A dream trip to Egypt turned into a nightmare for a French tourist after she was falsely accused of trying to smuggle a valuable antique out of the country as a souvenir.
Arrested because of a souvenir bought in Cairo PHOTO Adevărul archive
Nathalie was arrested because of a statuette she had purchased from a luxury hotel shop.
The 56-year-old woman was arrested at Luxor airport and held in a police station for eight days.
She was later charged with possession and trafficking in antiquities because police said the souvenir was a 4,500-year-old antique.
An antique for 250 euros
After ten days in Egypt, Nathalie was to fly home from Luxor airport. As part of the security checks, her luggage was scanned with X-rays, and the customs staff noticed something curious.
It was a small statuette that experts contacted by customs concluded that it was not a copy of an original, but actually a 4,500-year-old antique.
The day before, Nathalie had bought the object from an art gallery of the Winter Palace Hotel, for 250 euros.
“I was very attracted to this object, a small character in panties, seated, holding his hands on his knees. I had no idea it wouldn't bring me luck“, she told the French newspaper Le Figaro.
The tourist, a lawyer by profession, was suspected of trafficking in antiquities and taken to the Luxor police station.
Here, her court-appointed lawyer explained to her that she was presumed guilty and should apologize to the police.
Jean-François Rial, CEO of Voyageurs du Monde, the travel agency that had organized the trip, stepped in to help.
“In thirty years of presence in Egypt, we have never had to deal with this type of case, we have a very good network and this helped us to improve Nathalie's detention conditions in the following days, but it was very difficult to speed up the proceedings because the state security took care of the case“, Rial told Le Figaro.
“State security is indifferent to these kinds of economic considerations, it does what it wants, and even Abdel Fattah al-Sissi (Egyptian president) does not have complete control over it“, he added.
He was banned from entering Egypt for life
Two days later, Nathalie appeared before a French-speaking judge. To prove that the statue was a copy, the owner of the gallery was summoned to give the address of the production workshop.
The judge declared the proceedings discontinued, but still did not formally acquit Nathalie. Finally, after the intervention of the French ambassador in Cairo, Éric Chevallier, the woman was able to get on a plane to Paris.
“From what I understand, I have been banned from entering the country for life“, Nathalie told Le Figaro after the traumatic experience.
However, he does not intend to leave the issue unresolved. Her lawyer says she will take steps to have the ban lifted and to receive formal acknowledgment of the dismissal of the case.