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Kidnapped in Cairo

A Union City woman speaks out about her capture and release while vacationing in Egypt

Norma Camba dreamed of seeing the sights of ancient Egypt when she signed up for a 16-day-trip to Egypt.

Camba, a 63-year-old Union City resident and nurse at Kaiser Permanente in Hayward, never imagined she would end up while on one of those excursions at the beginning of February.

Camba said she and her small group had just descended down the famed Mount Sinai the morning of the kidnapping on Feb. 3. They were heading back to their hotel for breakfast when their bus was forced to stop.

According to Camba, a Toyota SUV had been in front of the tour bus, driving slowly until it finally came to a full stop. The tour guide, Misham Zacky, stopped and got off of the bus to see if he could help the occupants inside the Toyota. A second car to the right of the bus also stopped.

Seven men, all armed with long guns, jumped out of the two vehicles and approached the bus.

“We could hear our tour guide yelling and cursing outside the bus, but we could not understand what he was saying,” said Camba. “Patti [Espiranza], our trip coordinator, also got off the bus.”

“Most of the passengers on the bus were ducking down when Misham got back on the bus with one of the men,” commented Camba. “I looked up to see what was happening. Misham grabbed my arm and told me to go with him because they (the armed men) just wanted to talk.”

Once Camba left the bus, she, Zacky and Espiranza were put into the Toyota and driven away. Camba said they saw the tour bus turning around and leaving.

They drove for hours, first on a paved roadway, then near the mountains on unmarked dirt roads.

“Misham kept telling us that they were not going to kill us, but that he would be killed,” said Camba. “He was very upset during the drive.”

Camba said the kidnappers, later identified as Bedouin tribesman, stopped to make a camp and offered them tea and bread. Camba spent her time resting, praying and meditating to keep herself calm.

After the short respite, the kidnappers drove them again to a new location.

During that part of the trip, one of the kidnappers started to light a cigarette and Camba said Espiranza asked them not to smoke in the car because it bothered her. Camba said the kidnappers complied with Espiranza’s request.

The group finally arrived in an unknown desert location and waited. According to Camba, two children drove up to meet the group. The kidnappers told them  they were bringing their children around them [Camba, Espiranza and Zacky] to show them they were being treated as family and they would be safe.

Camba believes it was evening time when another kidnapper arrived with more food. Camba said she refused the food and demanded to know what was happening.

She thinks the kidnappers were demanding that Egyptian police release some of the Bedouin people they had in custody.

Eventually, the three kidnap victims were loaded back into the Toyota and driven through the desert again.

“I was worried we were finally going to be killed because they kept moving to different locations,” she admitted.

When the Toyota drove onto the paved roadway again, it soon stopped at a road block of several Egyptian Army vehicles with flashing lights.

Camba said she and the other two fled from the Toyota to the safety of the Army protection.

The Army allowed the Bedouin kidnappers to leave and then escorted the trio back to their hotel where they were met by Egyptian police, the governor of Mount Sinai and members of the media.

“They (the Bedouin) were very nice people,” Camba commented. “The kidnappers never pointed their guns at us.”

Despite the kidnapping incident, the group decided to continue on with their trip. They were given an armed escort for the remainder of their stay.

Camba said they were placed into the Royal Palace Hotel and treated like royalty for the rest of the tour. She and her group were able to visit the pyraminds and the Sphinx for the last part of their trip.

She said that after the highly publicized kidnapping, her family and co-workers were in shock and extremely relieved when she arrived home safely.

Although the ordeal was scary, Camba said she was glad she took the trip.

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