My first novel DEATH ON TOUR would never have happened without the trip I took to Egypt. The second day in Cairo was packed with enough activities to have filled an entire week – a visit to the pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, the Step Pyramid, the Alabaster Sphinx, the magnificent Egyptian Museum, and of course the educational trip to the silk rug factory. I could go on for weeks describing the monuments, but once again the unexpected trivia about modern day Egypt caught my eye. For example, the unfinished high-rises, each with rubble and rebar on the roofs, looking like victims of bombings or worse. Our guide Emi, a wonderful young woman with endless patience and a great sense of humor, explained that the Egyptians do not borrow money – they simply build as much as they can afford and then stop, leaving the next floor to be built either sometime in the future or by the next generation. Traffic was also unbelievable – and not in a good way. I thought traffic at home was bad, but believe me, you haven’t seen a traffic jam until you’ve been through Cairo in the late afternoon. One of my fellow travelers observed that there appeared to be no traffic rules whatsoever, to which Emi replied that there was only one: Fill The Space. I also suspected there was a second rule: Honk The Horn, but maybe it just seemed that way. At one point, our bus was passed by a small flatbed truck with flimsy rails. Four kneeling camels rode in the back, calmly chewing their cud, heads bobbing with the movement of the vehicle.
At the Egyptian Museum, Emi spent a good five minutes telling us not to take our cameras inside. She mentioned that our driver would be waiting with the bus the entire time, she told us that if we tried to sneak them in, they would be taken from us, and if we did not want to lose them permanently we’d have to wait out front until the tour was over. She repeated herself so many times that I knew right away that someone had tried it in the past. And sure enough…on the way in, we saw an elderly German lady arguing with the museum guards about her camera. Fortunately, our group believed Emi and passed through the metal detectors with heads held high. But…that lady was the first inspiration for my ditz duo, the ladies who always did the wrong thing. And Emi became the inspiration for my tour guide, Anni. Patient, funny, charming…and yes, carrying a pink Hello Kitty umbrella to keep us all in line. No matter where I stood, no matter what tall man was in front of me, I could always find Hello Kitty. Thank goodness.