Gouna’s 13-hour Winter nights are really starting to grate. The bone chilling cold inside the house — a function of the stone-cold, carpetless floor, which makes the villa feel like a dry, airless. pneumonia-inducing mausoleum, is unhelpful in that regard.
I have never quite experienced cold like this. It permeates your body down to your bones, even if you sleep under several heavy blankets. I reckon I’m used to the year-round tropical warmth of Florida, which even in Winter rarely requires me to turn on the central heating — unavailable here; I have to make do with a small electric heater — and where I have never had needed to sleep under two or three heavy-duty blankets in order to keep warm.
I woke up, as usual, at 2AM, after going to bed around 9PM. There is nothing to do, after all, in Gouna at night, except go to bars to drink foul tasting spirits, made in Egypt, that attempt to approximate the original; or go to those absurdly loud dancing night clubs in Abu Tig; or just hang out, eat awful, overpriced food, and people watch in desultory places such as downtown Gouna.
Five hours of this pneumonia-inducing cold in this house at night is about all I can take. So I got up, brushed my teeth, and gargled with Listerine — the American version, my supply of which is getting dangerously low. Soon I will only be able to gargle with Egyptian alcohol-free Listerine, which fails to deliver the primary function of this rinse: kill all the germs in your mouth and throat, thanks to the 30 per cent ethyl content. This is a crucial function of this product, a point that seems to have been largely overlooked in over-religious Egypt: why not offer a choice to those who would prefer not to have sore throats or halitosis?
I went downstairs and turned on the daffay’a (or electric heater) in the living room, and boiled some water to make chamomile. After letting the cat in, who was freezing and hungry outside, downing a shot of Notussil cough syrup, sucking on a Strepsils lemon-flavored, sugar free lozenge, I settled down to write my review of the meal we had at the Athena Taverna last night in downtown Gouna.
We took the bus downtown around 6:30PM. Mercifully the stalking English weirdos (see previous post) did not accompany us this time round, but we still had to contend with dozens of buzzing tuc tucs as we walked on the winding streets of downtown Gouna towards Athena.
I honestly think those things ought be banned, or at least severely constrained in what they are allowed to do — such as having their licenses permanently revoked if they buzz, inches away, from an unsuspecting tourist attempting to cross the street; or suddenly park directly in front of a tourist attempting to go for a pleasant stroll; or hissing at them like low-voiced snakes, repetitively uttering that hatefully insistent come on that starts to eat away at one’s brain and cause hives after any length of time in Gouna: tuc tuc? tuc tuc? hey mister, you want tuc tuc? tuc tuc tuc? you want tuc tuc? hey mister!
I am not proud to admit it, but I have one more than one occasion whigged out and confronted them by yelling something cleverly original like: why don’t you go fuck yourself, asshole?
But they just drive away, immune to your suffering, desirous only to make enough money to pay the rent this month, looking for the next victim to harass, so such outbursts are fairly useless, as the predatory tuc tuc drivers continue to circle around every street and crevice and rathole in Gouna, like vultures, flashing their lights at you as soon as they see you (they of course drive, as many Egyptians do, with no lights on at night), beeping at anyone deemed a tourist with that unmistakably infuriating tuc-tuc honk, and in general making most tourists visiting this resort feel like prey being hunted in the winding, ill-lit, dirt-packed, largely unpaved roads.
We at last arrived got the section in downtown Gouna where the Athena Taverna is located.
Downtown is divided into two main, quite small areas, either of which would comfortably fit into Grand Central station in Manhattan.
The one nearer the Gouna line bus depot, is where you will surely encounter screeching Valkyries — that is to say, Egyptian children, with no parents in sight — playing in front of the Best Way supermarket till late in the evening, playing despite the unpleasant, jaggedy rock surface of this piazza.
The other section has less of a playground-vibe. It’s where the God-awful “Italian” restaurant called Amelia, and many other eateries of course, are located, such as Athena.
But first I had to stop at the ATM. As many who visit Egypt know, Egyptians are immune to cancer, and thus smoke like walking shishas wherever they go — including inside the enclosure of this ATM machine, which stank to high heaven of fresh cigarette smoke — despite the wind — as I went through the laborious process of changing 100 dollah American by pressing all these various buttons on the screen, a filthy, no doubt germ-infested screen that was not, I might add, particularly responsive to touch, and stood there, inhaling the residual 170 gases of pure poison from the lingering cigarette smoke, waiting for the ATM to grind and clunk through its paces and belch out 1700-and-change LEs (those who care about such things might notice that you will usually be shortchanged, as the ATMs do not return any denomination lower than 5 Egyptian pounds, so if you are owed, after their commission, say 1768 LEs , you will end up with 1765, which is a tidy hidden profit, if you factor in the hundreds of tourists who are ripped off this way every day).
My lungs now thoroughly trashed by this carcinogenic ATM, we made our way to the nearby taverna.
(to be continued)