In Egyptian slang, there is a fantastic expression that transliterates to istash’feit. This comes from warak shafaf, or blotting paper. The meaning of the expression is subtle: you use it to indicate that you see something, or soak something in, or understand a situation but not very clearly.
Yesterday, my Internet service went down just before 5PM. So I called the operator and told them to connect me to the Orascom customer service.
From my experience at the Abu Tig marina apartment, I knew there is often finger pointing going on with Orascom (which seems to run things here, but I’m a little nebulous as to where their responsibilities end and begin with respect to TV and Internet) and Orange, the telco that actually provides TV and internet connectivity over the fiber that I guess is installed and maintained by Orascom.
By the way, let’s stop right here for a moment. If, like me, you are here in Gouna to “chill” and relax for a bit, you don’t want to know or care about any of this infrastructure crap.
Unfortunately, this will not be possible, if you stay in Gouna any length of time, after which you will cease to be an impervious basha and will inextricably be drawn into having to personally — ugh, the very thought of it! — deal with these low class u’mal (ie, worker bee) guys, such as the pool guys, and the water guys, and the plumber guys, and the internet guys — all of whom seem to have unclear (at least to me) relationships to Orascom and/or Orange and/or whoever really owns the place across the street.
At Abu Tig marina, for instance, there would be frequent interruptions in Internet service due to the constant construction there, so I knew all about these guys, and had to walk to the Orange Office in Abu Tig multiple times to have my service restored.
It was maddening, but I did it; at least in Abu Tig, the office was right there. Where I am now there is no local Orange office.
Are you starting to get the murky picture?
At any rate, I called Orascom to check if the fiber connection had been cut from all the construction around here (where I am now). The Orascom guy said there was no complaints about Internet connectivity in the area, and that this was an Orange problem.
So I called the Orange office, but unfortunately their offices had just closed for the day at 5PM. Luckily, from previous dealings with these clowns, I had the Orange Service number. That number, if you ever have to deal with this problem in Gouna, is:
Even though I had pressed “2” to get to someone who speaks English, it was very difficult communicating with the person I was talking to about the simple problem I was having — namely, that there was no Internet service at the villa. Finally they said they would call me back right away, and that of course did not happen.
This morning there was still no service, so I called customer service again at 7:30AM, and this time they asked my for my network ID and password for the so-called “access point” (which is Orange/Orascom speak for a WIFI router). I asked why, and he said they were going to reset it remotely, and would call me back right away. This too, of course, did not happen.
Welcome to Gouna, where life is as it should be.
To compound matters, I just got my utilities bill for the rental period between Dec 16th (when I moved in here) and Jan 15th. It was 5,000 LE, or around $284 US dollars (at current rates).
I was floored by this amount, because:
- I have been told it would be be less than half that (around 2000 LE)
- I barely use any of the facilities here: I seldom cook, never use the AC, and don’t have much by way of laundry to do. I am here by myself, and most of the villa is dark most of the time except for the living room.
- I do not use the pool or ever sit outside at night, mooning about my wife, with exterior lights blazing; it is simply too cold to do either.
I could not understand, therefore, why this bill would be so high — but the agent said that it was what Orascom was charging (yes, them again), for electricity, TV, the pool maintenance (this is very same pool that is too frigid to use), and watering the garden.
In conclusion, I have a few words of advice for you, if you are thinking of renting a villa or apartment in Gouna long-term
Either have it in writing that all utilities (including electricity, water, gardening, internet and TV) are part of the rental agreement, or have it specified in the contract what the ordinary carrying charges are for the property you are renting.
Better yet, seriously think about if you wish to live for an extended amount of time in a third world country where you probably don’t speak the language, although, if you do so, even at a modicum level, you will be undoubtedly delighted at the creativity of Egyptian slang.
For example, touristas are sometimes referred in Gouna patois to as “el ahs,” meaning they freely emote in the sereer — a charmingly apt, if of course horribly sexist phrase, that no-one would ever think of using in polite company.
Frankly, what El Gouna has done for me is make me appreciate the life of leisure I had in Florida, without having to constantly deal with all these sorts of problems.
The nateega (or result) of all this I am now rethinking whether I want to stay another month (after my March 15 lease expires), or even if I wish to return in the Fall to the opaque wilderness of the Red Sea. You could say that, after 5 months of living here, istash’feit El Gouna: a charmingly succinct way of saying that I’m still on the fence about this shadily sunny, oblique place.