Why You SHOULDN’T Travel Light


Being a light traveller is only a good thing if nobody else finds out. As much as I disagree with airlines ripping off passengers with excess baggage charges, I don’t think that justifies using me as a mule for paper plates, canned cheese or torn clothing.

When I was leaving Cairo, a friend’s cousin asked me to carry something small for her. She’d been quite hospitable and it seemed like the least I could do for her. I put her item in my suitcase and forgot about it.

I should point out that while most airports have some amount of English speaking staff, Cairo Airport does not. After I had my bag X-rayed, a staff member said something to me in Arabic. I presumed he was one of the people my friends had warned me about, someone who offers to carry your bags and expects an exorbitant tip.

So I used the little bit of Arabic I knew to turn him down. What he actually said was something along the lines of ‘We need you to open your bags’. No wonder he was taken aback by my response of ‘No. I don’t want’.

Of course when 3 people began to yell in my direction I had no choice but to go back. A man sitting near the X-ray machine screen pointed at this extra object I was carrying. Here is where my inability to speak Arabic came in handy.

“It’s a block. Don’t you know what a block is? Everybody knows what a block is. Is there nobody to translate? Oh what a shame.”

Tired of my rambling, he let me go.  I made it to Dubai where, for the first time, my bag was ‘randomly selected’ to be X-rayed, courtesy of a policeman. Sure enough, he pointed at the block. Unfortunately for me, airport staff in Dubai do speak English.

“What is that?”
“I don’t know what it is, but you are more than welcome to figure it out and tell me”

The cop let me go with no further questions. I’d love to say the story ended there. 2 weeks later my friend’s uncle wanted to pick up his block. Just like the staff at Cairo Airport, he too only spoke Arabic. I’m sure I don’t need to point out that giving someone directions in a language they don’t speak rarely ends well. All I will say is that just to make things feel more cursed, I got caught in a freak thunderstorm while waiting to deliver this block. And the worst part? Since he didn’t speak English I couldn’t even ask him what the block was.