In the hands of Allah



Wish I could buy this villa and fixer up it!

In the overall scheme of things, there’s much to commend in waking up each morning and playing solitaire.

But man is not naturally a creature of isolation.

So despite the rewards of my quasi urban hermit’s existence, I miss my wife, a lot in fact; but my reasons for leaving America and coming to this place stand, unwavering, and in fact reinforced by the latest stunts in the land from whence I arrived.

Here in Gouna, it has cooled off considerably. I can open the windows and let in a pleasant breeze (but also the sound of traffic) in the morning and evenings. I think the hotel-owned nightclub from hell across the street is up to new tricks tonight, so they may be about to ruin my week a day early (their normal pattern is to blast the marina on Thursday and Fridays and sometime Saturdays, between 11PM and around 3AM). I will go to overcrowded Cairo next week, when the temp there is consistently below 85 degrees F. I have not heard via email from anyone in my family in Egypt, so it is not as if they are unbelievably eager to see me again. Well I did leave the country some time ago. But I do need to buy some new relaxo Egyptian cotton golf shirts and tees in Zamalek (where I grew up) at this place I know, for some of the clothes I have brought with me have been ruined in the wash by house bathroom bashkeers, that is to say, towels, that I did not know would run, and alas there were no golf shirts available to buy at the Abydos gold club shop. I was told the Tourist Center in Downtown may have some tees (I would need size XX), but I called them this morning at 10:15am to see if that was so; however, no answer.


After spending a pleasant enough three days last week with an old friend, I decided to do the hermit thing for a few days, and am enjoying my privacy while reading Lawrence Osborne’s Beautiful Animals. The precision of his landscape passages is obviously the product of careful research, and I hope to be able to emulate that when I start writing about the desert in the story I plan to set here.

I am primarily in Gouna to get healthy. Because the weather is cooling off, I shall soon start to be able to go for longer walks. My back continues to be a real problem, but is much improved since I started sleeping on the balat — the stone floor in the living room. I just throw a heavy blanket on the floor in front of the TV, add some pillows, cover myself with a thin bedsheet, and voila: this way I do not wake up with excruciating back pain, which was preventing me from being able to deep breath in or cough normally, almost like having a cracked rib, because of how badly the muscles in my back were damaged by the bed in this rental flat, and having to take tuc tucs to get around on bumpy dirt roads.


I like being here, particularly because I do not think I could tolerate being in the US now; I watched a CNN talking heads program last night, and I’ll admit in passing to be rather taken in with Kate Bolduan, and realized that being in Gouna is my way of saying — imagine a raised, clenched fist and Che Guevara beret here — NO, NOT NOW, NOT EVER! to more or less everything.


So I remain in Gouna, go for my walks when I can, read my books, and lose weight by eating only 1 meal a day: either some dirt cheap felafel sammies at Zomba’s (which, alas, give me the runs, so are now out), or a remarkably delicious bowl of lentil soup a the Turkish place next door (both are in Downtown Gouna), or the Spaghetti Bolognese (which I had last night at 7 Stars: simple, filling, and close by; although it rather annoyed me when they let this arrogant man-bunned mameluke bring large dogs to the restaurant, where he sat in classic Egyptian who cares splendor and had a cup of coffee). I’m essentially alone in a crowd in the Eastern desert of Egypt, which suits me fine, as the only person I have ever wanted to be around most of my life (other than of course Umi!) is my beloved Erin. Given that I have become something of a misanthrope in my old age, and take a dark view of any kind of zealotry, it suits me to be here, far away from the prying eyes of the geezer peepers who lurk on the street I used to live on in Florida.


The original cargo pants I was wearing in France are now quite loose, and I think very soon I shall be able to fit into the next size down in the pants I brought with me. I am noticing that the weight loss is more apparent in my arms, where I see striations of disgusting fat that are becoming visible as my overall body fat starts to dissolve, leaving loose, crepe-like skin. What I mean is the fat is not reducing evenly; it’s slowly melting away from my face and arms and legs, but the basketball stomach and the moobs are still a big problem. I understand there is a gym next to the flat, and I shall find it and may start going there, once my back muscles reconstitute themselves. For now I am doing arm and shoulder stretches and leg situps and modified push ups on the kitchen counter; my knees are far stronger than before going to Nice, but I’m indeed glad I had those corticosteroid shots before leaving Florida.


I think I will eventually make “friends” here. I use the term loosely: the problem is that many of the residents (or “owners,” which is the demarc term for the hoity-toities in Gouna) have nice pleasure boats, and they invite each other on day trips to the nearby Red Sea islands (which I would dearly love to see) — but I could never return the invite, so would soon be viewed as a parasitic hanger-on, and I do not ever want to be regarded in that light, for I am after all, the great-grandson of Turko-Egyptian beys who once owned vast izbas (ie, farms) in the Delta and Helwan. Bey lineage grandiosity aside, my view is that if I were to meet more of these owners (or “residents,” the other demarc term ), if and when I do, in the weeks and possibly months ahead, that it would only be in shall we say neutral circumstances; this way I would not feel obligated to reciprocate what I cannot.

