V-Day

the view from my new terrace

It’s V-day, or villa day; at 7am on a Saturday, I have a three-hour wait ahead of me, before the real estate agent for the rental apartment arrives.  I expect here to hand me my deposit in dollars, and that I will have to the final utilities bill in Egyptian LE.

Then, I shall grab my Che Guevara army knapsack, a plastic bag filled with some dirty laundry, and take a tuc-tuc to my new home, a villa in a quiet part of the Red Sea upscale resort town of El Gouna in Egypt.

I may not have an internet  connection for a day or two — even though I have gone by the telecom office in Abu Tig marina several times this week to remind them to switch my contract to the new place.  This being Egypt, I expect this will become a big hassle, unless I go by again today on my way to the villa to remind them for a third time.  Earlier this week, they cut off my internet connection, even though I’m already paid for 3 months in advance.

So  to my friends and family… if you don’t hear from me via email for a few days, no worries, I will get things sorted out in no time.

The obscenity that is the hate-mongering Trump presidency is starting to recede into deep personal irrelevance, despite the enormous damage it is doing to everything that matters.

I do not think there is much of a chance of the Ds obtaining a majority in Congress in 2018, and thus I expect more of the same for the foreseeable future. Until the millenials wake up and wrest control once and for all from the cynical plutocratic geezers who currently the country, there is not much hope.

If the villa works out, I plan to return in October with my tennis ninja wife, and stay for another 6 months, inshalla.

Meanwhile, there is a new touristy travel puff piece that appeared in the NY Times yesterday,  If you want to get a sense of the real Cairo, you may wish to read this. And pay attention to this story, if your travel plans include going to Hurghada,

Last night was very bad, again, in terms of the noise from the Aurora night club.  I am completely knackered, and shall probably doze off this afternoon by the pool (see the pic above) as I recover from a 3 month ordeal (basically I have not slept normally since arriving in Egypt in mid September).

I look forward to having the bags under my eyes gradually dissipate, as I fall into a more normal sleep pattern (I like to go to bed around 11pm and wake up at dawn).

I do expect noise at the villa between Xmas and New Year’s, as villa owner rent out their places for holiday revelers, but after that, for the next few months, I expect utter calm, as winter sets in, and the tourists stay away till Spring.

A hermit’s idea of heaven, that.

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3200 Phaethon

moon

Crappy camera could not even pick up a beautiful moon in a sky filled with stars

I went out last night looking for the GEMINID showers.   What a bust!  Didn’t see any meteor debris lighting up the heavens, but then again, at 4AM, maybe I missed the big show. It was cold and blustery, and I didn’t spend too much time staring at the night sky.

Today is when I pack my bags.  I am having someone come by my apartment rental tomorrow at noon, and help me take my stuff (which isn’t that much, although I intend to buy some additional household supplies to bring in the car with me) to my next rental,  a gorgeous villa.

This means I only have to endure two more nights at Abu Tig marina, which appears pleasant enough to people who typically come here by day, and thus are unaware of the party animal circus it turns into at night over the weekends, which in Egypt begins on Thursday.

Putting up with this has been very stressful, and I have slept really badly for 3 months.  Between the nightclubs blasting music till 3AM most nights, the constant traffic noise in the street, the loud voices of pedestrians walking by, and the endless rental merry go round that takes place in this building, I am certainly looking forward to moving.

This weekend, I will set things up in the new villa — food supplies, internet, TV, phone, identifying the nearest bus stop location, in what is a quiet and thus remote part of El Gouna.

Perhaps I shall finally be able to lose those bags under my eyes from lack of normal sleep. I will also have to see if I need to buy additional battaniyas, or blankets, as it is getting very chilly here at night.

A recurring troubling aspect of things for me has been my left knee, which acted up again today.  I had planned to go to Element beach in the north part of El Gouna yesterday, but woke up with a bad limp, and thus had to spend much of the day in the apartment,

I followed the Alabama special election results on CNN International, and other cable news channels, but also enjoyed a break from politics by watching Real Madrid beat some UAE club I never heard of called Jazeera FC,. I hope the TV setup will be in order so I can watch the Grêmio match on Saturday.

As has been the norm since certain unfortunate things happened last November, the news from the US is increasingly that of a disturbed country seemingly doing well economically (if you are a 1 per center), but falling apart otherwise.  The TV service here also broadcasts FOX.  Five minutes of Hannity is enough to convince me what a good idea it was to leave the poisonous atmosphere of America, where I have lived for more years than is good for one’s mental health and well being. The amount of hate and venom spewing from that country is beyond belief, and it is quite obvious that Macron and others are playing a much smarter game on the world stage.

None of this concerns me directly any more:  I want personal serenity at this stage of my life, and am betting that for now, El Gouna is the place to find it.

