Old Friends

Gouna Egypt

Old Friends

They started coming again last night.

Even though all the big Egyptian holidays are over, they still come on weekends, which here start a day early.

By tonight, Gouna will be full of them.

They drive down from Cairo, or take the GO buses, or other, more luxurious transportation.

Through the dusk and smog and checkpoints, they arrive in droves.


Now they can at last shed the shackles of Cairo and become party animals — or haiwanat el zeita, in common Arabic.


There was a a buzz late in the evening yesterday in Abu Tig, which has been sleepy all week; for there’s money to be made now.

Not so much from the Cairenes, for their tips are usually crap.

The real money is to be made from the aganib, the foreigners, who have also been arriving.

The drunken boat captains punching out their first mates along the dock.

The Inglizi couples with baladi North Country accents and heavy perfume to cover their Manchester pong, all here on a marvelous package deal and taking it all in.

The serious young Germans looking for a decent place to smoke hookahs and meet some local talent.

Even the viperous ones who linger, yet have little but contempt, underneath it all.


The haiwanat walk around the marina in clusters, eyes flashing, looking for action.

Let’s go to Aulola! — a pseudo Westernized Egyptian woman says in a fleshy accent.

She is with three men.

None of them care if anyone who lives here might be disturbed by loud talking in the street in the middle of the night.

Abu Tig to them is party town.

Where they can groove to mad beats, as if they were not in Egypt.

But they are here, in Masr; even here.

This derivative DJ shit  is not their music.

That is not their culture.

Theirs has become a gypsum culture, a layer of inauthentic plaster slapped over their uncertainties and pretensions.

Just think how megatron this sort of thing gets in places like Abu Dhabi.

Maybe mongrel dreams are the new global way of life, as the wind from the desert blows the sand dunes in ever closer.


But has it not always been so?

What is authentic Egyptian culture?

The Book of the Dead?

The crumbling minarets?

Using Life?

The vanished movies stars that are always on TV?

Egypt’s New Rich?

The language of the young fleeing the desperate villages along the Nile?

Culture, in a land where there is no more room for cultivation.


And now at Aulola, the fleshy bodies move and ready themselves

Like the good haiwanat that they are

For more.


Today is Thursday.

I will spend the day by the water, reading my book.

My right knee aches a bit, perhaps from climbing the tower yesterday.


Today I will read my book, and do nothing else.

I don’t have to accomplish anything, or do anything, although I feel that getting the 6 month visa this week was a minor triumph.


Last night when Aulola started up with the groove beats, I walked to the place I am going to be renting next month.

As I had hoped, the fact that it’s nestled in a back alley protects it from the sound of the haiwanat vampires — the ones who do not seem to need sleep or at least the need to keep regular hours.


I don’t care.  Tonight will be bad, for already Club Doodoo, across the street from my current flat, is ramping up for a Thursday night of hell.

But I will manage; I am getting used to it.

Soon the nights will be too cold — already you can seem the haiwanat draping light sweaters over their shoulders when they do the Abu Tig crawl — and the much of the outside dawsha, or noise, will abate. Perhaps someday they will realize that the moon risen over an inky sea is all one needs for a night of wonder.


But today, at this particular moment in my life, all I have to do is finish doing the weekly laundry — it is important to keep a routine, and not let things get untidy in the desert —  then go read a novel on a beach and swim in the Red Sea when I get too hot.


Not such a bad life.

Exactly what I had envisioned when I decided to leave America and its moronic orange emperor behind.


UPDATE:   I didn’t end up going to the beach.  Tarek and Mourad, two old friends showed up at my flat, and we all ended up going to Tarek’s house in Abydos for the day.




Pic I took from the Abydos tower on Sat

Here’s the latest news from Abu Tig Marina, home of gregarious, aging pleasure boat owners, as well as the magnificent spaghetti Bolognese at 7 Stars restaurant …

First off, I’d like to say that I saw a beautiful golden retriever sitting on the back of a boat coming back in.

The look of absolute contentment on this dog’s face made me smile.

It reminded me of the look my dog — a shep called Saba — had, when she used to be able to go out with me to my favorite, secluded Florida beach.

When it got too hot, she would drop her purebred German shepherd 95 lb. body in water that was just deep enough to get mid riff, and stretch her massive paws out in the sand, as she watched me go out for a cooling swim, with a look of transient worry, because she could no longer protect me, which she saw as her job.

