In Cairo, our travel company assigned a bodyguard named Mohamed to follow us around all day.
"Is our bodyguard packing heat?" I asked the group, because the question sounds cool and is one that I've never had the opportunity to say, until now.
"Don't you see the two automatic shotguns in his belt?" Brent said. I looked at Mohamed, walking in front of me. A round grey tube peeked out from between the slats of his suit as he walked. I couldn't tell whether it was the gun barrel or a holster ornament, but nonetheless I quickened my pace to walk next to him instead of behind him.
Mohamed joked around with us in broken English all day. He called Julie "Japan" and Mingjing "China". This was during the fasting month of Ramadan. Halfway through the morning, Mohamed looked at Brent's 6'2" stature, patted Brent on the belly and gave him the moniker "No-Ramadan".
At every monument site, there were also tourism police standing guard with machine guns. They walked up to us and insisted on taking photos with us. I found it hard to say no to a man holding a machine gun.
Afterwards they would ask us for baksheesh (tips).
I wonder if the government meant it to be reassuring, the bodyguard and the police and the rifles everywhere. Because I found it far more nerve-wracking. I knew about the terrorism incidents in the past decade. Brian was actually in the Valley of the Queens during the 1997 shoot-out and saw the policemen firing at the terrorists. But it still seemed more likely that one of these tourism policemen would shoot me -- out of accident or anger -- than for a terrorist to appear on the scene.
Perhaps it's because I live in the sanitized world of the US where postal worker rage is far more frequent than terrorism.
Gentle Readers from other parts of the world, would you feel more or less reassured with the armed guards around?