I would be viewed as somehow “less than” in any way, a lightweight who never made it, by the standard of filoos —  serious money; a reality that if you argue against only serves to make you sound like a defensive loser, the guy who could not compete on the international playing field of commerce; or simply one who did not catch a lucky break. But what I do look for and hope to find, although I do not have particularly high expectations in that regard, is to come across a few well-educated people (and by this I mean in the Liberal Arts, and especially in philosophy and Literature, you know, creative thinkers like Ahdaf Souef, but without the baggage), with true intellectual depth, where conversation is not always about political or personal gossip, where kite surfing or groovebeats and half-baked film festivals are largely irrelevant, where what actually matters is thinking about things such as the stillness of the desert, as opposed to living a life of superficial ‘izz (the materialistic Good Life). If truth be told, however, the underlying gestalt of a place is rarely overt. It is not visible, on display, like cheap trinkets in some bazaar. Instead, it’s the job of the perceptive writer to observe and tease out what is meant by people when they’re engaged in apparently innocuous chit-chat, or make throwaway remarks, and spend their time doing particular things, instead of, say, nothing at all, and from that build a shifting edifice of meaning that can be translated into enduring literature. There is a thirst for the status of true culture in Gouna, by those who run the place, for they know that money alone does not define a legacy. Hence the Gouna Film Festival: a conflicted step (how many important Egyptian movies were censored out from competition?) toward the culture of mind, and creativity, not just bodily appetites — which is probably a bit much to ask for in what is essentially still a resort, yet also an escape for many from the confines of the capital.


In retrospect, this trip has already accomplished, so far, what I envisioned as my reasons and goals for Leaving America, which I currently find intolerable at every possible level:

  1. I have succeeded in moving to a foreign country, in a pleasing setting;
  2. I have been able to do this while spending very little money (comparatively speaking — but I am way under my modest budget thus far), yet am also able to provide my wife and dog with decent standard of living back in the US;
  3. Call me vain, but I am starting, albeit very slowly to resemble what I actually once looked like — rather than this grotesque fatso version that developed after I contracted Graves’ Disease — though the hair loss and graying that happened when I had to take Methimazole for years means I shall never truly recover my once “movie star handsome” (according to Erin!) looks, but if I’m able to have the discipline to force my body to stop looking like that of an obese Floridian geezer, that will suit me just fine;
  4. I am enjoying myself, even if I am alone most of the time. There is much to be said for the contemplation the Sea of Tranquility, as a yellow moon slowly rises above Abu Tig marina. If it were not for the nightclub from hell across the street, I would already view this trip as a huge success.


So where does this leave things? Well, my lease on this flat expires in just over a month (I have been in Gouna for 24 days, so far). I will probably be in contact my old friend sometime in the next day or two and see if we can together again and do some more interesting things (like the walk where I took the pics in this post) or just hang out for a few hours.


I’m keen to find out if there has been any positive feedback regarding my desire to rent a small villa in the Abydos area (all the pics in this post are from there) between mid Nov and mid April. I really hope this happens, as I think it is going to take me a good 6 months to lose 50lbs, and finally get those dark stress circles under my eyes from living in the Land of Hate to go away. I also like that area because there is little traffic there, and no restaurants (which are nothing if not cancer magnets): I absolutely cannot tolerate cigarette smoke or car fumes, and already my lungs have reacted negatively to the lingering (despite the breezes) diesel exhaust and cigarette smoke in the air in Abu Tig, and are starting to produce phlegm, which only happens when I find myself for any extended period of time in cities or large towns. This is to say, I look forward to moving as soon as possible to a more suitable place, and by that I mean quiet, and pollution free.

The matter is now entirely in the hands of Allah!

leaving america


Leil, ya leil

i miss my dog

night descended hours ago. and it is suddenly 1am on a monday night in gouna in abou tig,  the cairo crowds have left and the marina can relax now as music drifts over the water and people speak arabic and french and almost no english, the gouna gigolos are working hard to hook up and seal the deal with all the fake blonde bimbettes but what i care more about is seeing the stars as i used to in dahab. i do not know why but the stars here are nothing like you see in the sinai which is like having diamonds hovering over you at night when you sleep by the sea out in the open. i walked far north today and was dismayed by all the construction going on in mangroovy.  i took many pictures of the trash strewn about floating in the water and what i would say is that gouna north is not going to be very nice at all in a year or two. the way dahab was destroyed but there is still much to see in the south of hurghada… marsa alam, and berenice and there you can actually see white sand and mangroves not the crappy red dirt that is what passes for beach here in gouna. i am sitting in an open air resto by the water & at the next table is sitting the director of the gouna film festival with a group of what sounds like lebanese filmmakers.  too bad i missed watching Photocopy, which is being discussed at the next table, earlier, that and whether forest whitaker is being flown in first class  — but I may catch it again later in the week.  in the meantime you can read the latest review i wrote here. i understand more about why gouna lives at night, it is far cooler, and i so enjoy hearing people sitting together speaking the various dialects of arabic. i love it and never has it been more apparent to me how irrelevant and low class the orange clown and his supporting claque of assholes in dc and elsewhere are to me.  i still do care about some things in america, but not much, come to think of it. why did i ever waste so much of my life in the shithole that is florida? why did i ever believe all the corporate horseshit that i swallowed hook line and sinker in nyc? no worries.  i like being anonymous, and no longer have to answer to anyone about anything. perhaps if i decide to write the stories that are coming into my head about gouna people might start to care and ask questions but until that day i am free.

