Traveling the Middle East and Meeting the Guy with the Gun

During my recent travels with Overseas Adventure Travel to the Middle East, in Egypt, Jordan and Israel, there was a been a character following me around the  trip in all three countries. It’s a different person every time of course, but he has been ever present.  He helped us cross our first street in Cairo, and one gal called him what I have since… the guy with the gun.

Yes, we needed a guy with an M16 to help us cross the street in Cairo. And security escorts would turn on their sirens and push other cars aside, just so they could be our security detail. Sometimes they looked like they needed to complete high school, but they were armed. In Alexandria, the guy with the gun (and cell phone) helped connect me with the group after a group of kids just wanted to have their photos taken and I was lagging behind a bit. I think he was more interested in his phone call, but I came to expect that Egypt wouldn’t be Egypt without the guy with the gun.

When I got to Jordan, I figured all that was over, but I was wrong. I didn’t see any of the that when I was on my own that I recall, but once I joined the OAT group, the guy with the gun appeared as magically as Chagall’s Fiddler on the Roof. Again, the large submachine guns were somehow necessary to help us cross the street in Amman. Our guide even found a waiting guy with the gun to help us cross the street one night.Security detail was a bit more lackluster in Jordan than Egypt, but they always showed up.

In  Israel, we didn’t need the guy with the gun to help us cross the street. The Israeli Defense Forces were everywhere, carrying bigger submachine guns then their Arab neighbors. Leave one piece of baggage or a purse unattended, and the entire country turns into the guy with the gun until they determine it’s not a threat. When we were at the arrival hall after crossing over from Jordan and there had been a security violation, they pushed us back and made sure we remained at a distance as though we might have suicide vests on. They did so loudly and in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. And the guy with the largest and most powerful of all the guns I had seen on the trip, was to the left, wearing blue jeans and a checkered shirt. My impression was that since they had all been trained IDF soldiers at one time, that they took a position of tactical maneuvers if they felt a threat was near. I saw this last time I was there as well. The guy with the gun in Israel will blow someone’s head off if it means ensuring the security and safety of their country. We has seen them everywhere there.

Little, tiny Israel, the country that turned a desert green and also taught Egypt how to do the same while simultaneously providing water to Jordan and natural gas to Egypt, will always be central to the region, even if the guy with the gun changes complexion over time. For in Israel, the guy with the gun can’t afford to sleep or be caught off guard. We didn’t have to go thru baggage checks in Israel to enter every building like we did in Egypt and Jordan. I shst that it’s more sophisticated there, with electronic surveillance instead, and the  guy ( or gal) with the gun is controlling things.

Maybe that’s part of the difference in the region. Traffic lights and stop signs work just fine in Israel, and everyone drives staying in their respective lanes. So the guy with the gun only comes out at strategic times, is one of the most highly trained soldiers in the world, and has a track record of beating the enemy even when they have a 10 to 1 disadvantage of being outnumbered. And as a tourist and inveterate traveler, I am grateful for that

Overseas Adventure Travel offers several trips to the Middle East. I was on Egypt and the Eternal Nile with the Alexandria post trip, as well as Israel Israel: The Holy Land and Timeless Wonders with the Jordan pre trip.


2 thoughts on “Traveling the Middle East and Meeting the Guy with the Gun

  1. Traveled in Egypt many time over the last thirty years. On tours I intensely disliked having ‘escorts’ to get us through the chaotic traffic as it made us look like bully’s, special and drew way too much attention. The guy with the gun in the bus was pretty nondescript. I walked all over Cairo, Luxor, Damascus Syria, Towns in Turkey on my own and always felt safe. In Cairo I learned to go when the Egyptians went. Walk like an Egyptian. When we did Egypt tours way off the beaten track we usually had several vehicles of army with us. I’m sure they were amused when we spent time oohing and aching over some broken down temple sites in the middle of nowhere. Well, that is my opinion on it all.


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