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No Photos Please

John L. Lund - June 29, 2010

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As Americans we are used to a tremendous amount of independent thinking. This translates into American tourists frequently ignoring the request at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo or in the tombs of the pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings to refrain from taking pictures with cameras or cell phones. My very own wife in a moment of mental relapse took a picture inside a "No Photos Please" zone and had her cell phone confiscated.

With great dismay she came to me and said, "They took my cell phone!" In this particular case, the guard was a man that I had known for ten years. I apologized for my wife’s indiscretion and assured him it would not happen again. Fortunately, for only twenty American dollars in "Bakshish," a tip or gratuity in Arabic, I was able to recover my wife's valuable cell phone. The guard could have kept it and sold it for more than the twenty dollars. We were lucky. Others get away with a sneak shot or two, but many have sacrificed cameras worth hundreds of dollars. Frankly it's not worth the risk and most of the photos you might have taken are available in packets that can be purchased ten for a dollar by vendors everywhere.

Thousands of people a day cross the borders of Israel and the borders of other countries and have had to deal with smugglers or terrorist. When entering Israel we tell the people on the bus "No Photos Please" when we approach the borders. We tell the people that there are plenty of abandoned tanks and other interesting things to photograph once we are inside of Israel. There are security cameras pointed at the bus and we are under surveillance by the Israelis.

As you might imagine, there was once a very determined lady who decided that she was going to click a couple of quick photos. It was hot and the (IDF) Israeli Defense Force was not in a forgiving mood. Our bus was stopped and all of the cameras were confiscated, all the pictures deleted or the film was exposed and their ensued a discussion on whether the person who had taken the photos with her camera should remain at the border for further questioning. An hour and a half later, after a call to the American Embassy, and the assurances of a high Jewish official, who was a friend to Fun For Less Tours, we were permitted to cross the border after a careful inspection of each and every bag, purse, suitcase, briefcase and computer bag that we had brought with us. In all it was a four hour delay.

Imagine how the fellow passengers resented the lady who just had to ignore the “No Photos Please” request. It also meant that we were not able to stop at an extra site we could have seen had we had the time. We did tell her the consequences of her choice to ignore the request of "No Photos Please." She felt terrible and promised to never do it again. All was forgiven and we went on to an incredibly wonderful experience in Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.

In Italy, Mexico and Guatemala the local guides and guards will tell you that the flash from your camera will ruin the picture or artifact that you want to photograph. It doesn't matter that it may not be true. It is an issue of following the rules and respecting the laws of the lands we visit.

When you return from your trips abroad you will have dozens if not hundreds of great photographs. They will remind you of the wonderful times you spent visiting these historic sites. For your sake and the sake of all those who will travel with you, respect the signs and observe the request: "No Photos Please."

© Fun For Less Tours for LDS Living, 2010. Photo by Ali AlMuallem/sxc.hu.