Day one – Traveling to El Gouna
Egypt is such an important part of my life. I wanted to take Mr Sexy Pants (MSP) so that he could get to know the country that is so close to my heart.
I set the alarm for six am. MSP wanted to leave for the airport at eight am. I knew I’d never hear the end of it if I was late. Our flight was at 12.45, so we had to be there at 10.45. MSP wanted to be there at 9.45 to allow plenty of leeway. It’s just over one hour’s drive to the airport but MSP wanted to allow an hour and 45 minutes. He was worried we would get stuck in traffic going out of Ipswich. I refrained from telling him not to put that message out to the Universe. I had been down that road before and I knew I was wasting my breath!
As it happened I was ready at 8.30. MSP was ready at the same time, so he wasn’t really able to tell me off. I don’t know what was going on, but the roads were empty. Google gave our ETA as 9.39 am.
We’re on the Happy Food eating plan so we hunted for a restaurant that met our needs (high fat, high protein, low carb, no sugar, no gluten and no pasteurised cow’s dairy). I ordered a full English breakfast that included baked beans. A little bit of sugar in baked beans won’t hurt, I told myself. We are on holiday after all.
When the breakfast arrived I suddenly realised that I forgot to check if the sausages were gluten free. It turns out they weren’t, so I pushed them to one side.
On the plane we treated ourselves to a small bottle of rose gold prosecco each. We were celebrating our holiday, my new job and staying in my old job for six months. We promised ourselves that we’d open Andy’s bottle of Veuve Cliquot when we got back to the UK. I suggested we open it back in August when I got my job at Ansaback, to which MSP replied that maybe we should see if I could stick it out first!
The journey was uneventful, and time was dragging until I remembered my trick of asking Archangel Metatron to create a time warp, to speed up time and transport us to Gouna in an instant. I then fell into a deep sleep for over an hour.
When I awoke it was all kicking off. An Egyptian guy was shouting about something and the stewards moved him to the front of the plane. He kept trying to move back to his original seat and the stewards kept moving him back to the front.
The plane landed early but the pilot asked to remain in our seats with the seatbelts fastened as there was a security issue and they were waiting for the police to board the plane. We were eventually let off the plane about 30 minutes later. The pilot explained that they had to make a decision whether to divert the plane or carry on to the destination and let the police deal with it there.
At Hurghada airport we looked out for our taxi driver. My friend Essam had asked his regular driver to collect us. We were expecting to see a sign bearing our names. We looked around, but we couldn’t see anyone. Just as I pulled out my phone a man came up. “Sam?” he asked. “Andy?” We confirmed that we were indeed Sam and Andy.
“I wonder how he knew who we were?” said MSP.
“Essam probably told him to look for a mozza” (beautiful girl in Egyptian Arabic). I chuckled to myself at the joke, but MSP didn’t seem to see the funny side.
When we arrived at Gouna we then met Essam and settled in a bar to eat and for MSP to watch the football. I enjoyed a delicious rib eye steak and the three of us shared a bottle of Beausoliel red wine. England won the football 4-0.
The apartment was beautiful. There were two chaise lounges outside overlooking the lagoon and the pool.
I didn’t sleep well, which I think was due to the wine and not being able to get the air conditioning to work.
Day Two – A day out in a boat
Shortly after we woke up Essam texted, asking us to meet at the Marina, so he could take us on his boat. It was a sunny day but a bit chilly as we skipped over the waves.
When we arrived at our destination the sun was warm though and we decided to take a dip in the clear blue water. I felt very nervous about venturing off the side of the boat. Essam pulled the ladder down to assist but to be honest that looked even more daunting. I sat there dangling my legs over the side of the boat in the water, which felt a bit cold, trying to pluck up the courage to jump in. MSP, Essam and Essam’s friend Mohamed tried to coax me in.
Before I knew it, MSP jumped on the boat and pushed me in the water. Shrieking I tried to hold onto the boat, which made the experience much worse. I fell into the water with a splash and immediately went under. Coughing, spluttering and crying, I emerged, grabbed at the ladder in panic and clung to it. I was grateful that Essam had pulled it down after all. The boys all started shouting advice and MSP fussed around me. I told them all to shut up and leave me alone to calm down.
I was secretly pleased that MSP had made the decision for me. The sea felt so good and we swam around for a while before getting back on the boat.
Getting back on the boat was no mean feat. I grabbed onto a metal handle and pulled myself up the ladder and on to the back of the boat. I was conscious that my great big, scantily clad, white bum was sticking up in the air. Not very attractive. “Fuck,” I exclaimed as I hauled myself on. I was convinced I was going to fall straight back in. Surprising myself, I managed to stay on the boat. Shaking, I moved towards the main part of the boat and wrapped a towel around me.
