شم النسيم


7 days left in El Gouna, Egypt.

Another beautiful day, in a beautiful villa, with a beautiful garden, and a beautiful view.

People are complaining that it’s become hard to park behind Abu Tig Marina due to the large crowds who have come down from Cairo due to Sham el Nessim, which is a holiday celebrated throughout Egypt. It marks the beginning of Spring, and will officially be here on Monday.

I stood by my window and breathed in the wonderful air, a gentle morning breeze from the North. This is the last Saturday where I will be able to do that in El Gouna.

This is the best time in Gouna; the weather is truly exceptional, at least before noon.

Less exceptional are the people, who tend to be over materialistic.  And when you talk to them, they tend to want to know who you know.

Do you know so and so?, they will say, trying to place you in the constellation of who matters in Gouna.

Well, I don’t rank in that regard and I don’t play that game, as for one thing, I’m not sitting on a pile of mega bucks.

I don’t have a yacht bobbing in the marina.

Thus to them I’m just fiseekh, a tiny fish in a small pond, and so they lose interest in the inconsequential loser guy.  They want to know only those who matter, but if I were to ask if they knew who, say, Claire Messud is, they would likely shrug as if to say no and don’t care, and probably change the subject fast.


I am wrestling with the question of whether to come back.  Given the lurch to the extreme right in the US and the recent hiring in high office of dyed-in-wool zealots who despise my ethnicity, I wonder if it’s even safe for someone like me to return the US.

To go back to Florida and live again amidst uneducated, Evangelical bigots increasingly seems horrifying, as does this.

So I asked my wife if she wanted to return; I already have a return ticket booked for October. She hasn’t answered back yet, but there is that 6 hour time difference. (When she did answer back, we agreed that we’re going to sit tight in Fla, stop wasting money going on all these stupid trips to nowhereland, and take care of business back home.)

But why come here, in particular?

After all, the blazing sun and dry desert air will do a number on your skin, and the skeeters and flies are merciless.


So, given that I don’t matter, that I am not viewed in any way here as important, that no one would care less here if I dropped dead tomorrow or not, why not spend the money on other things, or go someplace else.

The world is a big place, with lots of different ideas about the right way to do things.

Shem el Nessim (which is the title of this post in Arabic) is a time for renewal, for self-affirming creative endeavors, for forgetting the burdens of the past, for new beginnings.

I came here for that seven months ago, but instead, found disappointment — except for losing all that weight.  So I go back thinner, healthier, handsomer, but it’s time at last to accept that this long trip is over.

Man cannot live in isolation, etc etc, and El Gouna has turned out to be one of the most hermitical experiences of my life.

If Gouna is a place populated mostly by deeply self-important transient strangers with enough FU lucre to support their entitled conception of life, why bother coming back?

Enough, already.

It eventually got really hot today.  89 (F) / 32 (C) by around 4PM. This is starting to remind me of mid September, when I first arrived in Gouna and almost passed out when I walked around.  The bus and tuc-tucs have no A/C.

Despite the heat, I walked to the marina and saw this poor, lost Dalmatian wandering around.  Owner nowhere in sight. Dog looked thirsty as hell. No one was paying any attention to him. This was a day to see and be seen, not give some stray a bowl of water.

gouna dog
All alone, and thirsty

Walked around the marina a bit.  Packed.  All the “upper classes” (that is to say of the class that ended up taking over in Egypt in the mid 80s and replacing the well-respected families that once controlled the country) filling up the restaurants and bars, with the bimbettes sashaying about in shorts and tank tops and speaking their phony AUC English. The shirtless Mr Muscle guys with their airhead girlfriends in tow. And of course the screaming children and the shouting waiters and workers and the huge families sitting in large groups at tables by the water smoking endless shishas that are more cancer-inducing than cigarettes.

And me, no one even glanced at me.

Mr. Nobody, with nowhere to sit.  Boo hoo.

Oh, but they’re actually serving fiseekh — which in effect is putrid, fermented mullet — at Moods tomorrow, or so I was informed.

Hope everyone has a great time.

Me, I’d stick with the ringa herring.

leaving america



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