Go ahead, tuk tuk guy, make my day

Yesterday, Erin played her last game of tennis of the season with Murid, the pro at the Gouna Tennis Club.

He is a pleasant chap, and is quite skilled at returning the ball such that you don’t have to run too far to get it. And as with most tennis pros, he has  an amusing, good vibe patter that he uses to gently encourage those who employ his services to try to push themselves a bit, but not so much as to turn tennis playing for fun into a tediously competitive ordeal.

After tennis, we walked downtown to have a Gounaman Special at Zomba’s (see previous post). We strolled around a bit beforehand, as I wanted to inspect the ridiculously overpriced menu at the Swiss House.  I was considering inviting Erin for an extravagant dinner there, but after seeing the “Dear guest, we are pet and smoker friendly!” on the door, we took a pass. Overpriced, and in all likelihood, mediocre schnitzel would be bad enough, but being stuck in a small room with a bunch of smoking, jolly Germans in evening jackets, dining alongside their Schäferhunds would be absolute torture.

As we were contemplating the menu, agog at the prices, a tuk tuk driver stopped in the street and commenced bothering us.  Tuk tuk? he said. Tuk tuk?  We ignored him, but the driver would not go away. Tuk tuk?  Tuk tuk? he kept repeating. We still did not look at him, and pretended to be deeply engrossed in the Swissie House menu, which was on a stand by the entrance.

Many Egyptian men love to be noticed. To be acknowledged. They are overly social, constantly talking to one another in every possible setting in loud voices, shaking hands at every possible opportunity, kissing each other on both cheeks by way of greeting, constantly forming little impromptu social groups on the fly in the street, staring at every passer by, especially young women and foreign tourists, always on their smartphones talking important-sounding rubbish (usually something involving money) to friends and family, waving, gesticulating, blowing their noses with their fingers out in the street without hesitation, and of course honking their car, motorbike or tuk tuk horns incessantly, wherever they happen to be, Cairo, or El Gouna.  In fact, the average Egyptian would probably honk his horn on a desert road with no traffic, just to hear the sound of it; or perhaps it’s that he wishes God to finally notice him.  The truth of the matter is that the average young Egyptian wants his presence felt; he wants it to be known that he is here, that his existence has some impact; that it matters; that he is not some irrelevant speck of humanity in a vast ocean of Egyptians; that his life means more than zilch in this world.

Unfortunately for this tuk tuk driver, this was not to be — at least not in a manner that he anticipated.

gouna tuk tuk
Noise and fumes: the bane of Gouna, at triple the price from two years ago!

Upon seeing that the two tourists (my wife and I) he had targeted were not even acknowledging his presence, the tuk tuk sawa’ starting talking in Arabic, not realizing I speak the language.  Eh, mish hat bussu allaya?  Tayib, anna ha’oud henna ikhayit mat bussu, which roughly translates to: what?  you’re not going to look at me? okay, I will stay here until you look at me.

This now had turned into outright harassment.

Luckily we were near one of the drop off points in downtown Gouna, where there are usually many security guys.  Seeing me walk away, the tuk tuk guy drove off, satisfied that he made an impact, however negative, in someone else’s life. He had won  He was not just a loser Egyptian schlub driving a tuk tuk for a living, a zero that no one noticed or talked to except as an occasionally useful social inferior.

I made a bee line to the security guys, knowing that in all likelihood that the annoying tuk tuk would do the usual laffa that most tuk tuks perform in that part of town, and circle back to the dropoff point.

Two security guys were standing there, so I angrily told them in rapid Arabic how my wife and I were being harassed. And just at that moment, the tuk tuk driver appeared, and I pointed at him: howa dah, I exlaimed, that’s him!

The security guys immediately sprang into action. They stopped the tuk tuk, and ordered the driver to get out of his vehicle.

It was deeply satisfying to see this young man’s expression change from a smugly taunting, predatory smirk, to one of complete disbelief at having been so quickly busted by an apparent affrangi. I walked away, knowing that at least one of Gouna’s aggressive tuk tuk drivers was in deep shit for something they do here all the time with impunity:  pester tourists who are simply trying to enjoy their time in Gouna. Most likely this son-of-a-bitch was about to have his license to work in Gouna revoked, and be banned for at least six months from having any form of employment in this resort town.

