Travel scams: I was 'kidnapped' by a taxi driver in Egypt

I am not sure if this is a scam or a minor kidnapping, but will forge ahead as I did feel tricked.

It was 2015 and I was hitch-hiking from Cairo, where I lived, to a friend's place in Jerusalem. I'd done the 1000km journey round the Sinai Peninsula a few times before, so was skilled in the arts of peeling truck drivers' hands off my knee and giving a firm "la" - Arabic for no - if a picker upper's eyes became too implorious.

An extremely vigorous "la" is required if drivers ask: "Russian?" 

For reasons I've never thought to explore that's synonymous with "are you a prostitute?" in Egypt. For the record: In the many dozen lifts I've accepted while hitching in the Middle East, drivers have never pushed beyond my first rejection of their advances.

Anyway. The truckie who'd picked me up in Sharm el Sheikh dropped me about 20km from the Egypt-Israel border town, Taba. I was feeling too sunburned and sleepy to face another round of establishing I was uninterested in romance, so decided to take a taxi. For some reason I assumed giving someone money for a ride would mean they wouldn't feel entitled to requesting other forms of payment. I agreed to give my taxi driver a certain number of Egyptian pounds and settled into the passenger seat feeling smug. Like someone who understood how the world worked and was playing by the rules so therefore safe, etc.

While I may be doing my taxi driver an injustice - perhaps, as he said, he really did just want "to show you the most beautiful beach in the world where it is possible to swim naked" - it made me uncomfortable when he swung his aged Peugeot around so we were no longer heading towards Taba. His reassurance that nakedly swimming together was ok because I was without my husband was not very reassuring. Nor was his refusal to stop the car when I started screaming.

But South Sinai is riddled with military checkpoints. Armed soldiers eventually forced the taxi to stop and I scrambled out clutching my bag. I fell onto some rocky red dirt, across the highway from the turquoise Red Sea. The taxi driver revved his engine and skidded round me in a donut, spraying stones and sand. The soldiers watched fairly impassively then gave his car a quick search and told him to drive on southwards. Then they asked me why I was crying. I explained the situation and they were reasonably sympathetic.

The soldiers insisted that the driver of the next north-bound car take me to Taba. This driver and his wife were very nice. Worried I would "tell the Israelis Egypt is a bad place", they whisked me off to Taba's most salubrious resort - the Movenpick - and bought me a stiff drink. I then successfully crossed the border and made it to Jeruslaem by nightfall, via hitch-hiking.

Moral of the story? Unsure, but something along the lines of never assume giving someone money means they won't request other forms of payment as well, anyway. Or, hitch-hiking 4eva. 

Stuff.co.nz

See also: Even though I knew better, Spain's pickpockets still robbed me

See also: I was charged $3500 for a meal in Spain

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