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Horror on the Desert Road

November 14, 2013

‘’Nawarty Masr’’ said the driver, holding my name in a piece of paper and waiting for me at terminal 3 of Cairo airport. He probably thought that I am a tourist coming from Casablanca and excited to discover the wonders of the land of the pharaohs. ‘’is it your first time in Egypt?’’ he asked me while putting the baby’s stroller on the back of the agency’s Hyundai. ‘’I lived in Egypt for 4 years now’’ I replied tiredly as I wanted to put an end to the conversation since I just had a hell of a 5 hours flight with a sick 5 months baby who didn’t stop vomiting on me. At that moment I didn’t suspect that the real horror was still waiting for me on the road.

Finally, I was in a car holding my sleeping baby and relaxing, while thinking of nothing but a hot bath and a comfortable bed after a fruitful mission in my home country: Morocco. After one hour stuck in Cairo’s famous jam, Hussein the driver said desperately looking for some kind of conversation to kill the time ‘’who did you vote for Madame?’’, ‘’I am not Egyptian, I don’t vote, and you who did you vote for’’ I replied carelessly just not to ignore him. ‘’I voted for Mursi as he is the best among the worse’’.

I was half asleep, at 00:30h 5 kilometres before the gates of Alexandria, when all of a sudden a light blue Chevrolet Optra with no car plates came out of nowhere of the you-turn and tried to hit our car. In the beginning, I didn’t realise what was happening to us and thought it must be some drunk young men heading to the north coast. Then the car hit us again and came right in front of us and stopped suddenly. We went straight into the strange car, and the sock woke up the baby and made the driver shout loudly ‘’Thugs! Thug!’’. The brave Hussein, drove the car with all its speed backward and made some Hollywoodian manipulation and went towards two trucks which were on the Cairo – Alex desert road. Meanwhile, our aggressors didn’t give up, seeing that there was only the driver and I in the Hyundai. They came on our right and started hitting us again trying to get us outside the main road. At that moment, my eyes crossed the eyes of the Optra’s driver. Cold evil eyes of a dark skin man who has many scars on his face as a witness of a criminal past. He was holding a firearm and knocking on his ride’s window asking us to poll out of the road and stop. Seeing the gun and the scary faces of the two ‘’Baltagiya’’ on that Chevrolet, I had the reaction of holding tight my baby and getting down under the seats, as the first thing that came to my mind was the possibility that they might start shooting our tires if we don’t stop.

I don’t know how many minutes I spent under that seat, but for me time was frozen, and I was looking at my baby and thinking: what if they shoot him? What if they rape me? I started trying to remember the valuable things I have in my luggage to offer them in order to convince them not to kill us. I thought of my friend Karim who got stopped on this same road by thugs who stole all his goods, his car, and even the coins of money on his pocket. Yet, I am not Karim, I am a woman with a baby, and when it happens to someone else no matter how close he is it’s not the same when it happens to you. I also remembered when I was in Rio with my friend Majd, when a men holding a M16 raised on the highway and started shooting, and how our driver laughed at us and said ‘’ it’s normal! welcome to Brazil!’’ while deviating him with his bullet proof taxi. 

Hussein’s voice interrupted my scared thoughts when I heard him saying ‘’you can come up Madame, I can see Alexandria’s gates’’, as if Alexandria’s gates were the doors of paradise where the deliverance from our nightmare was waiting for us. I was still under chock and the tears fiercely came down my frightened pale face. Hussein, him was shouting ‘’we deserve El Adly, I regret voting for Mursi. I should have voted for Shafik! This f…… country needs security!’’.

At Alexandria’s gates, we stopped at the police checkpoint and told the officer about the description of the car and what happened to us hoping that they will send a patrol to get the Baltagiya. In the contrary, the officer stared at us and said carelessly ‘’this happens often. We know these thugs. It’s normal’’ I prefer abstaining from saying what I think of that officer because the problem is way bigger than what happened to me, and I chose to tell the story as it happened without side comments or analysis, because it doesn’t need any.

We headed to Alexandria where our loved ones were waiting for us to get back safe. We didn’t pay attention that we left the radio on during the entire incident, where a nationalistic song was singing ‘’you are the dear Oh my country! And you are the most beautiful Oh my country! If things get bad, we will fix them, and if things get wrong, we will sing for you. Oh my country! Oh my country!’’.

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