Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How I found out my driver is NOT a serial killer, a true story

Okay, let me just start with that the names have been changed to protect the innocent. But than again, I can change the names but chances are that I'll be incriminating the innocent, or that the names are not changed at all. And let me also confirm that everything I post in my blogs has either happened for real or I've been really told that something happened. None of what you read in these posts is made up by me. If you want to know about what I can concoct myself, read The Fingers.

To be honest, when it comes to names the Egyptians show no creativity at all. Go back to the era of the pharaohs and you know what I mean; it's all Ramses 1, 2, 3 and that went on for about 4000 years. The occasional diversion here and there, but as soon as the pharaohs got creative the names became unpronounceable.
Fast forward to the present time and you'll notice that the creativity the western parents show when naming their children has not found its way through Twitter and Facebook into Egyptian life. Here in Egypt we're stuck with Mohamed (in any fathomable spelling), Ahmed (I've been told that it's derived from Mohamed), then there's Mahmoud (also derived from Mohamed I've been told), Yasser and Islam. Approach any man on the streets by calling one of these names and chances are that you've guessed his name. This is pretty confusing and obviously the people whose ancestors build pyramids thought so as well and they came up with a solution: call people by one of their other names. Yes, they have other names as well, as in second, third, fourth and so on. There are some rules and regulations and traditional and cultural reasoning behind how people are named. The names of fathers and grandfathers are playing a massive role in this. As it happens, some people have 5 names, all the same as I've been told. Again confusing and rather annoying when you need to administer them in for example an email system, or what to think about passports.

But for my fellow inhabitants of Egypt this is not pleasant either. And this is where I start explaining how I found out my driver is not a serial killer. Okay, granted, I never did suspect him for killing anybody at all. He brakes for kittens (on the highway even!) and most of the time makes an effort in passing pedestrians at a safe distance. (Caironian joke I came up with: Why did the chicken cross the street? Because it wanted to get at the other side. Why did the Egyptian cross the street? Because he was suicidal.)
So my driver whose name could be any one of the five afore mentioned names, but lets call him 'Joe' (= John Doe), is not you everyday psychopathic lunatic with homicidal tendencies. Although once I had diner at his home and there was a lot of food on the table and I really had to eat it all... considering the look on his face. But I don't think he would've killed me, actually he didn't.
So Joe is not a killer, yet he was arrested for killing somebody. This happened the a couple of weeks ago. I was arriving at Cairo airport after a visit to my family in the Netherlands and when Joe picked my up at the airport, he actually didn't. Instead he was escorted by an undercover agent. Although I guess the agent was undercover because he looked like a bum and still Joe did whatever this person said and he wouldn't drive me to my apartment. Joe explained that he was going to get me a taxi ("No, not the black and white coffin kind of taxi", I was screaming in the back of my mind) because he had to come with the police and get something resolved. Joe was clearly trying to get rid of me, permanently, because my worst nightmare came true... I was forced to ride along in a black and white taxi. Cabs of Death I think of them every now and then. You see them, you understand this. Joe was devising a grand scheme of getting me on the trail of his ancestors. Murder-by-cab. Since I don't read Arabic, fortunately, I couldn't imagine what the headlines would look like.

Next morning I had to hitch a ride into the office with my friend Mark and his driver (let's call him O'Joe as in Other Joe) since Joe didn't show up. It took the better part of the day before Joe called me and explained that he was going to pick me up and drive me home. Now you would expect that somebody called 'Joe' speaks perfect English, but Joe doesn't. But in 11 months of spending time in the same car we've come to agree on a vocabulary that is sufficient to discuss the most complex topics a driver and drivee will talk about. And trust me, murder is not a typical topic so it didn't fall in this category.
Anyhow, Joe managed to explain to me what had been going on. Apparently during a routine check point at the airport by the police, a flag was raised when the police inspected his ID. Joe, short for John Doe, was listed as a traffic offender who had hit somebody in 2005 during a traffic accident and had ran. As it turned out, the person hit died shortly thereafter, thus John Doe was not only involved in a hit-and-run, but in a kill-and-run. Joe had spend all night and pretty much the whole day in convincing everybody and their mother that it hadn't been him but another John Doe. In the end it took some relatives who work at the courthouse to make sure that all allegations were dropped and Joe was released. Joe now has an official letter saying that he's not the Joe that kills people (which more or less is a license to kill come to think of it).
It would've been so much simpler when Joe hadn't been called Joe by his parents but something like Quanty Maji, which is a very uncommon name in Egypt.

As an afterthought Joe expressed his disgust of the Egyptian prison system. As he had spend a day in it and had been handcuffed, even when he had to go to the bathroom. He was a suspected killer, so they had to be careful when dealing with this homicidal maniac. Nobody had thought about the fact that his weapon of choice was an automobile, and therefore would be harmless without one. But than again, pretty much all Caironians are homicidal maniacs once they get into a car. But more on that topic some other time.

So now you know, just like I do, that Joe, my driver, is not a serial killer. He's not even a killer. He's got legal documentation that proves that he's not Joe the Car-Killer. So beware when you see a goldish Chevrolet Optra on the streets of Cairo. It might be Joe with his license to kill... I'm just kidding. The document only vouches for him in the 2005 killing of some traffic participant by a guy called Joe.

Next time I'll be blogging about something else all together, but it'll have to do with my experiences in Egypt.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What to do in Luxor when you've seen it all

As you know, well at least when you've read my previous post, I've been in Luxor and was very impressed with all the old stuff around there. As in really old stuff. As in couple of thousand year old old stuff. But there's more in Luxor than just mummies, tombs and temples.

When we went to Luxor we had a very nice program setup by the people at Kingfisher Tours and they made sure that we had a mix of culture and leisure. Mornings were all about culture. But since the sun is rather blazing in Luxor, there is dire need for relaxing time and on the first day, Friday, we had a very nice felucca trip on the Nile. And let me tell you, as soon as the captain of the little sailboat told us to take of our shoes and relax on the benches, it was just Mark and me on the boat, I was gone to dreamy land. Within seconds the little rocking of the boat, the warmth of the Luxorian sun and all the walking that morning ensured that I was going to sleep as sound as a well fed baby.

The second day, Saturday, we took off in the desert, the Sahara of course, on quads. First time ever on a quad for both Mark and me. Although both of my suns have done this before (my oldest has a quad) it was my first time. But cruzin' through the desert on a quad. Feeling the 4 wheel bike skid left and ride while hitting the dusty roads with 200 km/h (that's how it felt anyway) was freakishly awesome. And the best thing of it all, the guides told us up front it would be better to wear shades and a scarf. And they had scarfs and sunglasses for sale as well.
I know, you can do the felucca trip anywhere on the Nile (and you should do this at least once) and every little desert village has a quad safari available (and you should do this at least once as well), it is great to do this in Luxor after a morning of culture.

Until next post...