Bay Area women recall being captured in Egypt


The women were held captive for six hours. A group of Egyptian Bedouins took them hostage hoping to pressure the government into releasing two members of their tribe who are in custody on drug charges.

Patti Esperanza of Los Gatos arrived at SFO tired, but willing to talk about her ordeal. Shortly after visiting St. Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai, Esperanza and four other people on the tour bus were stopped by a group of Bedouin tribesmen.

"They were holding guns, but they weren't even pointing to us. They just had guns to indicate they mean something, or whatever that they are trying to do. So, I asked, 'What is it that you need?' And they said, 'We need help,'" Esperanza recalled.

The men took her and another woman, Norma Camba of Union City, with them. Their Egyptian translator was also kidnapped. "They said, 'OK, don't be afraid. We won't hurt you,'" Camba said. Esperanza's husband was allowed to stay on the bus because he travels in a wheelchair. "There is a peace in my heart. There is no fear because I know that these people are loving people. They are nice people," he said.

For the next several hours, they drove through the mountains. "It didn't scare me at all. In fact, when he started lighting a cigarette, I said, 'I don't like smoke, so you must throw that cigarette out of this car.' So, he threw it away," she said. They eventually stopped, made a fire, and fed the women. "I think about my kids, my two sons, my daughter-in-law, and my baby granddaughter who is about to be a year old this month," Camba said.

Esperanza finally confronted the men asking, "'So, what is it that you really need?' They said, 'Well, we have a family tribe who has been captured,' like in prison, 'And, we thought of doing this to accelerate.' he said. So, I said, 'That doesn't help. The gun doesn't help. And, what you are doing doesn't help.'"

They were set free after, Esperanza says, the military agreed to begin negotiations for the release of the other tribesmen in custody. None of the kidnappers were arrested. An official from the Sinai Peninsula said the men in prison have not been released. Esperanza was able to sit down with the local governor to demand more security in that region.

In the meantime, Egypt's tourism industry continues to suffer. The country went from having $12 billion in revenue in 2010 to $8.8 billion in 2011.

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