by Maria Ruiz
My husband and I took a Nile cruise in Egypt with our Miniature Schnauzer Sherman.
Sherman was a 30 pound little dog, too big for breeding but a wonderful pet. His ears were floppy, his tail bobbed in the traditional way American Schnauzer’s are.
At least twice a day we would disembark from our ship along with hundreds of others, to visit the famous ruins of Egypt.
The presence of a big little dog trying to inch his way through this human tide did not go unnoticed. Sherman became famous up and down the Nile; almost everyone had heard about the crazy Americans who had brought their dog along to Egypt, particularly the vendors, who shouted greetings everywhere we went. At first, our tour guide, was upset about the presence of a dog.
“Ai, there’s Sherman. Hallo Sherman.” Vendors shouted every time we went out.
Still, the sight of a Miniature Schnauzer with a bobbed tail was totally strange to them.
Everywhere we went, people shouted out “How much you pay for that dog?
Knowing that the average family takes in about thirty U.S. dollars a month, I was not going to answer five hundred U.S. dollars. Dogs are considered “dirty” to many Muslims and to have a dog as a pet, is completely unknown to them.
The first night aboard ship we arrived late, after 8:00 P.M. The crew was dismayed to see a dog and we were told that he couldn’t go in the dinning room. We scrambled down to our cabin, threw our bags on the beds and shut the door on Sherman, leaving him in the strange room while we went to go eat. Sitting at the table, I heard the most awful howl come from the bowels of the ship. Sherman had never been left so abruptly before.
I hurried down to comfort him. The next morning at breakfast, some of the crew asked where the dog was. I indicated in my cabin. By lunch, the crew were asking if I could bring Sherman up. By dinner, Sherman was sleeping at my feet under the table in the dining room.
At one stop, a horse-drawn carriage driver eagerly greeted us and indicated that he wanted to put Sherman on the driver’s seat next to himself. As we drove to the ruins of Karnak, the driver shouted out to all other drivers and pointed to Sherman. He was greeted by shouts of approval and laughter.
Departing our ship at each stop was an adventure in itself. Our boat would line up with anywhere from three to six other boats, side by side. We would walk from our boat, across the others until we finally reached the shore. Upon returning, we found we had to walk a narrow, six inch wide board to enter the first boat in line. Sherman started up the shaky board, slipped and fell into the Nile. Pulling him out, I now walked the shaky board, holding a thirty pound wet dog with lots of help from the crew. At another stop we found ourselves having to climb up a narrow ladder attached to the wall on one of the boats. Again, I found myself carrying him straight up the ladder.
Each spot we encountered on shore was exciting as there was absolutely no prepared tourist dock. We scrambled over rocks and climbed steep sandy hills to reach the roads and our guides. Only with the help of the crew could we have made the climbs.
Our cruise over, we flew to Cairo where the tour had booked us at a five star resort. Arriving about midnight, we walked into the reception area and were greeted with shocked looks. Our tour guide explained that the dog was very good, would cause no problems and had traveled on the ship for five days without incident. The hotel staff, not sure of protocol but unwilling to jeopardize future tours, finally agreed if we would sign a paper insuring we would pay for any damage. In our room, Sherman settled down between us for a welcomed sleep.
Sherman visited the pyramids and as he had done all the great ruins. At first, our guide, being a devout Muslim, had been appalled by the presence of a dog. Within a few day, he had warmed up to the idea. While he never actually touched Sherman, he was careful to make accommodations for us.
At the sphinx, a two bar gate kept the waiting visitors out until the tickets were purchased. The ticket seller saw the dog and began yelling. Our guide came up and explained that Sherman had been to all the ruins and would cause no problems. The seller was adamant, the guide equally so and soon a shouting match, all in Arabic, took place.
From the sounds of the shouting, I was afraid they were going to come to blows or shoot each other. The end result, Sherman was not allowed to enter. I stayed outside with Sherman while the tour circled the sphinx. I watched as a mangy street dog calmly walked under the bar and entered. He circled the ruin and lifted his leg on one of Egypt’s most revered icons. I pointed to the dog so the seller could see and he only shrugged. I guess that Egyptian street dogs didn’t need tickets.
The next stop on the tour was the Valley of the Kings. Here, hoards of vendors greeted the buses, shoving bracelets, statues, postcards and “genuine antiquities” at the visitor’s faces, waving and shouting. They harassed the line of visitors so badly that no one bought anything. They continued to follow the tour people as they walked toward the tombs. I, having a bit of claustrophobia, chose not to go.
As soon as the tourists entered the first tomb, the sellers put away their souvenirs and came and sat near me on a long bench. One spoke a little English and began to ask questions about the dog.
“Hey, how much you pay for that dog?” asked a rug dealer.
I hesitated then said “A hundred dollars.”
“A hundred dollars! For a hundred dollars I’ll sell you three dogs AND throw in their tails for free.”
Check out more of Maria’s travel and history articles here in KRL.