than demanding money.

But I was still going to run the road out to the end — if I was going to be cheated, I would at least put up a good fight.

We were sitting in front of a broken down roadside restaurant just off of the empty highway in the desert. This village consisted of three things: the road, the desert, the rest stop.

Chaya and I went in to use the bathroom in unison — there was no way that she was going to separate from me here. To produce a stark value judgment, this place was disgusting. I know that I must have used dirtier toilets at some point in my travels, but I really can’t remember when.

Photos of toilets in Egypt

Outside of the rest stop, Chaya and I wandered around a little, kicking at the sand and wondering when the scam was going to kick in.

The bus driver then quickly approached us, and lost no time at demanding money: the game was now on.

“25 pounds, you and you.”

He wanted 50 more Egyptian pounds ($10).

“We had a deal, you agreed that we would not need to give you any more money,” I countered.

He kept at it, getting very excited:

“But I don’t get money, I only get 50 pounds, man at bus keep 30 pounds. 50 pounds, not much. 25 pounds, 25 pounds.”

“Well that is your loss,” Chaya replied with a strong dose of logic.

We refused to give him any more money — we had a deal.

The driver acted angry. I needed reinforcements.

I stormed passed him and made to reenter the restaurant to tell the rest of the passengers what was going on. The driver tried to grab me and bar my way from passing him. I tossed him aside and went back into the rest stop and sat down at a table with the Israelis.

I told them what had happened. They laughed at me.

“Just give him the money,” spoke the medical student, “this is Egypt. All these people want is money, money, money.”

I was not getting much support. This was probably because each of these Israelis had already paid 150 pounds to my 65. I had paid less than half of what they had. My situation all of a sudden became a little awkward. But the Israelis negotiated with the driver on my behalf none the less.

“Ok,” the medical student said after speaking with the driver, “he said that you pay 20 more pounds each and there will be no problems.”

I could not accept this. The table of Israelis tried to convince me that this was just the way that things were in Egypt.

“This is Egypt, all they want is money,” they continued saying.

Finally I snapped:

I pointed to the driver and said, “The only reason why he thinks he can cheat us is because people allow him to do so.”

The Israelis nodded their heads in agreement — there was no arguing this point.

I then rose from my seat and patted the medical student on the back and thanked him for his help.

“If you don’t want to pay more, then you don’t have to,” he hopefully called after me as I exited the restaurant.

I found Chaya hunkered down inside of the van, I joined her:

We were in for a stand off.

We were in the van and refused to get out or pay any more money. . . though we both knew that we were willing to pay more. We really just wanted to get to Cairo and did not really care too much about the wad of Egyptian money in our pockets that would be rendered useless in 12 hours.

Chaya and I agreed with each other to give the driver a good run, but not to the point of darkening our friendship with the Israelis — we still had a long ride to go them and knew that we would need some help orienting ourselves once in Cairo. The Israelis spoke Arabic and lived in Cairo, and we assumed that there was a good chance that we may need their help further down this road.

We did not want to piss them off by postponing their trip to Cairo by fighting for hours with the driver over what seemed to them pocket change.

The driver soon approached us in the backseat of the van and began fighting for more money. We refused to give him any. He began begging. We kept playing along.

Chaya yelled at him to be honest — he looked surprised to be yelled at by a woman.

This went of for 10 minutes. The driver demanded money, and Chaya and I told him to go chase his hat.

But soon enough it became time to give up the game: we agreed to pay 10 pounds ($2) more each upon arrival in Cairo. The driver agreed.

He apparently counted his losses and realized that he was still $4 ahead. This was apparently enough.

The Israelis then got back in the bus, and we left the dirtiest toilets in Egypt behind for the Open Road to Cairo.

Chaya and I found our losses to be more than worth every cent.

Rolling tires through the Sinai Desert.

This is part 2 of a series of three travelogue entries. Read the rest of this yarn by following the below links.
Part 1- This is Egypt – Travel Sinai Desert
Part 2- Minibus Fiascoes and the Dirtiest Toilets in the Egypt
Part 3 – Ain’t Nothing in Sinai Egypt

Minibus Fiascoes and the Dirtiest Toilets in the World – Israel to Cairo, part 2 of 3


Filed under: Africa, Egypt

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

5 comments… add one

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  • caroline parker September 17, 2010, 2:23 am

    oh clean those toilets pew u

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 17, 2010, 11:23 am

      I agree, but who will do it haha. Nobody wants to clean a toilet, especially since, they apparently don’t have to haha.

      Link Reply
  • Simon Shaw December 13, 2011, 9:10 pm

    Seen some worse toilets in Cairo park and at road house on road from Cairo to Bahariya Oasis. Yours look OK in comparison 🙂

    Good haggling by the way, you did well!

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard December 13, 2011, 11:11 pm

      Haha, yeah, Egypt is definitely in the running for the world’s most disgusting toilets. I did see one squatter/ outhouse style toilet in China though that one unfortunate person’s crap got stuck on the chute that lead down to the hole, and over time other people’s poo got caught up on it. By the time I arrived, the pile was up and out of the toilet a couple of feet in the air like some kind of monument. Man, there are some great toilets on this planet.

      Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard December 13, 2011, 11:14 pm

      Speaking of toilets, let me revive this page — The toilet: Always room for cultural misinterpretation.

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