Tacitus in Gouna


Five days left in El Gouna — Egypt’s version of the Costa Smeralda, minus the white sand — then I leave. Plenty of time to enjoy the gorgeous weather, swim in the lagoon you see in the pic above, and watch Real Madrid play their two matches this week.

There isn’t going to be another Sunday for me in Egypt for a long time; maybe never.

Last night Abu Tig marina was packed with the entitled children of the rapacious plebes who wrenched Egypt from the hands of its old aristocracy and became the new moneyed class.

The girls, especially, were going all out, some in skimpy outfits and bare thighs, some in in more conservative dress, some alone, some with their boyfriends of the moment.

Many had expensive smartphones (the S9 and S9+ is being marketed in a booth by the water in Abu Tig marina) in hand, and they stared ahead, as if in another world,  as they floated by, speaking in what I have repeatedly described as AUC English, that odd mixture of American slang and malapropisms, all inflected with a heavy Egyptian accent, that passes for nouveau riche sophistication.

“But inta where?”

“I have been chillin’ for hours fil hitta di.”

“Okay I will meet you at there.”

This is what they want, to meet, to be seen, to dress provocatively, to show they are part of the gilded tribal elite in Gouna, with Daddy’s new but dusty beemer parked in the lot behind the marina.

Daddy’s car is parked here

The privileged young men with the man buns and muscled up chests watch them, deciding, which one, while other young men, some equally handsome but poor, waiters who toil at places like Bartenders, watch them also, but discreetly, for they know these gazelles are off-limits, that this is the honey pot they can never touch, because they didn’t happen to also have a rich daddy.

Some older foreign women, sitting with their rent boy boyfriends in tow, drink glasses of Egyptian white wine at the burger joints and trattorias in the marina.

Everybody is watching everybody else and the CCTV cameras and security people are watching them all.

Soon, the searchlights go up, crisscrossing the sky as if there is a war going on, and the planes are coming to rain hellfire.

Everyone is excited at being there on Easter weekend.  Dark skinned Egyptian fathers — how swarthy Egypt has become since the Turko-Egyptian aristocracy faded away! —  sit at double and triple joined tables at 7th Star, all of them smoking, barking into their smartphones with the kind of guttural Arabic that betrays their baladi (or bee’a, another word for low-class) origins, now washed and rinsed with the new money they made in Cairo or London or who knows where.

Amusingly, one pack of cigarettes on the table is not enough for these outwardly confident pseudo bashas; two elba’s (boxes of smokes) are stacked by the ashtray, and the phone always sha-ghall (slang for being worked), as they talk loudly on their sexy nexys, even as the wife sits there like a mummy, and they are attended to by servile waiters, all to show they are in fact The Big Swinging Dicks of El Gouna.

Amidst all this sits a lone, middle-aged German professor.  He does not care about any of this.  He knows some of the history behind it, but he is not here for that.  He is here to be in the bubble that is El Gouna, far away from the reality of his own problems.  He is booked for a week in a nice room at the Steigenberger, but he comes to the marina to get away from what he calls “all those fucking middle-aged Germans” to have a drink at places that he thinks (mistakenly) serve authentic Absolut in their Bloody Marys.

He coughs repeatedly, for he, too, smokes incessantly.

From time to time, he thinks about the University students he teaches.  He is an educated man. He has written and defended a PhD thesis on the German parliament during WW1. He is a full professor, now, with health insurance, retirement plans, and a well paying career.

He texts his young girlfriend who is in Germany.  She is not Gerrman.  She is twenty years younger, and has the allure of Middle Eastern duskiness.  He has bought her a present; a couple of beaded bracelets that he overpaid for in Dowtown Gouna.

I sit with him for a few minutes, as I have met him twice before in the marina.

We talk about things: Toni Kroos, at first, then more serious subjects.

He tells me that many of his students are Syrian refugees.  They are dirt poor, and get an allowance of 300 euros a month from the German government.  They live in refugee barracks or camps.  They have to take German language instruction, but have trouble with it, and it is difficult for them to follow the professor in the classroom.

Before coming to Gouna, the professor was teaching them about Tacitus.  Now I think there is much about the life and times and writings of Tacitus that is relevant to the plight of Syrian refugees, but the professor does not seem to have found a way to engage them in the subject.

Perhaps it’s because of the nerve gas, or the decimation of their families, and the horrifying experience of being a civil war refugee. Of what interest is Tacitus to them?

