In preparation for my 8h bus ride from Cairo to Dahab, a friend told me that I would pass under the Suez Canal via tunnel on the way. He also told me the canal is the most important part of Egypt’s economy, but he didn’t warn me about all the security checks en route. I was aware that I was heading near an area of Egypt with a high security risk (which the Canadian government had been very clear about before I left) and I’m sure the security checks on highways around the country were created for good reason. I’m happy to report that I felt very safe beyond the general precautions of being a woman traveling alone.
Right before we reached the canal, all vehicles were pulled over for a search and a few traveler’s bags were targeted. They seemed to focus on searching bags of women traveling alone. There were only two of us and we were part of the few who had their bags pulled apart beside the bus. My Egyptian seatmate (who spoke more Italian than English) had taken me under his wing by translating relevant information on the bus ride (nothing is announced in English) so he helped me understand what was going on. Unfortunately, not being prepared for these security checks, I had to do my classiest “pull my passport out of my money belt while nonchalantly pretending that I’m not putting my hands down my pants” which I have practiced before.
The soldier did a pretty thorough search of my bag without destroying my packing cube arrangement (+1 for packing cubes). Luckily, he didn’t question anything in my first aid kit (I’m pretty stocked up on meds for all emergencies), but he did find my condom stash and, apparently, he’d never seen one before. I couldn’t help but smile along with the bus driver and my seatmate, who were overseeing the searching, as the soldier took the time to read the labels. Whether this particular revelation was what prompted my seatmate to buy me a soda later and give me his number, I can’t say for sure.
Once again, I appreciated the kindness of strangers in other countries – whether or not they had ulterior motives.
[Safety note: I had no intention of ever calling my friendly (a bit too friendly) seatmate and if he’d asked for any details about my stay in Dahab, I would have lied.]