Ta’zeeb

 

In a manner of speaking, I‘m being tortured in Egypt by a stern, hijabi woman in the Visa Department. She is not young; but she isn’t old. She is not pretty; but she’s no dog. But she has it in for me. We talked for the second time in a week through a hole in a guichet glass partition, like the one you see in Adel Imam’s immortal Man only Lives Once.

 

She wants me to come to Hurghada to see her again tomorrow, the third time in a week.

 

I think she’s smitten, but I am wrong about many things.

 

Because of this obsessive stranger, I’ve become the Egyptian service worker who must commute daily on one of the two dilapidated buses that run between the two towns.  I know the suffering of my compatriots, now. The daily blue card humiliations, The bleak future facing most: getting older, and still not in control of one’s destiny. I have felt their anguish under the boiling sun. The future is getting bleaker by the tourist, whose quality in Gouna, some say, has degraded since 2011. What’s the use in trying?

 

Today I arrived at the Visa Dept in what is the South Bronx section of Hurghada with my forms all filled out, including the question about my religion. My ingeniously produced “sun pictures” (see previous post) were ready. The 575 LEs to pay for the 6-month extension was in my pocket. The photocopies of my passport too.  Everything was there, but for a local telephone number.  

 

But she took exception to that.

 

— No telephone number?

— No.  I am a tourist.  I do not have a phone in Egypt.

— Then you must see the commandant.

 

This is what happens to Americans today in Egypt.

No respect since Trump.

 

Dressed in a white uniform and sitting on a fake leather couch in a private office, he idly glanced at the form and asked me how my friends in Gouna got in touch with me.

I said they just call the operator and ask to be connected to my apartment number, which I’d listed on the form.

This satisfied the commandant, and he signed off on the No Phone problem.

 

So I went back to Hijabi Hannah and she pondered this for a second, then she said:

 

–What other nationality do you have?

— England.  I was born in England.  My mother is English, but I am American,

— And your father?

— My father?

— Yes. What nationality is he? Back. Back.

 

Now Hannah was being a real you-know-what. But I didn’t take the bait. I was slowly realizing that she was desperate to see me, again, and again, and still again. But I didn’t satisfy her lust to know more about me. I didn’t tell her about the history of Egypt from the time before she was born. I didn’t tell her my father was a patriot who left a bright future in Egypt because of a dictator. Instead, I said he was American, and left it at that,

–Come back tomorrow, she said abruptly. 1 o’clock.

— Can’t it be ready today?

— Commandant for that to explain emergency.

 

So I left the visa building without my American passport and meekly walked back to the bus stop. Good thing I had my EU/UK one with me as backup, or I would have had trouble getting past the checkpoint at the Gouna entrance.

 

To gird myself for the return trip, I bought two loaves of baladi bread fresh out of a large electric oven in a makeshift bakery that was being run out of what looked like a converted garage.  

These were not the small pita pockets of whole wheat bread, that I will only be able to obtain when I get to Cairo, but better than the Gouna supermarket stuff. 

Cost: 50 piastres a loaf (or rehkief, which means a pita pocket of bread), compared to 10LE for 1 small croissant at the Seventh Star in Abu Tig.  

What would the 7th Star Himself think about that, not to mention that a loaf costs a “shillin’’,” i.e, 5 piasters, through ta’mouin, or the Egyptian form of low-income subsidies?

So… I was destined to be with my downtrodden beebles yet another day. I would see. once again, the broken down wind turbines; experience the spine crushing speed bumps; enjoy the rickety bus seats; gaze at the piles of rubbish strewn along in the desert, or the abandoned seaside construction (half-built, to circumvent a land flipping law); and fry in the afternoon sun, as I trudged to the grim Visa Center, yet again, past crumbling buildings and red taxis aggressively pestering.

 

You are torturing me Egypt.

Why are you doing this to me?

This is the sort of thing the great Om Kalthoum used to warble about interminably.

The torture — or azzab, in Arabic, hence the title of this post, which is the indefinite present modality of the root word azb — of unrequited love.

 

Hell hath no fury like a hijabi scorned,

After all, I have never had an Egyptian girlfriend, and perhaps Hannah knew it or sensed it.

Even if they didn’t ask about that on the form.

She just knew it.

And it was driving her crazy.

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Tarawa

 

 

I woke up around 5am today (despite a lot of noise from the Captain’s Inn, see gallery), and went outside to look at the sunrise. A cool breeze, or tarawa in Arabic, was blowing in from the sea.

 

I passed a boat flying the Stars and Stripes along the way; a reminder of where I don’t want to be, despite missing my wife like hell.

 

My mission today was to use some ingenuity to get the pic needed for my visa extension form. There is no photo service in Gouna. In Egypt, there is an expression that goes: itsarraf, which means deal with it and come up with a creative solution.

 

First I tried the yellow submarine, but they couldn’t help.

 

So I went to a place called Alam, which means pen. The place sells writing materials and performs photocopying services.

 

Though not a photo service store per se, the guy there today saved the day.  He took a pic of me on his smartphone, then printed 3 rows of 3 different sizes (which conform to the various Egyptian passport and visa official dimensions) on a sheet of photographic paper, which he then cropped to produce 3 sets of pics.

 

That did it! Cost? 35 LE, or about 2 dollars.