Last night, Egypt beat the Congo 2-1, in a crucial FIFA qualifying match for the 2018 World Cup.

Aside from the play, which was energetic on the Egyptian side and listless on the Congolese, but — alas! — poor in overall quality (I don’t think either of these teams would stand much of a chance against the likes of mighty Germany or Spain), several things popped out:

  1. The announcer on the station that I watched was not so much a play-by-play guy, but a hysterical, partisan idiot who spoke in easy-to-understand Cairene slang. He talked about the Egyptian players in oddly familiar terms, as if if they were the children of Egypt and he, the voice of the average Egyptian. His style of calling a game verged on populist ludicrous: to wit, “What are you doing, ya Mohamed?  Where was your head? Have pity on us. Now is not the time for ay haga. Never mind. Let’s just continue to yank our heils.” — ie, shid hilna, a common Egyptian expression for trying harder. He didn’t fail to invoke faith in deity at every opportunity and with every turn of phrase, which I found bizarre: this was a sports match, not a religious event, until I realized that in Egyptian parlance, it was of course the Big Elvis who was in charge of the outcome of this match, which seemed to beg the question why it was being played at all, until I remembered that this particular linguistic trait was just a national verbal tic.
  2. The Egyptian side won on a questionable, mild pecker-slap penalty call deep into overtime. The OT had the aura of a fix arranged by Vlad (who may be plotting as part of his global domination strategy to bring Egypt back into the former Soviet orbit next year when the games are held in Moscow), though I am not sure what nationalities the accommodating refs were. So as with everything in life, what I was seeing was perhaps not what was really going on.
  3. The Egyptian side played in the nicest way possible, except for the occasional zu’a. I didn’t see many flagrants. I also did not see a single Christiano Renaldo-style dive,
  4. There was limited instant replay, but unless I am wrong, I think there were several instances where offsides were not called on Egypt — imagine that! — including possibly the first goal, though I was not actually wearing my glasses at the time, for I had left them on the kitchen counter.
  5. The low-class football protocol of the player who scored first was simply unbelievable! He ran into the stands, took his shirt off, as the entire bench mobbed the field in celebration. I have never seen anything like this in the middle of a soccer match, though in baseball you do see dugouts clear before the 9th, when the occasion warrants.
  6. The crowd was understandably jubilant throughout the match, but shining green laser lights in the face of the coach of the opposing team should have been cause for ejection by those who did this, and perhaps even arrest. But the use of potentially blinding laser beams by spectators was allowed throughout the match, which was played in Egypt.
  7. It appears Spain will be playing a FIFA match in Occupied Palestine tonight. So in the end, Egyptian footie fans were happy to participate in a tournament held by a money whore organization (how many arrests and resignations so far?) that tacitly supports Zionism and thinks it’s a jolly good idea to play football in the boiling sands of the Gulf in summer.
  8. The “Pharoahs” (a horrible name for a team: I would have gone something less lapidary and more elegant, such as the Bashawat) wore red, the color of the Ahly team. The color of Egypt’s flag used to be green, as still is the color of King Farouk’s team, Zamalek. A red shirt is a baladi slap on the tarboush to all royalists, who are the last to know the true Egypt.
  9. Soccer is a vulgar game for the unwashed masses. Luckily there is beach polo here in Gouna; and they even braid the horse tails. Now you’re talking my language!

And in other Abu Tig news…

I think it is important when visiting a foreign country not to expect what you would consider normal behavior.

Rudeness is rudeness. Anyone can spot it a mile away; not dumping on Gounies; after all, just look at the clown act in DC.

Which is why I am here, minding my business, and no longer subject to the nest of deranged, gun-carrying vipers that is the US.

Whether or not apparent rudeness — the loss of ikhlaq, or manners, as it used to be called in Farouk’s time — in today’s Egypt is deliberate provocation, or not, no longer matters to me, for I have achieved monastic imperturbability in less than three weeks.

Such are the blessings of Gouna, where I have the option of smiling, turning around, and walking away — from anything, such as oddball conversations, or the showy but deeply unIslamic spectacle anytime two or more Egyptian AUC-schooled, well-tanned young women in bathing suits that uncover some real skin get together at 7 Stars; not to mention the ubiquitous second-hand smoke.

