Monday 9 March 2009

Benny's report from Egypt - part 2

By Friday, the sunburn had abated a bit, thanks to plenty of slathering with something called Badger Bali Balm, and some spray on aftersun stuff. There was no blistering but Sally still reckons she's going to peel. Still, she was out in the pool this morning doing the aquafit with the very enthusiastic entertainments guy who keeps pushing people into the pool. The wind had picked up again - yesterday, predictably, was the nicest day of the holiday for weather: plenty of sun but very little wind. Typical.

Friday afternoon was the time for another trip. This time we went into the eastern desert in a very clunky jeep and visited a Bedouin village. The driver of the jeep spent most of the time fiddling around with his radio, and not looking at the road, which made for quite a white knuckle ride. It was even scarier when the two cameramen filming the experience were riding on top of the jeeps in the convoy to the edge of the desert - crazy fools.

We stopped to see a mirage that wasn't there, and again to see some rocks (and a lot of empty water bottles). Then we arrived at the Bedouin village and were given tea, and a tour. We went on a camel ride, too. I was quite enjoying the
experience of being carried around by another animal until Sally decided she wanted a picture of me with MH and THREW me across the gap between them - it's enough to turn my horns white, it really is.

We also observed some women weaving, and another making a big flat bread, and we had a look at the mosque (Sally and MH weren't allowed in, being women, so I observed through a window rather than leave them alone outside). And we saw this big dung pile, it was camel dung which was being dried ready for burning as fuel by the Bedouins. My grandad told me once that the Native Americans used to do this with our dung, back in America.

All the while, this crazy loud youth was racing around filming our every move. He was truly tenacious - running up to the top of hills and filming us, and then running past and putting the camera on the ground for a new angle, and dancing around trying to make us laugh and play up to the camera. Turns out, he videos the experience and then sells the DVDs to the visitors, and that's his job. He was certainly very good at it, but unfortunately nobody in the group bought the DVD at the end, which must have been quite depressing for him.

After a visit to a Bedouin shop (not the one labelled Tesco, you can just see it in the background here)

we had a quick Bedouin dinner and a short Bedouin show, and then we got back in the jeeps and drove back to civilisation. I was ready for a nap by this point so Sally and MH left me in the room while they went into town to do some bartering. They came back with lots of scarves, and some sort of mysterious furry thing which Sally quickly hid, whispering something about me not approving.

Sally was laughing after the experience. She said she'd had a very long conversation with one Egyptian trader who evidently wanted more than just to sell her some scarves. Here's what she said happened...

Shopkeeper: So, what are you doing now?

Sally: Waiting for my mum to pick a scarf...

SK: Ah ha ha ha...I mean, can we maybe go for a coffee now, and we'll talk?
S: Er, no, I have to catch the bus back to my hotel.

SK: Which hotel are you staying at?

S: The Pearl (this was a lie, which Sally had concocted, having heard that guests from the Marriott were more likely to get ripped off)

SK: Oh. The Pearl. Yes, this hotel is not very good, I think. Ah, so. Maybe, when you go back to the UK, we can communicate, via email?

S: No, sorry.


S: No! I don't think my husband would like that very much, he's the jealous type, ha ha ha.

SK: Ha ha ha! Well, then, we just won't tell him, ha ha ha!

S: No, I can't do that! There should be no secrets between a man and his wife!

SK: Ha ha ha!
At this point MH picked her scarf and thankfully interrupted this awkward tete a tete)

SK: Well, Sally, do you have any children?

S: No, I'm a teacher! I have enough children!
K: Ha ha ha! You're so funny, Sally! Can I SMS you when you're back in the UK?

S: Er, no. We're leaving. Bye.

She also said that a few times she told the shopkeepers she was from the UK and they tried to tempt her inside by saying, "Asda price! BOGOF! Lovely jubbly!" which was quite disconcerting.
They also had some authentic Egyptian food whilst out....well, MH did.

Sally and MH were approached by a lot of men who wanted to write their names in Arabic for them, and finally consented to the last man, who approached them by the bus back to the hotel. They were both a bit suspicious but MH was very pleased when she showed her postcard to the guard at the hotel and he was able to accurately read her name from it. I guess they're not all full of it.

Saturday had arrived all too quickly. I felt good about having visited a new continent, but didn't feel much like I'd seen the real Egypt - more just a sanitised, carefully vetted version, produced just for tourists, down the carefully raked, imported sand on the private beach, and the signs written everywhere in English, then Russian, the Arabic. I suppose that's the sort of holiday you get when you want just a beach and a sun lounger - it's a bit like staying at home, but with nicer weather. People were certainly incredibly helpful: MH had a black wrap she didn't want, and left in the hotel room. The porter came running down with it in a bag (with Sally's precious Boden coat which she'd almost left behind) and so MH trid to leave it on the table in the hotel, only to have another porter chase the bus with it. Finally she lost it in the airport toilet.

And now we're back in the UK, and Benny's Egyptian adventures are over. Look out for Benny's adventures in snowland, coming soon....apparently Sally's getting some skis made for me this time.

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