I’m in the Mood for a Magic Carpet Ride
For a large part of this year I have felt really lost.I don’t want to dive into a mass of clichés here but the phrase ‘square peg, round hole’ comes to mind. Recently when people have been speaking of me I have realised that the way I have been acting on the outside is nothing like how I am feeling on the inside. How quickly that can all change. I feel like myself again. My thoughts, my actions, my decisions, they are all mine again. It feels good. All alone, chasing the morning sun on my balcony like a greedy cat, disappearing into a book about African adventure, occasionally getting distracted by my own travel plans, I feel really content.
The last few days have been about relaxing, emptying the stresses from my mind and slowly recovering from my ill-timed plague. I’m lucky that I very much enjoy my own company. I never really get bored or lonely. I’m my own best friend!
I’m glad I made the decision to try living on a different side of Sharm. I feel almost dirty admitting it but I really love Sharm. The place is somewhat well-known for attracting questionable characters. Maybe I am a bit shady after all! I am in a cosy little apartment complex. It is well-kept and private with mostly Egyptians living here. The only negative is the noisy kids in the apartment next door. Now I love Egyptian kids, they are spunky, confident little things but boy are they loud. One of the kids next door does this really endearing thing for hours on end where she cries her heart out but alternates each sob with a blood curling scream. Everyday I put my book down and think to myself, ‘Why don’t I have any little darlings of my own?’. The problem is not the kids though it’s the complete lack of sound proofing. Oh…also the water is brown. I’m not a fussy traveller. I feel safe, comfortable and the price is right, I consider anything else a luxury.
Part of the reason for staying in Sharm was to avoid possible trouble in Cairo last week. Judging by the news and my friends reports the anniversary passed by thankfully with no trouble. However, over the weekend there was a shooting in Sharm 10 minutes from my apartment. Someone robbed a Bureau de Change in the Old Market, killing a tourist and injuring 2 others. Scary and tragic, yes. But it could happen anywhere. Saying that, I love the Old Market and even I don’t want to go there. I did venture down the day after the shooting. Having been stuck in bed with the flu for 3 days I didn’t know what had happened until I was on my way there. I had not eaten in 3 days and only wanted food from El Masrian, an Egyptian grill restaurant where you can eat like a king for £3. The police were checking cars and IDs and the market was the quietest I have ever seen it. I hate that the actions of one terrible person can destroy the livelihoods of so many. My friend and I ate a delicious lunch in the empty restaurant and then left for a late afternoon walk on the beach. I heard the foreign office were advising people to stay out of the area, somewhat ironic considering I am here to try and stay out of trouble. It doesn’t change the fact that I feel in general very safe here.
Saying that, yesterday there was a bloody earthquake! I was dozing in my apartment when I heard a rattle like a big truck driving nearby, something I remember very vividly from my time in Japan. It lasted maybe 2 minutes. Just long enough for me to jump out of bed, panic, look around for a place to hide then realise that my building could barely survive a puppy sneeze let alone an earthquake, and gave in to my inevitable fate. I believe that earthquakes are pretty rare in Egypt. Not a surprise that it managed to find me before I left. I am yet again a natural disaster survivor.
I am all booked up for my trip to Cairo. I am flying on Thursday and then coming back to Sharm a week later. Hotel is booked and I am giddy planning all the sights I want to see. I almost gave up on going thanks to the Egyptair website. I almost gave up the will to live, in fact. I spent at least 2 hours on the website trying to book flights. At various stages I would encounter an error message and have to start all over. ‘Only one seat left’ , it taunted me. I refused to give in. Then I gave in. I decided to go to the Egyptair office. I looked up where it was online, oh of course, the Old Market. Perfect. I was about to lose my mind and didn’t really have a choice if I didn’t want to take a 12 hour bus to Cairo. I went to the office only to be told all the systems were down. ARGH. There is a particular aggravation that comes from trying to get stuff, anything, done in Egypt. I asked the guy at the counter if he had any idea how long it would take. He said something about an hour and told me to take a seat. I sat down amongst some other stressed looking people. A minute later the guy called out to me that Mohamed at the next desk would help me. To speed things up I wrote down the flights I wanted. A crowd had gathered behind me as it seemed that the system was back up. Everyone held their breaths. The flight got booked, I gave him my card, he printed my tickets. ‘You are very lucky’ Mohamed told me,’ The only person in Sharm to get a ticket today’. I’m not sure why I was the lucky chosen one. There were plenty of people waiting before me and I was the last one to enter the office. Maybe my charming nature? Or maybe I looked the most likely to fly into a violent rage?
I tucked my ticket away in my bag and went back into the street. ‘EGYPTAIR!!!!’ My taxi driver from 20 minutes ago called out to me. ’10 Egyptian?’ He said pointing down the road towards my apartment. I showed him my 1 Egyptian coin and told him I was taking the bus. I felt almost guilty. The taxi drivers are the enemy here but he was one of the good ones. He cheerily admitted defeat and drove off. I got onto the local bus. The journey back only took a few minutes but I noticed something for the first time, how kind the Egyptians are to each other. I always get treated nicely on the local bus. I put that down to being an alien looking passenger. People always ask me where I’m going and move over to help me on and off. When I get off the bus it’s not unusual for people to wave and shout goodbye. The bus stopped for a guy carrying a massive bin bag which looked to be filled with neatly folded up clothes. The buses are actually little mini vans and difficult to get on to at the best of times with no bags. As the guy got on the bus, someone took this huge bag and put it on his knee. This is where it stayed for the rest of the journey. Another man tried to get on the bus and was having some difficulty walking so another passenger jumped off the bus to help him on. Something about seeing these good Samaritans really touched my heart. In Sharm we see some of the worst sides of the Egyptian character but this little journey reminded me why I really do love this crazy place.