Essam produced a bottle of Castello white wine and Greek salad, purchased from the local supermarket. It was 11 am and I was dubious about drinking wine. I’m a lightweight at the best of times, especially when it comes to wine and especially when it comes to daytime drinking. We had also skipped breakfast, our eating plan includes intermittent fasting, so we were drinking on an empty stomach. Essam assured me that the wine was very light and only produced a slight buzz. Surprisingly that did prove to be the case. The wine, salad and locally produced hummus were delicious. We followed up with a sweet mandarin. Essam plugged a Nespresso machine into the cigarette lighter and we had a shot of espresso before heading back.
Days three, four and five – More Gouna and travelling to Cairo
The next couple of days were uneventful. The weather was windy and a bit cold. We took the opportunity to chill out. We enjoyed lots of nice food and wine at various bars and restaurants. On our last night we ate at a seafood restaurant. MSP ordered a huge seafood platter with all sorts of fish and seafood, including crab and lobster. I’m not a fan of seafood, so I ordered another rib eye steak. The steak was dry and tasteless. After our meal I went to the loo. While I was there the manager asked if we enjoyed our meal. MSP told him I was disappointed with my steak. He offered to cook me a small piece of steak, which he said was much better.
“Ana shabana bgd wallahi,” I said clutching my stomach. “I’m full up, I swear to God.”
The manager laughed at my Egyptian street language. He insisted we try the other steak, which was delicious.
On day five we took the bus to Cairo. It was a five-and-a-half-hour journey. I used my Archangel Metatron trick again and that, along with a couple of audio books, meant the journey passed quite quickly.
The hustle and bustle of Cairo was a sharp contrast to Gouna. We got off the bus and were plunged into a hubbub of noises and colours. MSP was attempting to retrieve our luggage. An insistent man in a galabia shouted at me, “taxi, taxi!” “Hallus chuckrun,” I replied. He turned to MSP. “Taxi, taxi,” he repeated over and over. MSP has travelled a lot, but he usually has his BFF, Barry, to look after him. I felt fiercely protective. “Hallus, chruckren!” I said again as I whacked the taxi driver on the arm, which admittedly was a bit uncalled for.
We arrived at our hotel to find the swimming pool was shut and the casino was tiny, without much going on. In the evening we went on a Nile Cruise with oriental buffet and entertainment. It was a great evening. The belly dancer was amazing. I was mesmerised by her ample, perky bosoms, which jerked up and down in time to the music.
A couple were sitting on the table next to us. The lady was wearing a niqab. I felt her looking at me. I looked up and she was staring at me through the slit in her black veil. Feeling slightly uncomfortable I looked away. I could sense she was still staring. I looked at her again and sure enough she was still staring at me. Again, I looked away. The lady continued to stare. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. Eventually she looked away.
I sat there pondering why anyone would want to wear a niqab. During the time I converted to Islam I considered covering my hair but never a full veil. I found it difficult to understand why someone would do that. It occurred to me that she probably found me strange with my hair, face and cleavage on show. I reminded myself that we’re all different and I could choose to embrace those differences.
When I looked up again, this time I smiled. The lady smiled back and looked at way. I felt a warm glow of satisfaction. We exchange a few more smiles throughout the evening.
At the end of the evening I went to the loo. As I was finishing off, I stood there with my black, lacy knickers around my ankles and long dress slung over my arm. Someone tried the door and I hadn’t locked it properly. The lady with the niqab stood there with my full frontal staring her in the face. We were both mortified, stuttering apologies as she quickly dived into the next toilet.
Days six, seven and eight – Cairo and travelling to Sinai
On day six we took a taxi to Al Manzil in Korba, where we enjoyed an Egyptian breakfast comprising of halloumi omelette, fries, eggplant dip, falafel and bread. Yes, we did break our eating plan and indulge in some bread. I’d like to say that was our first and only slip, but I’d be lying.
After breakfast we took a taxi to the Pyramids. This was my third trip. To be honest I’m always disappointed. In contrast on day 7 we looked around the Cairo Museum, which was also my third trip and it never ceases to amaze me.
MSP was wearing a Brazil t-shirt on the day we visited the Pyramids. We were bombarded from all sides by people trying to sell us camel rides and nick nacks. One of them shouted at MSP,
“You from Brazil?”
“Si mi amigo,” he replied.
A trip to Cairo is never complete without meeting up with my old friends that I know from when I used to live here. It was particularly good to spend time with Amy, one of my best friends. MSP stayed at the hotel watching old Bond and Rambo films so that I could spend some quality time with Amy.
On day eight we took an Uber to Cairo airport. We were surprised it was so expensive. 80 le for a ten-minute journey. At the airport the driver asked us for 60 le for the entrance fee. Afterward we realised the reason for the expensive taxi ride was that it included the entrance fee.
The driver took us to the terminal.
“Is this terminal one?” I asked. He didn’t speak any English. He said something about location and kept pointing to his uber app and at my phone.
