Our wedding day was wonderful, truly great, quite honestly the best day of my life. I’d hardly had any time to think about it as I’d been revising for my OU Psychology degree exams which took place three days before and we were moving house within the village a few weeks later. With the festive season looming two weeks after that, my nerves were shredded, shot to hell really. But come the day, I was relaxed and happy and looking forward to becoming Mr MOB’s Mrs MOB, if you know what I mean. There simply wasn’t space or time to arrange a honeymoon but we didn’t mind because it didn’t matter where we were or who we were with because we had each other – altogether now.....Awwwww!
By the time we hit January at full pelt with short days, long nights, temperatures below zero and freezing rain, we knew the time had come to head off in search of a more temperate climate. “Egypt”, we trilled together as we came across a reasonably priced package deal promising soft white sands, blue skies, spectacular coral reefs and an all inclusive nosh setup.
“I can’t wait to see the Pyramids”, I cried with excitement, as Himself tapped away, booking our holiday online. My childhood had been a daydream of discovering exotic lands as I pored over my mother’s National Geographic magazines and now I was finally going to see the real thing; the stuff of dreams.
Now I don’t know about you but there is something disconcerting about taking a coach ride from the airport to the hotel with a battalion of armed guards to smooth your way.
“I don’t remember signing up as an extra in a Hollywood movie”, himself said, as he eyed up the trained killers decked out in desert coloured combat gear, designed to make them blend in with their surroundings. “Shame about the contrasting gun metal coloured Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders - bit of a giveaway that”, he added, as he searched under his chair for a flak jacket.
“Yeah, that and the multicoloured headgear seem to be this seasons must-have if you want to merge with the natives”, I said, rifling through my bag for a t-towel and a pea-shooter, preparing for the worst should our attackers decide to take a few Western looking hostages.
Bailing out at the hotel some one hour later, I almost kissed the ground in thanks to the Lord above for a safe but life affirming journey. There’s nothing like contemplating an all out gun battle and seeing your life flash before you to get the holiday off to a great start. I mean, who wouldn’t want to risk their life trying to hang onto a suitcase full of T.K.Max holiday gear in assorted gregarious colours. After all, you’d have nowt to wear if the bandits toe’d it off with your XXL threads and call me a liar but that would surely spoil the rest of your relaxing break, wouldn’t it?
Lounging by the Olympic sized pool catching a few rays is fine for most people but if you’re a dark haired fair skinned Celt like me, all that gets you is sunstroke, sunburn, blisters that pop, skin peeling in great chunks that make your fellow tourists heave in horror before you eventually go white again. It’s really not a good look or worth the hassle and besides, what’s the point of sitting under an umbrella avoiding the sun? I can do that here, it costs nothing, and there’s not a weapon in sight. Johnny Holiday rep rubbed his hands in anticipation as we weaved our way towards him, part dazed by the sun and heat, part pissed from the cheap cocktails we had slung down our necks to calm ourselves after our journey. We opted for a trip to Cairo to see the much anticipated city, bazaars and Pyramids.
“Well then, that’s sorted, you leave Wednesday, return Friday. Now, as you have a day or two to spare, perhaps you’d like to consider a day experiencing traditional Bedouin village life”, he asked as he passed us the details. “Sure”, we said, “that sounds great”, as we handed over a wad of cash, cementing the deal for the next day.
Well let me tell you, riding on a Camel is no ordinary experience. There’s nothing better than sitting on a cantankerous old fart of an animal, about a hundred feet high and as wide as a razor blade. The sheer joy of having nothing to cling to other than a sweaty hump as it swings about 20 degrees left then right whilst bobbing forward at the same time caused me no end of terror. But that doesn’t equal the absolute delight I experienced as it decided, without warning mind you, to have a wee rest when it wanted to. Who can blame it, carrying a screaming lardy butt in blazing sun filled skies for its trouble? But just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, down went the left leg sharply followed by the right whilst its arse was still 90 feet in the air and before I had a clue as to what the hell happened, I was soaring through the ether, face first towards terra firma and getting myself a wee head injury for my troubles. Oh yes, lying spread-eagled, face down on the burning sand in front of 50 or so still mounted riders just made my day. I had a face the colour of a well slapped arse.
Still, there’s always an upside if you look for it, the souvenirs from that trip were incomparable to any tat I have bought before; besides the multiple trauma flashbacks, we got to take home a few thousand Camel fleas. As we ate dinner in the archetypal Lawrence of Arabia type Bedouin tents, we looked like we were moving even when we sat deathly still. Growing almost fond of them by the end of the meal, we took them for a walk up a nearby hill to watch a magnificent sunset that was both spectacular and romantic. As day gave way to dusk, we walked to a hallowed area of the village that was snugly nestled by mountains, joined hands as a group and experienced a Bedouin blessing which was both peaceful and uplifting. Traditional music was played for us around open camp fires before we returned to our hotel for a nightcap. As we left, I felt sadness that such a proud people had been reduced to becoming a tourist attraction, but if not that, how would they survive in an ever increasingly commercial world? But they did it with pride and dignity and at least tomorrow they can feed their children.
We never made it to Cairo. 90% of the hotel guests, including us, caught a dose of the Nefertiti trots. We couldn’t stray more than ten feet from a toilet and if you weren’t quick off the mark to perform the old Pharoe quick step, you were done for. In a lesser hotel, some enterprising young Egyptian could have made his fortune selling toilet rolls for the price of a gold bar for he would have had a captive audience only too willing to swap their first born baby for a roll of Andrex. Thankfully, our hotel was a sumptuous cool sanctuary of air conditioned marble, soft seats and a bar that served until the last agony riddled tourists could feel no more pain and lurched off back to their room to sleep in peace until the alcohol wore off.
I must have missed that part in those National Geographic magazines.