Abudi, a man I know through hours spent sitting on my computer in one particular cafe, spun us a yarn. His tale of woe: Egypt is a terrible place, full of terrible people.
When you go to the casino in Egypt they don’t stamp your passport, rather a piece of paper. Abudi lost his piece of paper. When he tried to leave Egypt, this was a big problem. Where is his piece of paper? Maybe he left it in the hotel, or the casino. He was with a group of friends; they came together, they left together. What is the problem? It seemed absurd. But they wouldn’t let him cross. After an hour of waiting, he capitulated. Better to reward corruption than subject oneself to hassle. He had either 200 shekels or 10. He went with 10. And all of a sudden, home free. For ten shekels.
Only ten shekels, and they were willing to look the other way in this egregious border crossing faux pas? After making such a big deal out of how terrible it was that he lost his stamp? Yes. “Because they are poor, poor people.”
To demonstrate: Abudi went to a hotel in Egypt, and he gave room service a $5 tip. Five dollars. Simply not an outrageous amount. But it worked like magic; from that moment on (hands in prayer position in front of his chest) it was “yes Mr. Abdullah, yes Mr. Abdullah, as you like Mr. Abdullah.” “Stop calling me Mr., I am not Mr. Abdullah! I am just Abdullah.”
Abudi went to a hotel in Sharm el-Sheikh. Sharm el-Sheikh is an eight hour bus ride away from anything. Abudi gets to his hotel and all he wants to do is shower and sleep. As soon as he gets out of the shower, he hears a knock on the door. It’s hotel security. “You need to come with us, you need to leave.” “But why? Can’t I just sleep, maybe just two hours, then I’ll leave?” “No, you need to leave right away. Get your things.” “Give me just an hour, I just arrived, I am exhausted – then I will leave.” “You cannot be here, you need to leave now. We will give you your money back.” “Why?” “Because this hotel is owned by a Saudi sheikh. He does not allow Israeli Arabs in his hotel.” Abudi had to find a new hotel in Sharm el-Sheikh, because his money was not good enough for the Saudis. To them, he is treated as a Jew would be. Are Jews not allowed in the hotels of the Saudi sheikh? No. Shekels are not worthy of the Saudi sheikh’s hotel.
“In Israel, we are second class citizens. In the Arab World, we are second class citizens. I would rather be a second class citizen here, it is better. I will never go to Egypt again.”