CAIRO - Journalists often are required to have credentials proving who they are to have access to press events or conferences. An event that involves anyone even slightly famous requires a special credential made to show the reporters are allowed to be there.
What happens without those credentials or passes? Nothing, as a group of us discovered on the way to Thursday's opening of Egypt’s "New Suez Canal."
“I came from New York to check out the Suez Canal,” said one American journalist, who asked that his name not be used for this article. “They had 75 international journalists come and they were saying around 25 didn’t get their badges on time.”
He wasn't sure how many eventually made it.
Basically, someone lost a bunch of press passes, so many of us were unable to attend the opening of the Suez Canal expansion project.
The American journalist was with me on a bus that took about 30 of us from Cairo almost to the canal in Ismailia. The trip took about two hours. Then, the bus stopped at a checkpoint in Ismailia for about an hour before turning around and heading back to Cairo. No credentials meant we had no access to the event, which was attended by world leaders and royalty.
“This was done very last-minute,” the journalist said on the ride back to Cairo. “They built this canal in a year, and they wanted to have a big send-off, a big party.”
In the end, “I think security trumped everything,” he said.
And one couldn't blame authorities for being nervous. This project is seen as a major win for the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and there is no shortage of militants in Egypt who would like to have seen it fail.
Suez-related events, including the official launch, were all reported peaceful and safe as celebrations went on late into the night.
Still, the reporters on the bus seemed upset on the return trip, and only one seemed keen when officials offered us all a private tour of the canal after the launch was complete. Even for my bus mate, the experience “colored” his view of Egypt.
Still, he said, he came here to get to know the country and write stories about investment potential, not attend a party.
“It would have been nice to see the canal and the opening and be part of that from a historical point,” he said. “But I think that I will be able to do what I need to do.”
WATCH: Egypt Opens Suez Canal Expansion