Goodbye, Egypt

gouna

The ghosts of Abu Tig marina

Tomorrow is my last full day in the dusty resort town of El Gouna, Egypt, which is on the Red Sea.

By the time I leave on Saturday, I will have spent a total of 6 months and 28 days here. Long time, but soon I will be a ghost, and the few people whom I did meet and befriend will forget about me quick enough. In no time at all, it will be as if I was never here.

I leave knowing that I met some really nice people, and also hooked up for probably one last time with old acquaintances and family.

One old friend in particular was incredibly generous in paying for a service to guide my wife around at Cairo airport when she came to visit in January. I do not forget things like that.

I came here to escape an America that had elected an abomination as President of the United States. With all the insults he and members of his party were hurling at Americans of my ethnicity, I no longer felt safe to live there.

And so I went to Nice, France, for a few weeks, then came here. I ended up staying in an apartment in Abu Tig marina, then 2 different and quite lovely villas. When I arrived, it was really hot, then it got really cold, now the weather is perfect. Along the way, I was adopted by a cat whom my wife named Sandy.

My main objective coming here was to determine if Gouna would be a suitable place to retire on a modest income.  A secondary one was to lose weight:  I had contracted an illness a few years ago, and the medicine I was given to treat it caused my weight to balloon.

I have come to the conclusion that, for a variety of reasons, Gouna is indeed a lovely place to visit, but… unsuitable for any extended period of time.

There are things here that do get under your skin, so to speak:  the mosquitoes, the flies, the noise in certain parts of Gouna, the annoying tuc tucs, the ubiquitous cigarette smoking, the endless construction, unstable internet connectivity, the workmen who regularly intrude on your rental property while chattering on their phones, the various cliques, especially the entitled ones, and the blistering heat.

It can be quite isolating here to be by yourself for a long period of time.

There is very little to do, unless you’re rich, and have a boat that you can take out for spins to the nearby islands; the beaches on the mainland are quite drab.

Of course there are events, such as squash (which I used to play in my teens) tournaments, music (I was actually once in a rock band) festivals, and kite surfing championships.

There is also tennis and diving and snorkeling in what remains of the reef, the inevitable “desert safaris” that you can take in a rented ATV, horse riding, playing golf, and there are also the bar nightclubs where people go to party — but none of these things hold any interest to me whatsoever, as I am not in my 20s or 30s: I have reached an age where I no longer have as much time left to waste on what I consider largely superficial endeavors.

At a certain point I advertised in a local paper the idea of a book club that would take place at the Gouna library.  There was no interest whatsoever. Gouna is not a place where people are particularly interested in culture (except for the film festival); this is not why they are here:  they come here for the reasons that most people go to high-end resort getaways, which do not include joining book clubs.

I am happy to report that I was able to lose quite a bit weight.  When I return to Florida next week, after spending a few days in NYC, I shall continue with my weight loss program, but will begin to focus on strengthening my muscles and doing cardio workouts on my bicycle to increase my stamina.

I have tried to not lose the weight too quickly, as I did not want my skin to start sagging.

gouna

so long, fat clothes

But I have managed to go from size 44″ waistline to a size 36 in 7 months. Not bad. As a result, I am donating to charity some of the clothes I brought with me. I’m also leaving the electric heater I purchased in Gouna, as well as the famous self-supporting mosinet, a pair of sneakers, a belt, and a few other items– none of which I shall ever need again. I like travelling light, especially after I injured my back when I arrived here, from carrying an overstuffed suitcase, and couldn’t sleep right for a month.

When I return to Florida, I hope that the humidity will restore the elasticity of my skin which has completely dried out in this desert climate, causing lines to appear on my face which were not there before.

That aside, I have a very long trip ahead of me on Saturday.  The plane to Cairo leaves at 5:30am so I have to leave this villa at 3:30am to get to the airport by taxi.  My smartphone just died again, so I cannot use it as an alarm, but I was able to add an alarm clock extension to my Chromebook browser, and it works great.

I was supposed to take the 10am flight from Cairo to JFK, but that has now been delayed to 1PM. This means I will getting back to NY in the evening instead of mid afternoon as I had planned. I will also have a six-hour wait at Cairo airport, prior to taking a very long trip across the Atlantic in economy class.

