In Gouna, Egypt, the nights are long in winter, but the days go by fast.
Already there are only 10 days left before my wife returns to FLA; after that, I shall, once again, be alone in this vast villa that faces the dust-covered, igneous Eastern Desert mountains of the Red Sea.
I have been in Gouna almost four months. By the time I leave, it shall be six.
That is more than enough time to take stock of oneself, and decide if being an American expat shall be a more or less permanent state of affairs, or shall I instead do a reverse snowbird thing: leaving the Sunshine State in Fall, not returning till Spring.
But such matters were not paramount for us yesterday; instead we focused on getting over the nasty bout of flu that my wife contracted on the flight over from New York on Egyptair. She had recovered, more or less on Tuesday, for she is stronger than I in many ways, but yesterday for me was very bad: body aches, stuffy nose, cough, and greenish lung phlegm.
We decided not to venture out.
Instead we remained at the villa, hoping to sun ourselves by the pool.
This was easier said than done.
Unfortunately, Egypt is host to a particularly persistent variety of house flies. They are impossible to evade when the day is relatively windless, as was the case yesterday, even with a flytrap pot nearby.
After applying various smelly anti-bug concoctions, my wife gave up, saying: “what does it take?!” (When we return in October I shall most definitely be bringing with us an Excelle fly whisk, which are known in Egyptian Arabic as menasha li’l zoubab.)
I was more determined, for I had the flu aching up my joints, and wanted the sun to provide salutary heat therapy.
I had the bright idea of dismantling the mosinet from the top floor bedroom, which we call the Tower of Isolation, and do not sleep in, for it is the coldest room in the house, and the wind rattles the shutters at night, and brought the unused travel mosquito netting down poolside.
Then I placed two chaises longues side by side, and set up the mosinet on top of them.
As you can see, it wasn’t a perfect fit, but it was good enough — especially after my wife plugged a little tear hole with a bit of TP.
Safe at last from the marauding squadrons, I read for a bit in this protective Lord of the Flies (which is the translation of the Arabic title of this post) cocoon — L. A. Tegenza’s The Red Sea Mountains of Egypt, the perfect book to read in El Gouna — then after an hour or so went inside to take a long nap.
When I awoke, I brewed two cup of anise, and then we took the bus downtown.
We got off at the hospital and exchanged the useless cough syrup they had given us yesterday for a brand that was much more effective (Notussil), and bought a strip of band-aids, a bottle of Otrivin baby saline (which does wonders to clear the nostrils of dust), and a tube of Fucidin antibiotic ointment (great for dabbing on a mosquito bite). The whole thing cost us only 12 LE (68¢, because the bottle of useless herbal extract cough syrup I was returning had cost 30LE).
As we walked from the hospital to Kan Zaman, the Egyptian restaurant downtown, I heard the call of the muezzin for the asr prayer; this is the first time I had heard the Muslim call to prayer in El Gouna, and it pleased me.
At Kan Zaman, we supped on a simple Epicurean meal of lentil soup, eish baladi and stuffed grape leaves, to the accompaniment of Om Kulthum and Abdel Halim in the background. We were the only customers there, as El Gouna has now emptied out of weekend vacationers from Cairo.
With tip, that delicious light meal came out to 85 LE (around 4 dollars US), and then we took the bus back home around 7:30PM, but not before stocking up on TP, biscot, and Mars Bars from Best Way.
We sat in the living room, and watched CNN for about 5 minutes, but I soon switched the channel. It is obvious that American media remains obsessed by the vile orange dotard, like a cobra by a mongoose, but I have found that living in Gouna, after a period of several months, you can detox yourself from that whole scene.
I pay increasingly detached attention to the threnody of desolation emanating from the US, which has little to do with my life in El Gouna, thank God.
I was asleep by 9PM, and woke up just before dawn, and getting up from bed, or rather, the living room sofa, I realized I no longer had the flu.
I watched from the kitchen window the Eastern sky turn from starry ink black to purple to mauve and pink, and I knew today there would be good tuc tuc riding (a paraphrase of a line uttered by Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia), for I no longer felt achy from the flu.
Later this morning, my wife and I shall finally get to visit Element beach.
I don’t know why it’s so, but life here just makes more sense. The center is holding, as we establish a meaningful routine for daily life and live in a manner that is simple, peaceful (despite the skeeters and flies) and enjoyable, one that is largely independent of the stress-filled chaos now roiling the lands of the franks.