Thus I am looking forward to this villa move, but I have to find some way, short of starving myself, of getting rid of the stomach gut that is as toxic to my health as living in America would be. But with two bum knees, and a lousy lower back, the opportunity for turning into some shredded He Man are limited. Still, I plan to learn more about Qigong, after I am settled in the new place, to see if it can help increase the positive flow of energy in my mind and body, as well as firm things up without hurting my joints.

Now that I am in my 60s, I need to do things like stretch exercises to restore flexibility to my aging and stiffening body, go for long walks, and meditate often, perhaps as I gaze out, from what I hope will be a calm and peaceful retreat, without unpleasant surprises, at the unspoiled Eastern Desert mountains of Egypt, which are visible from the terrace of my new villa.

Lastly, I’ve been toying for some time with the idea of setting up a book clud in the El Gouna library.  I don’t know if there would be interest in this, but I shall go to the Rotary Club meeting there next Tuesday, check out the place, see what the room rental setup is like.  I think it might be fun to read and discuss Egyptian novels in translation, such as Beer at the Snooker club, in a group setting, but there would have to be interest in this, and I am not sure if there would be a literary appetite for this sort of thing here.

Plus, I have to think if I really want to go to all the trouble of setting this up, as opposed just to just doing the hermit thing, and (my apologies for using this vacuous term) “chilling” in my new villa, and learning all about Chinese meditation, and thanking my lucky stars every day I was able to become a semi recluse, living far, far away from the dangerous cesspool otherwise known as Trumplandia.

 

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The Joker

 

mass invitation

Flyer image owned by this author; and is used with permission by Egy.com

One of the cool things about Gouna is that there is a cadre of people who live here who not only have a historical memory of Egypt across the sweep of time, but also remember me as a young lad.

Earlier today, I chanced to spend time at 7th Star in Abu Tig marina with someone named Mourad whom I have known most of my life.

I brought up the subject of an amplifier I once owned, and Mourad recalled that it was a Watkins, which jogged my memory of the time when I bought it.

Now time in Gouna is serious business.

After all, the movie Photocopy won El-Gouna’s Golden Star Award for Best Arabic Feature Narrative Film  a few months ago. at GFF.

And it is Gouna where Omar Sharif moved to in his dotage, staying at a hotel just down the street from where I’m currently living. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s by then, and could not remember the magnificent movies he was in that continue to play on Egyptian TV to this day.

Fifty-one years ago, I was a teenager who spent the summer of 1966 in Swinging London. Mourad and I had decided to form a band, and I was determined to buy an electric guitar and amplifier.

I remember taking the tube to Charing Cross Road, and getting off at the Tottenham Court Road stop.

I headed to the famous Selmer shop that used to be there, where many well-known rock guitarists from the era bought their gear.

I was going to buy a Vox amp, because that is what the Beatles used, but in the end, I went for a second hand Watkins Joker, because it was a more sophisticated piece of musical machinery, but also because it was cheaper than a brand new Vox.

I returned to Egypt in late August, and by September, the late Amr Mansoor, Mourad and I began practising in a small alcove by the dining room in the flat by the Nile that  my parents rented in Zamalek. Not long after that, Ashraf Salmawi and Tarek Nour joined the band.

It went on to become one of the biggest rock groups in Egypt of the period. The name of this band was The Mass, an anagram derived from our first names. 

Alas, I was not to enjoy the success of the rock group that I founded with Mourad, for my parents had decided to emigrate from Nasser’s Egypt, and by February 1967, we were in New York, and would never again live as a family in Egypt.

I generally do not like to dwell on diaspora nostalgia, but it irks me that I was probably the only songwriter of the group, and thus the Mass remained to the very end a band that did covers, never originals, even as as I wrote dozens of songs in New York during that period, most mediocre, a few not.

I can say today without rancor that for many years I wrongly felt that I had been robbed of the sort of young adulthood that I expected to have, had we remained in Egypt.

But that’s not what happened.

The good news is that more half a century later, I once again hooked up with Mourad and Tarek in the resort town of El Gouna, Egypt.

Gouna Egypt

Not something that I would have envisioned when I found myself suddenly stuck like in some sick joke in the Deep South of the United States, sixteen years ago, with no apparent way to escape the hell of living in massively xenophobic Florida.

Well, those days are now over, and on Saturday, I will finally be leaving noisy (by night) Abu Tig marina, and moving to a beautiful villa on a lagoon that leads to the nearby Red Sea. If things go well, I shall again rent in October of 2018, and this time I shall bring my guitar.

Who knows?  

Perhaps one day a reconstituted The Mass shall play a song or two on some Saturday night at Dawar el Omda in downtown Gouna, and for just one moment, it could become 1966 again, almost, but not quite, and for that one moment, it might seem to be as if I had never left my beloved Egypt.

Unlikely to happen, but isn’t it grand to think that it might?

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