Inside the terminal MSP and I looked at the screens. We felt a bit alarmed when we were unable to see our flight.
“Excuse me,” said a guy in his thirties. “Are you looking for the 11.40 am flight to Sharm? It’s at terminal one. This is terminal three. I’ll take you there.”
“How much?” I said, eying him warily. There’s no such thing as a free ride, especially in Egypt. I was too late though. MSP had already handed over our bags.
“Don’t give him our bags,” I shrieked like a banshee. “Always agree a price first.”
We hurried after the guy who had rushed off with our bags. We followed him down a couple of escalators, eventually arriving at his car. He put our bags in the back of his car.
“How much?” I said again.
I felt anger rising inside me.
“Mishkella”, I said loudly. (Problem). “Give us our bags back.” I looked around frantically, hoping to see the tourist police but there was no-one in sight.
“Yeah, give us our bags back,” said MSP.
The driver looked alarmed.
“Okay, okay. I’ll show you the price list.”
He showed us the price list, which stated 120 le (around £5). That was a lot more reasonable, but I still begrudged paying it. I felt we had little choice though as we needed to get to the other terminal in time to catch our flight. Reluctantly we got into his car.
He looked at me in his rear-view mirror.
“Did you live in Egypt before?” he asked.
“Yes. I lived a year and a half in Taba and then a year and a half in Cairo.” I confirmed.
“Were you married to an Egyptian guy?” He glanced at MSP. “I mean where did you learn to speak Arabic?”
“Yes, I learnt Arabic while I was here. Ana bit calim Arabic shwia shwia.” (I speak a little bit of Arabic).
“I thought so for you to be arguing with a taxi driver.”
He turned to MSP.
“You know Mo Saleh?”
“Of course,” MSP replied.
“Mo Saleh, Mo Saleh, Mo Saleh,” he chanted.
When we arrived at Terminal One he told us we could pay in sterling if we wished. “Just £10 English pounds.”
“You’ve got to be fucking joking,” I retorted.
We located our flight on the screen, but we were concerned that the time of the flight was 11.40. I’d received an email to say the flight had been moved back an hour. It was now gone 11am and I was concerned we might miss our flight.
“Losamat,” (Losamat literally means please but is also used to say excuse me.) I said to a member of staff. “Calim Englese?”
“Just speak to him in English,” snapped MSP.
“Do you know what I’m saying?” I demanded. “I’m asking him if he speaks English.”
“Just say it in English,” he retorted.
We stood in the queue waiting to go through security. I was quietly seething.
“I told you we should have left earlier”, said MSP.
“Oh well, at least you got the opportunity to prove that you were right and I was wrong. I know how important it is for you to always be right,” I said sarcastically, sounding like my mother.
I started crying. MSP immediately put his arm around me. I melted into him and we made friends.
“I love him so much”, I thought. “I’m so lucky.”
We landed at Sharm airport. As we stood there drinking in the view of the mountains and the warmth of the sun, I felt the light, loving touch of Sinai’s energy dancing around me. As we drove to Nuweiba I admired the majestic mountains.
Arriving in Nuweiba I was shocked at how basic and remote it was. I had warned MSP but I think I was more shocked than he was. In fact, he seemed completely unfazed.
Days nine, ten and eleven
We enjoyed a very quiet couple of days on the beach at Casa Del Mare sunbathing and swimming in the sea. At first MSP was worried he’d be bored but he found a Stephen King book to get stuck into. He also enjoyed swimming around the coral reef where he saw lots of fish including a spotted ray and what sounded to me like a Lion Fish from the way he described it.
I met a great guy named Mady. He seemed quite interested in spirituality. I told him about the Buddhism I practice and gave him a couple of my Art of Living (Buddhist) magazines.
We met a Bedouin girl on the beach. She asked us to look at her bracelets.
“Hallus chuckrun,” I said.
“Just look,” she kept saying.
“Hallus chuckrun,” I kept repeating. I was curious though and I couldn’t help having a look.
I saw a lovely pair of lounge pants with an array of beautiful colours.
“They’re nice,” said MSP.
“They are,” I agreed. “They’ll be too small for me though.”
The girl held them out to me.
“I’m too fat,” I explained, patting the white flesh above my bikini bottoms.
“No,” she said and showed me how the waistline expanded. I tried them on. To my surprise they did fit me.
MSP said they looked nice, so I asked how much. The girl said 200 le. I said 100. She said 150 and I said no, 100. She showed me another top. MSP said he didn’t like it. I wasn’t sure about it, but I felt compelled to buy it. I thought it might look good with jeans or leggings and my wardrobe could do with a few more bohemian items.
The girl said 300 le for both. “200,” I said. I didn’t want to get ripped off, but I also wanted to give her a fair price. 200 le seemed fair but it’s difficult to know.