You can’t escape this, even at the beach at Moods, where they serve floating shisha pipes which balding lardasses smoke while bobbing in three feet of murky green fishless water.

All this can become incredibly stressful to those who prefer to linger in more subdued, less air polluted environments; although the uncomfortable, table proximity of the overt sexuality of scantily clad banat and the repressed seething of conservatively dressed Egyptian mutadayinnat is indeed delicious to observe.

My aim continues to be: finding a villa by Nov 15th to live in till March or April.

Thanks to a musically-inclined friend who knows everyone in Gouna, I have several feelers out there. What I want is a small white villa in the Abydos area, which I really liked when we strolled through it on Saturday, and which I think my wife would love.

Meanwhile, I’m getting skinnier, and trying to get a good night’s sleep when I can.  

Last night the Kraut nightclub from hell across the street was closed, so I slept okay and was even able to go to bed at a normal hour, after the FIFA match.

But when I woke up, my lower back was again killing me from the horrible bed, so I guess it’s a return to a blanket on the living room balat (stone tile floor).

But what goes away one way, comes back in another. Today I thought I could just relax in the apartment with the windows open and read a novel, with perhaps with some insufferable Ismail Yassin movie on mute in the background.

Around 8:30am, a booming television program was turned on by someone living upstairs, and for a while it looked like I was going to have to get the hell out.

Egyptians simply have no concept of what it means to talk about an appropriate level of noise in a social context. They only know 1 setting: MAX, and everyone else be damned — after all, Egyptians are the freest people on earth, because they regularly ignore norms of civilized behavior: when to hammer in a residential neighborhood, when to turn the radio or TV, what volume should it be set to, not to mention trifles such as traffic laws.

A popular one is to constantly pester every foreigner they see on the street with dreaded passive-aggressive one word statements such as “welcome.”

You did not ask to interact with such people. But they stand there in front of you like sentries, in their blue striped gelabeyas and plastic sandals uttering “welcome,” with just the right hint of potential menace in the overall bogus friendliness, all of which has the effect of making you want to run for the hills.

This is the experience of foreigners in much of Egypt but of course not Abu Tig, where it is mamnoo’, that is to say forbidden.

Here you will never find yourself walking down some dusty back alley and suddenly out of nowhere comes a swarthy character with a bullshit smile saying “welcome.”

There are security people. They ask for carnets or IDs. They note down names. Any one who bothers tourists gets his name put on a list and then they get booted out of town and forbidden to find work here. It is all so unfair, but what do you care?

Gouna is a haven from all the plots and time-worn stratagems used by dragomen to fleece naive tourists of their Euros.

Particularly in calm, refined Abydos, where the gilmans live, people like me that is, except that they have money, and lots of it.

It’s the area where I hope to rent in next; it is where Gouna started, when 30 years ago, the engineer who is credited with founding Gouna got together with some of his rich friends, including the backup singer of my band who turned into a true multi millionaire and lover of all things Americana, and asked if they would be interested in investing in vacation houses here.

And so they did, beautiful Medi villas, and thus were born the Phase I villas — and this mosquito infested corner of nowhere became Gouna, on a patch of desert on the Red Sea — not via some overarching vision, as Gouna Magazine PR would have it, but incrementally, from the idle notion of some privileged Egyptians that it might be nice to have a place to dock yachts and spend weekends away but not too far away, from Cairo.

And now I am the penniless writer scrounging around trying to finds digs here — here, where my family name means absolutely nothing, when by rights, but for an unfortunate accident of history, it should only be whispered with the hushed reverence associated with the Sawiris — where the ones who actually own the beautiful villas, well, they have places all over, including Italy and Greece and elsewhere, and talk in confident tones about the plans they have for themselves and their children to enjoy this lifestyle in perpetuity, with the nearby private airport always at the ready should the situation suddenly go south.

As the days lazily roll by, my Abydos manoeuver will become more urgent. My Abu Tig rental agreement expires in just over a month. My fate is now in the hands of strangers; I am the master of nothing, except any residual talent I may have at writing.

In the meantime, I plan to spend time alone for the next few days, catch up on my reading (wherever possible: away from smoke and noise), and wait for the unbearable heat situation to improve. My better half tells me that Florida also continues to remain a cauldron of the boiling, and it’s now autumn there.

And there you have it, the state of MY particular fantasy world in Abu Tig marina on Monday morning, October 9th, 2017.

leaving america