 

So now I can go to Hurghada again tomorrow with my form (which I have filled out), 2 photocopies of my passport, and my soora shakhseya (ID pic), or soora shamseyya (sun picture, both mean the same thing in Arabic).

 

I wrote down on my form that I wanted a 6-month visa extension; not sure if they allow that, but you won’t get it if you don’t ask for it.

 

Meanwhile I may have found the perfect new digs:  beautiful flat, top floor, in Abu Tig marina also, but hidden behind the buildings that face the sea. It’s a half the price of the villa on West Golf, and is exactly what I had in mind when I came here: a Buck Mulligan writer’s garret, with an unimpeded view of the sea, and dirt cheap to rent.

 

I get access to a private entrance to a rooftop terrace, which has grand views of the Red Sea and the mountains in the back. I also get deck chairs, a shaded pergola for reading, and a BBQ for cookouts. The place itself has a spacious bedroom, all the modern conveniences, a real shower (with a glass door), living room, and kitchen.

 

The supermarket is conveniently located around  the corner. The new digs are also two steps and a jump away from the Seventh Star, where I can nip down to pick up 2 freshly made croissants every morning to have with my breakfast.  At 20LE (~ $1 US), that is a bargain.

 

Tomorrow, I have to take the dreaded bus back to Hurghada (my poor back dreads it), and get the visa extension ordeal out of the way.  I probably have to go again on Wednesday to pick up the passport, and on Thursday I am going to Cairo, where I have a bunch of things to do.

 

And at 9am next Monday, I shall be back in Gouna and will view the flat. If it all works out, I should be moved in by mid next month.

 

I’m an early riser.

 

Who knows?

 

This may actually happen.

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Found it!

gouna

All dudes but it’s not gay!

 

I think I have found it, a house that’ll allow me to leave behind the living nightmare that is Abu Tig Marina by night on weekends.  I am planning renting it only on a month to month basis — assuming my beautiful wife likes it!  — in case a Medi villa in the Abydos area becomes available; but frankly I am not counting on that — for various reasons, ultimately disappointing ones, which I’m not going to get into here in any detail.

 

I am very excited about this house, and really do hope that my wife will like it and come stay with me for months on end, despite all her many obligations back in the States. We belong together, and have rarely been apart for long since the early 80s. Not too many people can say that nowadays!

 

I am still in the Abu Tig marina rental. The best thing you can say about it at this point is that it is convenient, but a living hell otherwise, Th-Sun. Now that the weather is cooling off, I shall be walking all the way up to the edge of Mangroovy beach, where the kitesurfing is, and see if I can just swim out to sea with being hassled by people wanted money for the privilege of dipping ny toes in the water. It’s a good way to work off the remaining month of my 2 month rental.

 

Last night, the Aurora club — which is all the way across a huge marina basin from where I am currently staying — made so much noise that I went over to take pictures at 2:30am and complained to a local rent-a-cop sitting in a police-type care in the marina’s launch bay area.

 

He said he would called security, and I did not expect much, but amazingly Gouna Security made them immediately lower the deafening noise, and then 15 minutes after my complaint it was shut down. Maybe Aurora was going to close anyway, but hats off to Gouna Security people if they had a hand in this.

 

By the way as you can see from the pic I took of the place (see above), this club was mostly all young dudes. Odd, no? So either Aurora is Gouna’s gay club, or it is filled with predators waiting to prey on unsuspecting single foreign women staying at the hotels. Ladies, consider yourself warned.

 

Either way, the place is a hateful noise machine, along with the Duport Club, Crooners, and Rush, Breeze, and all the other crap shitholes that turn Abu Tig into a living hell every Thursday thru Saturday night.

 

So if you are visiting, don’t expect “chill” or “life as it should be” vibes if you come here to stay at hotel in this part of Gouna over the weekend. Then again, you may love it.

 

Just don’t expect to be able to find a restaurant that is not infested with screaming little children at all hours of the night (Egyptians in general do not seem to sleep normal hours; a guy strolling around with his turbaned wife and 5 kids screaming at 3am seems normal to them. It isn’t. Maybe they dont get up before noon when on vacation.)

 

In other news, I am going to Hurghada tomorrow or Monday to get a 3 month visa.

 

Then on Thursday — when Gouna Disco Hell starts up again — I shall go to Cairo (the first of several visits in the next month, on weekends), see my family for a few days, and see about the beat up old army jeep my uncle has told me about. Cairo is loud but i want to see the Gezira Sporting Club, where I grew up in the 60s. I do have lovely memories from when I grew up there; alas some of these have soured on this trip.

 

I will be staying at the 13-room apartment overlooking the Nile which was my father’s when we left Egypt. I shall sleep in the same bedroom I slept in as a kid. As it should be.

 

When I return, I hope to get thinner and healthier, plus find and be around positive people in Gouna  who do not think they are somehow God’s gift to this earth. And when I do this, plus move into my news digs, this trip ultimately will be a success — especially if I end up writing a decent story or two. And this house I found is perfect for writing. It even has a private docks– so I am immediately thinking of contacting my relatives in Alexandria and finding a way to get a perissoire shipped down here, but of course I am only kidding on this particular point.

 

Though Gouna overall reminds me somewhat of Patrick McGouhan’s The Prisoner, it does beats being subjected to the orange clown and his deranged minions back in the USA.

 

All you have to do is put the smug assholes on ignore.

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