Traveler detained in Egypt after iPod amplifier mistaken for bomb

A British tourist was left fearing for his life when he was detained in Egypt for carrying a common electronics device-- an iPod amplifier.

Robert Lapham, 54, and his wife Julie, were returning to their home in Kent, England, when Lapham-- a father of three-- was stopped by Egyptian security forces at Marsa Alam airport, who reportedly suspected the homemade amplifier was a bomb.

The couple, who are regular visitors to Egypt, were enjoying a week-long diving trip in Marsa Alam when the holiday turned into the nightmare experience which left Lapham detained in a small cell for 75 hours.

“We knew the new airport legislation had come into force and it was the first flight back to the UK to have the new security arrangements so we put in everything with a screen in our suitcases," Lapham told his local newspaper, Kent Live.


“We were going through security as normal when my headphone amplifier was picked up by security, they wanted to know what it was. I plugged it in, showed them how it worked and tried to explain.”

But the explanation wasn’t enough and Lapham was escorted out of the airport by what he described as “national security forces."

“When they stopped my mind went numb, I was told nothing and they would not speak to me,” he recounted to Kent Live.

“I was absolutely terrified. It started me thinking I could possibly be shot.”

But the van continued on to a police station where papers were exchanged before driving further to El Quseir, where a state prosecutor held a hearing.

The prosecutor agreed the device could be used to detonate a bomb but was satisfied that was not the case in this situation. However, Lapham was then detained in a holding cell until he could purchase departure tickets.

“He heard evidence from security forces and I answered what questions I was asked (via translator),” Lapham said.

“I thought we would be heading back to the hotel but we went to the original police station and I was put into a holding cell.”

Lapham's wife, however, was escorted back to the hotel.


Lapham, who suffers with arthritis, was forced to stand in the tiny cell which didn’t even have a toilet. After three days, he was finally released and allowed to fly home.

But even after the whole terrifying ordeal, the couple said they would still travel back to Egypt.

“We love the country, the snorkelling and diving and the people are great. This incident was something unfortunate,” Lapham said.