The professor mentions the van attack that took place in Muenster a few hours before, and then he confesses that he gives passing grades to the Syrians, even though their work is far inferior to that of the German students in his class.

Is it not fair to my Germans students, but what can I do?  They are refugees.  Without a diploma, how will they survive, but at any rate, when I go back, I shall be teaching them about the Crusades, and that is a subject they will no doubt find more interesting than Tacitus, he says.

I look around me at the elite airheads sashaying around Abut Tig marina, not one of whom is likely to have heard of Tacitus or ever thought about what can be learned from the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

But maybe there will be a Syrian student who will, and one day grow up to write with Tacitus-like rhetorical eloquence and insight into what is going on in the Middle East today.

Then again, maybe not.

Maybe as first generation Syrian immigrants, all they can hope for is to be taxi drivers and manual laborers, as Aleppo and Damascus go up in flames, and the girls of Abu Tig marina flaunt their privileged bodies in what is their little playground where breaking the norms is not only possible but part of the draw.

leaving america




taewila gouna brochure

Tawila is an Arabic adjective that means tall.  In this form, the gender definition is feminine, as signified by the vowel ending. So let me tell you a few tall yarns, just for the hell of it.

Today began badly: no internet service, again.
I figured it was time to pay the bill, so decided to go to Abu Tig to the Orange Office there and do so.
But first, I had to sweep the villa clean.
It has been windy for the last day or so, and there’s been sand everywhere.
It got cold, too — again.
Last night Sandy the desert cat slept with me. Tommy was bothering her again, and whenever that happens, she yowls.
I am her protector.
So I let her in, and we slept with the TV on, but then I let her out around 3AM so she wouldn’t crap or pee in the villa.
This morning, as I was sweeping the designer brick front steps, I had to chase Tommy away by throwing a glass of water at him.
Then, after calling the Orange TV Triple Play help line to alert them about the Internet situation, I went to Abu Tig marina.
To do this, I had to deal with the Gouna microbus fiasco, which I will not describe here: it is too comically inept to even get into, other than to mention that I was almost nailed while getting into the Marina Line bus by a pair of pliers that fell down from the roof of one of these no-suspension contraptions. It had slipped out of the hands of a bus driver who was perched atop the roof of the adjacent West Golf line bus (the drivers park them in a slender as Red Sea rainbow sardines row in the dusty parking lot that’s in front of the Budget taxi and limo service office) and attempting to rig together a fan gizmo that was seriously falling apart.
At the Orange office in Abu Tig, I had to wait for some old German guy to decide on a TV/Internet plan. The crux of the matter was that he was staying 3 months and 4 days, and Orange only offers monthly plans (in 30-day serial increments, beginning anytime during the month.) or 3 month plans, etc, but not a plan geared specifically to this old coot’s stay.
So this guy spends at least 25 minutes trying to convince the desk clerk to let him buy a plan that matches the exact length of his stay, as I sat on my hands waiting.
Finally, I had enough. I said, can I pay my bill while you step aside and decide what you want to do?
The German asshole ignored this. You know the type: old, slow, rigid, overtanned, with in-shape but weird girlyman-looking, slimly athletic legs (he was wearing cargoes) for his age, and determined to get what he wants by being as obnoxious as possible. I turned on a dime into the taweel Luca Brasi of Gouna, and punched the Nazi fag shithead in the face. As he lied in a pool of blood gurgling out of his ugly old German mouth, I calmly paid the bill and left.
Okay, so none of that actually happened: I waited for the old coot to leave, then I paid the bill.
What is it about old turds that makes them oblivious that others exist in the universe?
I took the joke bus back. But first I had to wait for it by the hot dog stand in Basin 1 in Abut Tig. There, I was easy prey for all the tuc tuc shitheads who kept circling around and around right in front of me as I waited.
Finally the bus appeared, and when it was less than 20 feet away, another tuc tuc shit head appeared and made an abrupt (and dangerous) U-turn right in front of the oncoming bus, slowed down just so in front of me, and said in that annoying assholean way of theirs, tuc tuc?
So I punched him in the face, too, then kicked him in his lib-lib nuts for good measure. As he writhed on the street, also with blood gurgling out of his mouth (just like the Kraut), I stepped over him, got into his white Uber tuc-tuc, and drove home.
Okay so none of that happened either, but it could have. I certainly thought it.

