Tomorrow is my last full day in the dusty resort town of El Gouna, Egypt, which is on the Red Sea.
By the time I leave on Saturday, I will have spent a total of 6 months and 28 days here. Long time, but soon I will be a ghost, and the few people whom I did meet and befriend will forget about me quick enough. In no time at all, it will be as if I was never here.
I leave knowing that I met some really nice people, and also hooked up for probably one last time with old acquaintances and family.
One old friend in particular was incredibly generous in paying for a service to guide my wife around at Cairo airport when she came to visit in January. I do not forget things like that.
I came here to escape an America that had elected an abomination as President of the United States. With all the insults he and members of his party were hurling at Americans of my ethnicity, I no longer felt safe to live there.
And so I went to Nice, France, for a few weeks, then came here. I ended up staying in an apartment in Abu Tig marina, then 2 different and quite lovely villas. When I arrived, it was really hot, then it got really cold, now the weather is perfect. Along the way, I was adopted by a cat whom my wife named Sandy.
My main objective coming here was to determine if Gouna would be a suitable place to retire on a modest income. A secondary one was to lose weight: I had contracted an illness a few years ago, and the medicine I was given to treat it caused my weight to balloon.
I have come to the conclusion that, for a variety of reasons, Gouna is indeed a lovely place to visit, but… unsuitable for any extended period of time.
There are things here that do get under your skin, so to speak: the mosquitoes, the flies, the noise in certain parts of Gouna, the annoying tuc tucs, the ubiquitous cigarette smoking, the endless construction, unstable internet connectivity, the workmen who regularly intrude on your rental property while chattering on their phones, the various cliques, especially the entitled ones, and the blistering heat.
It can be quite isolating here to be by yourself for a long period of time.
There is very little to do, unless you’re rich, and have a boat that you can take out for spins to the nearby islands; the beaches on the mainland are quite drab.
Of course there are events, such as squash (which I used to play in my teens) tournaments, music (I was actually once in a rock band) festivals, and kite surfing championships.
There is also tennis and diving and snorkeling in what remains of the reef, the inevitable “desert safaris” that you can take in a rented ATV, horse riding, playing golf, and there are also the bar nightclubs where people go to party — but none of these things hold any interest to me whatsoever, as I am not in my 20s or 30s: I have reached an age where I no longer have as much time left to waste on what I consider largely superficial endeavors.
At a certain point I advertised in a local paper the idea of a book club that would take place at the Gouna library. There was no interest whatsoever. Gouna is not a place where people are particularly interested in culture (except for the film festival); this is not why they are here: they come here for the reasons that most people go to high-end resort getaways, which do not include joining book clubs.
I am happy to report that I was able to lose quite a bit weight. When I return to Florida next week, after spending a few days in NYC, I shall continue with my weight loss program, but will begin to focus on strengthening my muscles and doing cardio workouts on my bicycle to increase my stamina.
I have tried to not lose the weight too quickly, as I did not want my skin to start sagging.
But I have managed to go from size 44″ waistline to a size 36 in 7 months. Not bad. As a result, I am donating to charity some of the clothes I brought with me. I’m also leaving the electric heater I purchased in Gouna, as well as the famous self-supporting mosinet, a pair of sneakers, a belt, and a few other items– none of which I shall ever need again. I like travelling light, especially after I injured my back when I arrived here, from carrying an overstuffed suitcase, and couldn’t sleep right for a month.
When I return to Florida, I hope that the humidity will restore the elasticity of my skin which has completely dried out in this desert climate, causing lines to appear on my face which were not there before.
That aside, I have a very long trip ahead of me on Saturday. The plane to Cairo leaves at 5:30am so I have to leave this villa at 3:30am to get to the airport by taxi. My smartphone just died again, so I cannot use it as an alarm, but I was able to add an alarm clock extension to my Chromebook browser, and it works great.
I was supposed to take the 10am flight from Cairo to JFK, but that has now been delayed to 1PM. This means I will getting back to NY in the evening instead of mid afternoon as I had planned. I will also have a six-hour wait at Cairo airport, prior to taking a very long trip across the Atlantic in economy class.
By the way, on Monday, I plan to catch Jon Hamm in Beirut at the Loew’s theatre on 68th and Broadway. It will be a distinct pleasure to be passing through my old neighborhood, in the city I will always love — but it’s too bad the M104 bus doesn’t stop by Grand Central anymore.
One last thing, I have written quite frequently in this blog since my arrival, but this is the final post I shall be writing while in Egypt.
I have tried to scrupulously record my daily experiences. I ended up writing quite an astonishing amount of material (for me), which I hope to be able to transform into a work of fiction that deals more directly with some of the things I have observed or imagined but not written about in this blog.
All in all, coming to Gouna for an extended period was a worthwhile experience. Inevitably there were a few disappointments along the way, but I am glad to be returning to my home country — despite the absolute chaos in America right now — after such a long sojourn, and once again be with wife and family.
Goodbye, Egypt: I wish you all the best.