By the way, on Monday, I plan to catch Jon Hamm in Beirut at the Loew’s theatre on 68th and Broadway. It will be a distinct pleasure to be passing through my old neighborhood, in the city I will always love — but it’s too bad the M104 bus doesn’t stop by Grand Central anymore.

One last thing, I have written quite frequently in this blog since my arrival, but this is the final post I shall be writing while in Egypt.

I have tried to scrupulously record my daily experiences. I ended up writing quite an astonishing amount of material (for me), which I hope to be able to transform into a work of fiction that deals more directly with some of the things I have observed or imagined but not written about in this blog.

All in all, coming to Gouna for an extended period was a worthwhile experience. Inevitably there were a few disappointments along the way, but I am glad to be returning to my home country — despite the absolute chaos in America right now — after such a long sojourn, and once again be with wife and family.

Goodbye, Egypt:  I wish you all the best.

leaving america

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رائع

Moods sheppie

The word رائع (ra’ie<3>) means gorgeous and that is how the weather has been in Gouna the last two days.

I have only 13 full days left in Egypt, then I return to America.

My thoughts are already there, though I am enjoying immensely these last two weeks here.

I went to Mood’s yesterday for lunch, and met only the second American I have encountered on this 7 month journey; first there was a fellow who also comes from NYC, and then yesterday it was a man from Ohio who is married to an Egyptian woman.

We talked for two hours, about many things, including the grotesque buffoon currently stinking up the White House, as everyone was following the match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace, and there were cheers when Salah scored the winning goal, with the beautiful Red Sea and marina as a backdrop. The big match for me will be Real Madrid vs Juventus, on Tuesday at 8:45 PM. I will go to San Siro in Downtown to watch that epic clash.

I also saw at Moods a young German male shep who of course reminded me of Perfection, our lovely sheppie that died late last year.

egyptian bird

The plumage doesn’t enter into it

When I came back home, I found this poor bird that had flown into the huge living room window and alas was not moving.

At first I thought it was just pining for the fjords, but then I realized it was deceased.

I hope all the other birds that live in the birdhouse that’s on the back porch are more careful.

Meanwhile, I’m toying with the idea of buying a ticket to see The Band’s Visit on Broadway. This would be for the Sunday 15th of April matinee show.

Usually I looked down on matinees (the blue haired crowd, etc) but I’m jonesing to see this musical, despite how it seems that the Egyptian roles seem to be have reduced to spectators, while the actors playing Israelis steal the show — not the first time they have stolen anything, of course: they just killed 17 Gazeans to prove it: lives, land, to them, what’s the diff? But with Tony Shaloub no longer in the cast, I’m not sure.

Just walking down 47th street again (where the Barrymore theater is located) would be a thrill, even if I don’t go see it, as I truly love NY, minus the Tel Aviv West aspect of it, and am, and will always be, a New Yorker, a marginalized immigrant who literally came off a boat on Pier 57 with not a dime in his pockets — which is about as New York as it gets.

garbage

The ageing piece of fat stinking garbage on his way to go golfing with Hannity in FLA this weekend

I am looking forward to returning to my adopted country.

There is a sweeping cultural change afoot, and I want to be there for it, as we attempt to eliminate the unfair advantage America’s electoral system gives to rurality.

leaving america

The band’s visit

 

the band's visit poster

So why are the Egyptian guys all the way in the back on some dusty wind-swept dune?

I’m writing this on a beautiful Sunday morning, while listening to Gouna radio. This is a really chill station, with eclectic, pleasantly relaxing music  that suits the ambiance of El Gouna to a tee. You can turn it on low, and just groove to it in the background as you go about your business, which of course is living life as it should be lived.

Okay, so the main point of today’s post is to show my finicky wife more pics of the new villa I am renting. To cut to the chase, I would sum up by saying this villa is quite airy inside, with significantly better views from the bedrooms and the ample living room and MUCH larger dining room windows than the previous one.  There is a sense of space here, and the smell of the plants that waft in from the impressive garden are marvelous.

But first, some preliminaries for those of you who may be new to this blog.