Now for the good news.
With the weather warming up, I’m planning on taking a trip out to Tawila island.
Because of Operation Sinai, rumor has it the Egyptian navy is shooting at any zodiac that tries to head from here toward that often-contested peninsula — after all, Sharm is only 45 minutes by fast boat.
All I know is that I need a break from being trapped in this villa, even if it means only seeing only one island instead of three ( there are five in all that run parallel to the coastline of El Gouna: two are off limits for military reasons, and three that are usually accessible to the public).
When it finally became beautiful again today, I realized I had that I need to work out my frustrated writer hostilities by doing something other than trying to at least figure out the plot of my game-changing Gouna novel, that being the tallest tale of them all.

Expect gorgeous pics around Sunday or Monday, weather permitting.
leaving america

Achtung, habibi!

Moods Gouna
Moods restaurant in Abu Tig marina in Gouna

With the retweets of the Britain First videos, Donald Trump has now earned the right to be called the Terrorist in Chief, striking fear in the heart of all Arab-Americans that they will now be the target of even more violence and intimidation and harassment by the state and right-wing nut jobs across the United States.

This confirms that my instinct for survival — after being physically threatened by my neighbors in the state of Florida  — was on the money and that my decision to leave America was the correct one.

Few Arab Americans are truly safe today in America.  The Terrorist in Chief has seen to that.  But fight back we must — in the most effective (and legal) way we can.  In my case, before fighting back anything, I still have a way to go on that score;  I am still too shaken, too damaged, by 16 years of living in the American Taliban-controlled Deep South.

To that end, I am signing on Monday a deal to move into a villa (see pics in previous post) in a much quieter section of El Gouna, Egypt.  I feel safe here,  thanks to ironclad security in this part of Egypt.

Here I do not have to apologize or disguise the fact that  I was born Moslem.  Here people pronounce my name correctly.  Here  I can once again speak the language I grew up with and spoke as a kid, which I once could both speak, write and read with fluency. I cannot tell you how much emotional satisfaction that gives me on a daily basis:  to recover the Cairene Arabic slang of my childhood, and to begin again to think like an Egyptian, not some bogus transplant who never quite fit in in America, though for after 3 decades of living in Manhattan, I lulled myself into thinking differently.

My beautiful wife will be joining me in mid December.  She, too deserves a break from the devolution of the United States into a viperous quagmire under the illegitimate reign of the Terrorist in Chief.  I hope she will like the villa, and enjoy playing tennis with some of my childhood friends who have moved here.

I hope she will be happy to see me again, after all these months!

True, Gouna is not perfect.  In particular, Abu Tig marina is only suitable if you’re a tourist passing through, or a young couple here for a long weekend at Party Cerntral.  It is too loud, too transient, and frankly, I did take exception to the nightclubs discoing the nights away as all of Egypt was in a 3-day period of mourning after the Sinai terror attack against the Sufi mosque.

Sometimes there are young Egyptians who come to this apartment building who, to my way of thinking, obviously should not be here; there was one such quartet last week, and they make a lot of noise and acted very arrogantly, and then they left.

Yesterday, a young German couple arrived; they were booked to stay in the same apartment as the Egyptian quartet.  I heard them moving in, but soon I heard the German guy shouting very loudly in outrage about the state of filth and disrepair the quartet had left the apartment, which had obviously not properly been cleaned after their departure.

The German guy demanded another flat, and that was that.

Today, I will not be thinking about the Terrorist in Chief, or about the unending stream of horrifying news that is emanating daily from America.

I will, however, briefly contemplate how similar my reaction to the Nov ’16 election results to the German guy’s vis a vs his holiday rental: get me outta here!

In effect, in January of 2017, I looked at what America was becoming, and said, no, I will not stay here in this evil, hate-filled hellhole, a place that was slowly turning me into something I am not: an embittered, angry old man, who felt powerless, and less than.

But then, after dismissing the thought as ridiculously facile — leaving your rental flat is one thing, abandoning your adopted country quite another –I shall spend the day relaxing at Moods (see pic above), and will have a nice burger for lunch, read a bit, then go for a swim (if the water is not too cold) on its private Red Sea beach, to which I have free access as a resident with a special card, far away from the clutches of the Terrorist in Chief and his troglodyte acolytes.

Life as it should be, as they say here.

Achtung, habibi!


leaving america