Do I feel a pang of liberal guilt over that?

Of course I do.

Kind of like this.

The moral of the story is this.

To all tuk tuk drivers: we all know and appreciate how hard it is for you guys to make an honest living, and respect that. But in return, please always treat with respect the tourist upon whom you depend to make ends meet. And just for laughs, here are few other pointers you may wish to consider:

  • Don’t smoke while driving
  • Don’t talk on your phone while driving
  • Don’t have a radio on in your cab
  • Don’t ask passengers a lot of questions
  • Don’t tailgate
  • Signal when you are about to make a  turn
  • Don’t honk the horn unless it is absolutely necessary
  • Don’t race other tuk tuks, and obey speed limits
  • Slow down for bumps in the road
  • Don’t go  the wrong way on one way streets
  • Don’t troll Gouna’s bedroom communities for rides
  • Use your headlights at night
  • Wait for other vehicles that have right of way
  • Always carry enough change for your shift

Mashi?

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Is it still New Year’s Eve in Gouna?

el gouna
Rising moon over our back yard

 

That Egyptians are a loud people is well-known.

There are many theories about this that you can find on the Internet.

Here is a typical summary explanation.

My uncle says it is a social domination thing, the concept being:

Take them (ie, win) by sound, which is a literal translation of the Arabic phrase:

خدوهم بالصوت

 

Yesterday, I talked to an Egyptian friend on my mobile.

He said, you talk so loud, like an American, so I immediately flipped the sotto voce switch.

The friend said, why are you talking in such a low, limp-dick voice?

 

This weekend, I was in Cairo.

I spoke to a relative about my experiences walking around Zamalek, which is an island in the center of Cairo, at night.

I asked her, why do people riding motorcycles drive with their lights off?

She said, don’t question it, just accept it.

I said, why are there loudspeakers on many street corners blaring calls to prayers five times a day?

She said, don’t question it, just accept it.

I said, why does everything, from getting a taxi to turn on his meter, to buying something in a store, turn into this elaborate stressful negotiation?

She said, you are obviously no longer Egyptian.

You do not belong here.

You should leave immediately.

 

I thought about this, but then remembered this was the same person who earlier in the day had put forward the theory that Ertogan is about to send the Turkish army to invade Egypt. This is normal. There are many such absurd conspiracy theories in Egypt that pass for fact.

 

I live in El Gouna, Egypt.

For many months after my arrival this past September, I stayed in a tiny flat and was subjected, nightly, to the moronic loudness of Abu Tig marina — a very touristy part of El Gouna. Then I moved to a nice villa, far away from Abu Tig.

 

This New Year’s weekend, my favorite restaurant in Abu Tig — 7th Star — was constantly packed — so much so, that I have yet been able to take my wife there for breakfast, or to enjoy a Spaghetti Bolognese lunch or supper.

 

It is now Tuesday.

How long do Egyptians celebrate New Year’s, already?

Last night, a group of baladi young Egyptians (complete with dented old wrecks parked willy-nilly in the street outside) from Giza sat in the back porch of the house next door. I reckoned they were Gizeans because they talked about Giza a lot. They had obviously rented the place for NYE, and were preparing for one more night of Egyptian jive, before decamping.

It was late afternoon.

Soon. the sun would set.

I listened, briefly to their jive conversation, which was conducted loudly in New Egypt dialect, complete with zibala, that is to say, mustawa-wati Cairene accents.

The topics were as moronic as the Abu Tig music. For example, they couldn’t stop laughing at the idea of renting a limo to take them back to Gizah, and then not paying the driver once they got there. This seemed to be a clever, funny idea. Maybe they were stoned.

 

Then the sun set, and it got cold quick, and they went inside the house, but not before  turning on some music system that piped loud “groove beats” to the outside speakers of this house.

At no point did they appear to be concerned that their loudness might bother their neighbors.

 

Later, around 2am, more music and loud talking emanated from the multi-family dwellings across the lagoon.