Nice – cons


Well, I’ve been here a week with Erin in Nice, France.  Nice is a physically beautiful city.  We love it here, and we love coming to France on holiday.  We have been here many times over the years. However, there are a number of things you have to take into account, if you are ever thinking about moving here.

Here is a very biased list my 7 top peeves about Nice:

1. The smoking.  You cannot get away from it.  Everywhere you go, on the Prom, in restaurants, on the beach, there will always be some jerk sucking on a cancer stick.  The smell of cigarettes is so bad I started coughing and felt like I was smoking a pack a day myself, and I have not smoked in decades.  Smokers will ruin all the pleasurable things you might want to enjoy: sitting in a cafe, having a meal in the outside seating area of a restaurant, strolling around the streets. Any time you see some older guys sitting in a cafe or some alone guy standing on a street corner or some perhaps tragic matron in a tattered housecoat people-watching on her first-floor sliver of a balcony, there will always be the stench of  cigarettes. It is absolutely repulsive.

2.  The motorcycle/vespas/mopeds.  They are everywhere.  In fact, walking around Nice sounds like you are in some sort of wasp colony, with the constant buzzing of mechanical insects wearing menacing bulbous black helmets.  You will have a tension headache within 5 minutes, and it will stay with you all day. They go on sidewalks, threatening pedestrians.  They zoom down  alleys, turning into them at high speed.  They don’t have their headlights on at night.  And those 2 cycle engines are class A air polluters.  Between the droning buzz-saw racket of the motorcycles, which goes on from early morning till late at night, and the pollutants they throw off (coupled with that of the ubiquitous smokers), you will soon want to leave for a place that is quieter and where the air does not make your lungs scream.

3.  The “Russians.” I lived in Nice for a year, many years ago, before the EU.  The biggest difference between now and then in terms of visitors is that it is now infested with these Russian / East European tourists, who all look like thugs on the lam.  They are a physically ugly people — short, stocky, crude looking —  their languages repulsive to hear; and they have no manners.


You might be having dinner at a bistro, as Erin and I were tonight, and some Russian thug will stop in front of you, throw his still lit cigarette on the sidewalk, and go sit with his half drunken friends in front of a giant soccer television screen. I saw it happen. They honestly make Nice seem like a haven for gangsters, which of course it was when the Corsicans ran things, but that was normale. At least the Slavic infestation seems transient, which is not the case with…

4.  Les Beures.  It is quite obvious Nice is being overrun by North Africans.  They are now literally taking over by the Prom, whereas before les Arabes were confined to Riquier.  Now Gambetta is like welcome to the Casbah.  See for yourself.

Is this is a good thing? Read the novel Soumission by Houellebecq. If this keeps up, Nice is going to end up looking like downtown Algiers one day! Or not. Nice used to Italian.  And before that, Phoenician.  So, who owns what?  What belongs to whom? Do you know? Take a walk down Rue de France, between Magnan and rue Paul Valery, near all the subway construction… around midnight.  Is that a pretty postcard?

Assessing the situation at Au Petit Libanais on rue Vernier – fab mez mez!

5. Old people:  Nice is full of retirees. While they tend to congregate in downscale neighborhoods such as Liberation, you will still see them hang out in droves in Musiciens.  They walk very slowly, which makes quickly negotiating the narrow sidewalks of Nice a tricky affair; they take forever to order their minuscule quantities of food at takeout places; and they will drive you nuts at Casino (a popular supermarket chain) as they fish in their bags and purses to pay for their stuff with small change.

6. The beach.  In a word, it sucks.  Unless you enjoy walking barefoot on uncomfortable, hot grey stones, Nice is not the place to go for a swim or catch rays.  You will constantly be having one continuous 9-11 moment, as giant commercial jets swerve sharply, a few hundred feet above your head, as they make their approach to Nice airport. Add to that the fact that the beach is jammed with loud, leather-skinned Italian retirees on holiday — we are talking overtanned guidos in their 60s in black upchuck speedos — and you have yourself a recipe for a bad day, especially given how surprisingly brisk the sea is in mid Sept.

7.  The Old Town.  Junk shops.  Bad restaurants.  Noisy.  Full of pickpockets and drunks.  Everything here will be overpriced and aimed at the hordes of Birkenstock tourists who infest the place, thinking they are having an authentic Nissard experience.  The only authentic thing about Old Nice nowadays are the few, very very old locals who still live there, but don’t get your hopes up:  you will rarely get to see them, let alone talk to any of them.


Well those are the top 7.  Don’t say you weren’t warned!


leaving america