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Boyle Favours Working in New York
Sat Nov 14, 1992
The rumblings about Dahab began in Syria. The farther south I went the louder it got. "Dahab" was on the tip of everyone's tongue when Egypt was brought up. A small settlement on the Red Sea, primarily it was a place to laze around and do nothing, it was heard. Then a fuller picture developed: snorkeling, diving, cheap food, cheap bed, mellow atmosphere, and, most significant to many, hashish. The amount of travelers who smoke is pretty amazing. I'm not always the black sheep, but often enough.
I'm at something called the Fighting Kangaroo Holiday Camp. It looks like a Mexican courtyard surrounded by adobe rooms, all with Mexican rugs on the floor and a mattress. Nothing more. The walls have smear marks from where others have killed blood-engorged mosquitoes. $1.50.
One doesn't last long on the main drag before all the "Hash?" and "Smoke? Good stuff" peddlers buzz around. Even little kids with spindly limbs push drugs, while the smallest approach to say, "Hey Mister, give me one pound."
I guess I had it coming when I bought a brand of cracker named PITZ. It lived down to its name.
Tues Nov 17, 1992
After a day in Cairo your fingernails need cleaning, your hair feels like straw, your body feels like one big grime-ball, and you're beat.
The pyramids and Sphinx are virtually a suburb of Cairo. It's a strange thing. If your back is to it, you see a great panorama of Cairo and you feel it's 10 million people with all of the noise and pollution. Turn around, and you see sandy desert with the Sphinx and three huge pyramids heading diagonally toward the afternoon sun with silhouettes of camels on faraway dunes.
A guy who helped me find the right bus to visit the pyramids said he knew all about California. "There are many gays in California," he informed me. His friend chimed in, "He's a poofter. That's why he knows."
Mon Nov 23, 1992
This is where the Nile is most beautiful. In Cairo the Nile doesn't look so special. It's not very wide and not much sails on it. Here sailboats called feluccas are all over the river, winding through the islands and rocks. The Aswan waterfront is on one side and sand dunes on the other. I took an afternoon cruise on a felucca and loved being on the water, away from the din of the city. I wish I had more time to take a three-day trip downriver.
Arabs are big on nuts and seeds. They are sold everywhere in small paper cones that are made from what looks like grammar school homework. Someone is apparently contracting to take schoolwork and use it for wrapping seeds. I wonder if teachers in turn assign lots of homework to the kids to keep supply constant. If there's a big soccer match maybe the kids get swamped with assignments. And think if some man is watching the game, munching on sunflower seeds and notices the paper is his son's failed quiz! Kids must have nightmares about this. "Dad! Don't go to the game! Let's play backgammon, instead!"
Bought a copy of The Egyptian Gazette. It's a miserable newspaper. I don't know why I bought it. Maybe I was hoping they'd print something verbatim from Reuters or AP. It's similar to many third world papers in that it's top-heavy with stories about how wonderful the government is, how dangerous any opposition or unfriendly states are, and the rest is an odd mélange of feel-good bits and "cultural" pieces. This is what's particularly annoying. I saw a story titled, "Boyle Favours Working in New York," and there it was, the longest article in the entire newspaper about C-list actor Peter Boyle detailing his desire to stay in his town to save time commuting. Now, where did this come from? Did Peter Boyle's publicist grease palms at the Gazette? Did a junior editor breathlessly storm into the production meeting, "Sahib! I say we gotta run with the Boyle story! It's hot!" Any explanation defies logic.
Sat Nov 28, 1992
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I came back to the Sinai to be close to Eilat, Israel, and my flight to London tomorrow. Nuweiba is just up the road from Dahab. I spent the day in Dahab and found a lot of people that I met traveling down from Turkey. It was like a reunion. One foursome had been here for 10 days in near apoplexy on the beach. It took them 4 days to do their first productive thing. Everyone here speaks of Dahab as if it had some lazy, magical spell that never lets you leave its grip.
It's amazing how dirty one can become merely by sitting in a seemingly enclosed bus. My hair feels like a young Bob Marley on the cover of "Catch a Fire". Dust and garbage swirl up and cover me. I had to wipe my watch face to read it. These buses haven't been cleaned since little Tutankhamen was commuting to school. By the end of the day I looked like I was ready to do a minstrel show, my face was so darkened with dirt.
It seems strange to think that tomorrow I'll be leaving the Arab world.
And finally, the very pompous:
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