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A Woman’s Nightmare in Egypt

Posted on 9/25/2018 12:00:00 AM in Traveler Insights

At the Pyramids in 1976, this local probably didn’t care about how long Bonnie had been wearing that outfit.

By Bonnie M., 5-time traveler from Clearwater, FL

A Woman's Nightmare ... a suitcase loaded with clothes, but nothing to wear!

It was 1976 … I'd been traveling around the world for ten years, and was excited about finally making my way to Egypt. Sadly, my luggage went astray somewhere between Chicago, New York, Rome, and Athens. Adding to the frustration on my second trip to the airport in search of my luggage, was having to stand before the customer service representative complaining that I'd been in the same clothes for three days. His eyes narrowed, as his nostrils flared. I could read his mind after taking one look at his djellaba, with signs of soil trailing down its front. He was probably thinking, “Three days! Three days! You complain because you've been wearing the same clothes for three days? I've been wearing mine for three weeks!”

I was beginning to feel like the only woman who wore out her underwear from both sides. I'd wear it right side out during the day, and turn it inside out for the evening! Sometimes by the time I retired, I was afraid it wouldn't be dry by early the next morning. Each night, I'd anchor my underwear to the table on my balcony with ashtrays, hoping that the same breeze that was aiding them in drying wouldn't blow them over the balcony, and down the Nile.

When my tour guide kept insisting that the lovely clothes I saw on the Egyptian ladies staying at my hotel were purchased in Paris, I had to come to the realization that I may spend the next three weeks in the Middle East in the same white pants and top. It was time to have a little talk with myself back in my room. I reasoned that I'd paid a lot of hard-earned money for this trip, and had anticipated it for a long time. I could either allow myself to be miserable, or I could make the most of it, resigning myself to the thought that somewhere in the Middle East, someone had probably taken my suitcase. It couldn't have been a mistake, because unlike black luggage, I had never seen another watermelon pink suitcase!

Once I accepted my fate, the quest was on to acquire somewhat of a wardrobe along the way. At the bazaar the following afternoon, I purchased a tangerine caftan. It was a little too fancy for daytime, but at least I'd feel better at dinner, since my once-white pants were showing tell-tale signs of camel rides and dusty monuments.

I knew the Egyptian gods were watching over me in Luxor, when I noticed a kiosk near my hotel. Gaily decorated caftans and shirts were blowing in the afternoon wind. After some tricky bargaining, I returned to my room with one of each. Later that afternoon, two American ladies saw me wandering around the hotel, and commented on how adorable I looked in my caftan. Little did they know … I wasn't trying to fit in with the culture.

As our plane flew over Aswan, my heart skipped a beat. The city looked pretty large, maybe I'd find a bathing suit. Wishful thinking … all that were to be had were French bikinis, and both pieces wouldn't cover even one of my “parts.” I returned to my hotel, disappointed once again, when I noticed a large souvenir shop. On one of its many shelves were bolts of Egyptian cotton fabrics. I felt like I was struck by a bolt of lightning. “If I buy some of your fabric, may I borrow your scissors for a half-hour?” I asked. The proprietor looked at me quizzically, but reluctantly agreed.

I hurriedly fled to my room, and cut the fabric into three pieces—a triangle for the bottom, which I tied on each side; a rectangle for the top; and a long strip, which I twisted in the center of the top, and tied behind my neck. I tucked in the rough edges, and put on my Egyptian shirt for modesty en route to the pool.

Of course, I knew my “swimsuit” wasn't suitable for anything but standing in the water; however, at least it afforded me the ability to get wet on a very hot afternoon. Fortunately, the pool area wasn't too crowded, because as I lifted the shirt gently over my head, one of my ample “endowments” peeked from beneath the halter top. Hastily, I tucked my appendage back where it belonged, and tried to compose myself. I walked tentatively to the edge of the pool, and gently slipped into the cool water.

On the flight back to Cairo, I glanced down at my lap. There sat a plastic bag with the big black printing, “Meridian Hotel Cairo … Laundry.” Inside what had become my luggage were two caftans, one shirt, and my “bathing suit.” It was comforting to know that this time, when I arrived in Cairo, my clothes would be there with me.

To this day, so many decades later, I'm amused at all the people I encountered as a result of having lost my luggage. Just “letting it go” showed me I could make the best of a bad situation, and come to enjoy so many adventures along the way.

Embark on your own adventure—hopefully with more clothing options—when you join O.A.T.’s Suez Canal Crossing: Israel, Egypt, Jordan & the Red Sea Small Ship Adventure.

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