She kept insisting on 300. I kept insisting on 200.
“My mother say no, no, no,” she cried, slapping her wrist. Then she buried her head in the crook of her elbow and pretended to cry. I looked at MSP and we burst out laughing.
Another girl came along and started showing us her wares.
“Hallus chuckrun,” I kept repeating again.
“You’re too late,” said MSP.
The first girl was still trying to seal the deal.
“Maybe tomorrow,” I said.
“Tomorrow madassah,” she replied.
“Yanni madassah?” (What does madassah mean?) I asked.
“Tomorrow I have school.”
We finalised the deal at 200 le. The other girl watched me hand over money with a glint of envy in her eyes. She kept showing me her wares.
“Malesh,” I kept saying. Sorry.
“No malesh. S’not beautiful – malesh.”
MSP showed her his Brazil t-shirt. “How much for this?” he asked.
The girl tutted and tossed her head.
There was something cute about her, despite her angry and sulky demeanour. In the end she gave up, saying she’d return tomorrow. She did have some pretty ornamental eggs and wooden camels, so I kind of hoped she would come back.
The next morning, I lay on the beach, drying off after a dip in the sea. It was MSP’s turn to take a dip. Looking up, I saw the sulky girl heading my way with another young girl in tow. I wasn’t in the mood. I just wanted to chill.
Laying down, I shut my eyes.
“Good morning,” I heard her shout in greeting. I ignored her, hoping she’d go away.
“Good morning,” she called once again. I still ignored her.
On the third good morning I thought I’d better open my eyes and say hello. Not least because she was standing right over me.
The girl was talking. I’m not sure exactly what she was saying but I think the gist of it was, “I missed school today because you promised to buy something.”
She showed me her stuff. I picked up one of the pretty eggs.
“How much?” I asked.
“Two Egyptian pounds?” I asked incredulously. That certainly didn’t seem like a fair price. I was determined to pay more and at that price I’ll buy all the eggs, I thought.
I collected up four eggs and a wooden camel. The wooden camel would go nicely with Andy’s wooden animal collection. My auntie might like the eggs as she has already has a few. If not, I would have them.
“How much?” I asked.
I felt a bit faint. Maybe I’d been a bit hasty collecting them all. I put all the eggs back bar one, so I had one egg and a wooden camel.
“How much now?”
“100,” I replied.
The girl did a cute little dance and pulled a face to demonstrate her displeasure.
“100,” I said again.
“My mother say no, no, no,” she cried, slapping her wrist.
I looked around for MSP, hoping for some assistance.
“Fen gouzy?” Where’s my husband? (In Egypt people often don’t understand the concept of boyfriends, plus I didn’t know how to say that).
I turned back to the girls.
“Min gouzy say no, no, no,” I said, slapping my wrist. The girls laughed.
MSP did come back shortly after that and he insisted firmly to the girls that 100 le was our final offer.
“100 pounds s’not beautiful,” said the girl with a sniff. She was mollified when MSP gave her his Reebok trainers though.
We played cards in the evenings. MSP insisted on explaining to me what I was doing wrong and how I could play better. Instead of getting angry as usual, I just kept smiling. I thought to myself how different our relationship could be if we weren’t constantly in a power struggle to prove each other wrong all the time. I could choose to see MSP’s advice as helpful rather than patronising.
On the last day we travelled to Sharm where we stayed in at Baron Palms Resort, which is a luxurious all-inclusive five-star hotel. Our flight was due to leave at 3.30 am so we retired to bed at 8 pm to catch a few hours sleep before we left. Thanks go to Barry, who came up with the idea of staying in Sharm, rather than having to drive for 90 minutes from Nuweiba.
The hotel was fabulous. We chilled out by the beach and pool. Unfortunately, it was a bit too cold to go right in. In the evening we had a candlelit dinner at the poolside. We both ordered a rack of lamb, which was delicious. The mash potato was less so, having a strong peppermint flavour. I likened it to toothpaste. Andy said it was more like detergent!
In Sinai, particularly Sharm, people were surprised to see Brits. It’s unusual to see Brits in Sinai these days as there are no direct flights between the UK and Sharm, ever since the incident that happened a couple of years ago.
I must admit I was nervous about travelling over night, especially as I was due to start a new fulltime job the next day. We also had to change flights at Turkey. When we travelled home from Cyprus last year our late flight was delayed, meaning we didn’t arrive home until 6 am and it took me a week to recover. The flight had been tortuous as I was too uncomfortable to sleep but too tired to do anything to keep my mind occupied. This time I was prepared with a pillow and an audio book, which combined help me sleep and kept me occupied when I wasn’t sleeping.
As it turns out the journey was easy and almost pleasant. The few hours sleep we managed to catch contributed to that.
I started my new fulltime job the next day and I’m sure you’ll get to hear about that in a later blog post.