The same baladi guttural accents floated across the artificial canal.

The same idiotic laughing, by faceless strangers.

This went on till 3am, then it stopped.

Is it still New Year’s? Doesn’t that kind of end at some point?

 

I asked Said my bus driver yesterday what the weekend people did in West Golf, which is the section of El Gouna where I’m renting.

He said they come here mainly to get drunk — sakraneen was the word he used — and bring their girlfriends or mistresses to get laid, far from the prying eyes of Cairo.

Then they will leave.

 

But when will that happen? Today?  Tomorrow? Never?

 

I am not a misanthrope by nature. But I resent the (illusory) fact that Egyptians do not seem to sleep. El sahr, or staying up late, seems endemic.  It is as if none of them ever have to work, or lead normal lives, with normal hours, meaning, you got to bed at a reasonable hour during the week, and get up at a normal hour to go to work. This work ethic seems unknown. Instead, whether here in Gouna, or Cairo, it’s the anything-goes, strange hours culture, because this is Egypt, and don’t ask why, but this is how things are, and nobody has to work or sleep normalement, and fuck the neighbors if they don’t like the noise.

 

I’m hoping that the NYE assholes leave soon.  I’m hoping that this section of El Gouna becomes quiet again very soon, so that my wife and I can enjoy the place without being woken up at 3am by the sound of a thumping bass line from some mindless Egyptian pop song being played in the desert. I want them to go away. When do Egyptians stop celebrating NYE?

 

WHEN?

 

Since I’ve been woken up by this across-the-lagoon noise, I might as well reflect on a few other things while I’m at it.

 

I told you I went to Cairo this weekend.

I could not stay in my old bedroom in Zamalek because one of my aunts was sick and using it.

I sat with her awhile in the living room that is outside my old bedroom, and she complained about the noise from the wedding that took place the previous weekend at the state-owned “library” (it has no books) next door, which is now available for rent to event planners.

I sympathized with my aunt about the noise, and remembered when I used to watch from my bedroom balcony Her Highness, the Princessa Samiha stand on her roof, old and poor and alone, looking at the Nile. For this villa had once belonged to a daughter of a sultan (Hussein Kamel, to be precise, who ruled between 1914-17). Samiha had bought it from the Cattauis family, one of the old wealthy Jewish families who once lived in Egypt. My aunt probably did not know any of this.  Neither did the morons who used the place now as a setting for their loud weddings.  But it pleased me to know that the villa is still standing, and that a picture of King Farouk, who once visited the place, is prominently displayed in a glass case when you enter.

 

It’s getting late.

I should try to get some sleep.

In a few hours, I shall again escort my wife to the Gouna Tennis Club to play with Mourid, the tennis pro.

By noon, I hope all the NYE morons will have decamped, and gone back to Cairo, the capital of chaos, where they can shout at each other with their loud voices, and honk at each other with their loud cars, and yell at each other on their smartphones as they sit in restaurants and smoke interminable shishas and cigarettes, and in general behave like hemeer trapped in some virtual corral of their own making.

 

Me?  I just want get some sleep.

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Top Spin

gouna egypt
Gouna tennis camel

El Gouna in Egypt is a high-end resort town on the Red Sea that is serious about all things sportif.

Here are some pics of my wife hitting tennis balls with Murid, the club pro at the Gouna Tennis Club.

Murid

Call me uxurious, but I think she played terrific!

My wife had the following to say about playing with Murid:

Generally, I’m quite shy and nervous about playing tennis with anyone new–Murid was great; he made me feel comfortable and was very encouraging. I’d never played on red clay before, it’s kind of like playing in dirt, the ball doesn’t bounce very high and takes a little getting used to it. Also, it’s very windy in Gouna and that is tricky and I would always prefer a still day even in FL. You have to use top spin in the wind a lot which is not my strong suit either– I kind of do a hybridized top spin  but not the real deal.

Later, we repaired to Mood’s in Abu Tig marina for a well-deserved Gouda burger, with fries and turshi, or Egyptian pickles.

Moids El Gouna Egypt
Mood’s Fresh Ojay

Yum yum!

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