I am an American expat who has spent the last six and a half months in Egypt (after a few days in Nice, France).  I have been in El Gouna since the middle of September, so I’ve been here 6 months, give or take.  I plan to remain in Egypt another 30 days, and will return to NYC — insha’Allah! – on April 17th, which is when my visa expires.

I left the United States in 2017 because, as an Arab-American, I could not tolerate living under the thumb of the grotesquely obscene Trump presidency. Nothing since then has changed my mind.

With each passing day, the level of corruption and venality and sordidness of the retrograde regime currently in the White House (and the submissives in Congress who have bent over and parted their lily-white cheeks for The Donald) further reveals itself.

You know what, at age 66, I don’t need this crap.

Alas, I return in about 4 weeks to America.

But where the heart matters, I shall spend time in Westchester with my mother, who will be recovering from surgery.

Perhaps during that time, I may be able to catch The Band’s Visit, which I loved as a movie, and yearn to see on Broadway. Most importantly, I hope that Mum recovers smartly from her ordeal, and that all will be fine again.

Following that, I shall return to the tedium that is Florida and be with my wife — who is the only other reason of the heart why I can tolerate it there — for the summer.

She has decisions to make, if we’re to discontinue this ersatz bi-country phase of our long marriage.

Does she want to keep her store going?  Could she live in Gouna for 9 months, starting in October, in this new villa I have rented, without getting really bored?

Is this the right place for us?  Does it have the correct mix of quiet, yet proximity to things (I just discovered the Sea Cineman is a five minute walk away!), provide an agreeable living space, and, most importantly to me, an affordable, direct view of the sea, something I have longed for since 2001?

So far, almost everything about this new place has turned out as hoped.

The north winds keep the bugs away, and the type of people who live on this cove are far more upscale than the loud weekenders who often ruined my three-month stay in the area known as West Golf. It is quite private here.

There is no constant sound of rumbling buses, due to a magnificent front garden that reminds me of Tozeur, in Tunisia, and the smell of the sea air is exhilarating. The gardeners have been told not to come on the grounds after 10am, and that is being respected.  There’s no pool, so no pool man to worry about constantly showing up unexpectedly; and swimming in the lagoon is quite grand.

I have slept like a baby since coming here (once I got rid of two or three skeeters:  I have become a rather expert mosquito hunter in Gouna), with a fresh pleasant breeze coming in through the screened bedroom windows at night.

So here, finally, is the newest gallery of  pics to show my wife what this place is like.  Ordinarily I would not post this many — it’s a time-consuming pain in the butt to resize and compress 35 photographs!

(If we do return to Gouna in October, I am most definitely getting a better camera that will allow me to take hi-def snaps of the wildlife and the moon hovering over the lagoon, and all the other points of interest that I have yet to photograph:  I want to upload the sort of extraordinary pics one can take here, as well as the more unspoiled of vistas further South.)

But we have to decide within 10 days or so, in other to ensure the place will be available commencing October, so this rather extensive tour of the place should give Zouz (my wife) a good idea as to what to expect. By the way, there is a barky dog nearby, so I don’t think Sandy would have grooved here; she is fine where she is, with plenty of food and water. in her rightful placey.

Okay, so without further ado…

washing machine

The washing machine is in the kitchen! No separate laundry room; or dryer for that matter, or even pegs and a drying rack

staircase to the sunroof and master bedroom on 3rd floor

bags unpacked!

bags still packed

6am this morning, the view from my villa of the Red Sea

dining room: 12’W x 14’L

downstairs (foyer) bathroom

guest bathroom

guest bedroom: 12’W x 14’L

living room: 12’W x 20’L (plus cathedral ceiling, as is the case in almost every room)

gouna egypt

master bedroom: 12’W x 17’L — the faux leopard skin couch is nothing if not campy Phyllis Dillerish

spare room with xtra TV and mozinet

master bathroom

sunroof terrace

modern micro and oven

I am going to buy oranges and sqeeze my own fresh OJ!

sideways view of fridge

the kitchen: 8’W x 12’L

Nice, huh? Who knows, maybe some of my old band mates who live part-time in Gouna will drop by before I leave. Then again, I’m not holding my breath.

leaving america