American in Arabia: Tourism Taken Hostage by Desert

Published May 8th, 2012 - 04:06 GMT
Egypt's bedouins are on a kidnapping rampage
Egypt's bedouins are on a kidnapping rampage

It is tremendous news to hear that pasty white Russian men will be once again speckling the beaches of Sharm el Shiekh , grossing out Egyptians and everyone else with their speedos. At least for now, until the Muslim Brotherhood outlaws booze and bikinis, tourism is pumping blood into the veins of Egypt’s lackluster economy.

Frankly, I’m pleasantly surprised that sightseeing to Egypt this month is treble the amount than what it was a year ago. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go for the Red Sea resorts to return to their pre-Tahrir Square numbers.

I’m no economist but I did think of one practical way to lure Westerners and add a little luster to the idea of sailing the Nile or climbing the Pyramids--- stop kidnapping tourists!

As I understand, Bedouins have been using foreigner-nappings as a kind of microphone for their causes.  Several incidents have already occurred in 2012 alone. The protocol is to grab a non-Egyptian, give a shout out for their brothers who are in jail, and a few days or hours later, return the hostages to enjoy their holiday.

Their latest nabbing was textbook: 

"Ten Fijian peace keeping soldiers of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), were briefly kidnapped Monday in the Sinai by Bedouins demanding the release of all brother Bedouin prisoners."

Briefly in this case means one hour. That’s quicker than it takes for me to get off the phone with most of my Middle Eastern friends! These are not your typical Arab abductors.

Egyptians are some of the friendliest people on the face of the earth. Even the kidnappers are nice.  Recently, they hijacked two Asian-American old women. When the ordeal was over, the released hostages said,

‘'They were very nice. They kept on reassuring us that we will be fine... they treated us like family.'

I don’t doubt it one bit. Yes, there is such a thing as Stockholm Syndrome where the hostage feels sympathy or some positive emotions toward their abductors. But these desert shepherds only had the ladies for about 4 hours i.e. a typical stopover for coffee among Bedouins. And that’s exactly what it was.

I’d bet my neighbor’s camel that those women had a teatime and were served hand and foot; tea, bread, sweets, lamb kebabs and a coffee at the end to tell them the visit was over. For a Bedouin not to entertain guests is like an eagle that doesn’t soar or a grandmother with no candy in her purse. They WILL serve you.

The American abductees’ time was so pleasant, I’m surprised the Ministry of Tourism hasn’t marketed “Bedouin Kidnapping” as a travel draw to the area--- “Get taken alive and come back alive!” or “Leave your freedom at the door for some true Bedouin cuisine!”

Who am I kidding? These kidnappings are still absolutely wrong.  The Bedouins should take a cue from their countrymen and try some non–violent protests. No matter how you slice it, when abductions are occurring in a vacation area, that destination quickly gets checked off the list for any family vacation. Egypt, not least the Egyptian economy, after all knows this best, when it suffered a spree of terroristic attrocities to tourists in the 1990s. A place no one wants Egypt to return to; a time when blonde Arabs were left fearing for their lives.

Egypt is an amazing ride, sopping with history and dripping with culture.  It really deserves to be seen. Let’s hope for a continued growth in tourism and, if I may, a plea to the new government-- Forget the bikini ban, how about a stop to the speedos?


By Brett Weer



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