I was to discover in my next destination, Hurghada that three surprises appeared to be built into the itinerary for this stop
Sugar Mamas… everywhere
The first of these came in the evening at a roadside café on Sheraton Street, Hurghadas busiest road. It was confusing, especially after Luxor. I had envisioned it as a cute, fisherman destination wherein the locals love all things Red Sea. Instead I found myself standing in a large, pedestrianized street packed on both sides with cafes, restaurants, hotels and strange foreigners. It was a strange place where I witnessed the interesting sight of old Western white women holding hands with young Egyptian boys.
In Egypt, things are getting worse, not better. With the selective taxation where the rich get richer and poor remain poor, the decline in tourism and the plane crash in Sinai – opportunities to secure financial freedom are few. Young Egyptian boys casually prostitute themselves for a better opportunity. Their only duty is to escort and sleep with old women. These gyrating women of frightfully advanced years – women with washed out blonde hair and thighs that remind me of flowing lava – usually German or Russian all look rather endearing pathetic. The game is played on both sides. By the looks of it, Sugar mama doesn’t stand a chance of being loved in her own country so she obtains affection and sex from her devoted pup. In return, she gives her pup a treat in the form of money, cars, apartment and if he is really lucky marriage and visa entry into Europe. Toy boy, the young Egyptian, is one of many in the country struggling to get by, this easy way out provides him with everything that he would otherwise struggle to obtain. Can you blame either of them?
I was fascinated. Who knew that in a God-fearing country like Egypt, this existed, and was so normal? Not I!
What freedom means to me? No fear. I mean really… no fear
I’d made some friends in Hurghada who owned Egypt Visitors. Egypt Visitors is a company that operate diving, snorkelling, safari and private beach tours. These are the type of friends worth making on the Red Sea. They invited me to join on a tour and I automatically accepted as I’d never been on the Rea Sea before and I’d always wanted to see it. In fact, who wouldn’t say no to a private tour of Paradise Island, diving and snorkelling with tropical fish? So the next morning I enthusiastically packed my bikini and joined them on the boat. I was super excited! During the drive there my friend kept repeatedly reassuring me that I should feel free on the tour, join in diving and snorkelling when I felt like it and should feel welcome. Little did I know that I was being prepped for my second surprise in Hurghada.
It didn’t bother me that I was the only foreigner on the tour. I am always the only foreigner. We set sail for Paradise Island, where we had to take a separate smaller boat to get there. It was Paradise Island for real! The white sand and the crystal clear water was gorgeous. I sat there and gazed out to people swimming in the sea.
I sat watching people swimming in the sea at Paradise Island. In what world does that make sense? Contrary to sitting rigidly formal, all I wanted to do was to strip off jump in, instead I sat watching people and filled the time by having a conversation with my friend.
There was a problem; I just didn’t know exactly it was
Back on the boat we went to our first diving and snorkelling spot. From the boat I could already see the colours of large and small exotic fish swimming beneath. I’d never swam in the Red Sea and was so excited to say Hi to the creatures of the underworld. Weirdly enough, when it was my turn, I refused. I did the same at the second spot. As I was contemplating the situation around me my facial expression betrayed my thoughts. My friend notified me that I have a look of “What the fuck” on my face. What the fuck indeed. I had never been so uncomfortable in my life. For once, I was restricted.
The women and most men all were swimming with their clothes on. Full hijab, skirts, underwear, t-shirts, hats, everything. I have travelled far and wide yet I’ve never seen anything like this. Clearly, I had never been on the beach or at sea in an Islamic country. It was a spectacle to my eyes. It was weird! Just the previous day I was happily swimming all day long in Luxor, not giving a damn – not realising that I should give a damn.
I wasn’t about to get into the sea with my clothes on. While travelling I don’t have the opportunity to wash my clothes frequently. Sea water stains white, and smells strong when unwashed. I have few clothes and practically wear the same thing every day. But all I wanted to do was to swim and snorkel with my bikini on, like normal. I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything. I just sat there, for 6 hours watching them.
That day I learned two new emotions. Discomfort and restriction. If I had put on my bikini each person of the boat would react. I would be in danger constant harassment from the men and the women would hide their children and call me horrible haram names. Yes, I could have adopted a ‘fuck it’ attitude but what was the point? I’m in their country and I’m outnumbered.
Discomfort and restriction creates sadness. I was so excited to finally get the rare chance to swim with tropical fish on the Red Sea. I love swimming. Paradise Island – which should have been the best small island I’d visited in my life, was an incomplete experience. I didn’t do anything. A golden opportunity, wasted. I was in fear of judgement and harassment.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as though I didn’t want to swim with my clothes on. I just didn’t want to swim with those clothes on. I wasn’t prepared. In my next destination Sharm, I happily swam the red sea with clothes on.
Ahmed was put on Earth for no other reason than to give other people someone to hate. Even kids hated him. It sounds cruel – it is cruel – but the thing is he deserved it. His slick back gelled hair, polo shirt and sheer arrogance drove me insane, I constantly failed to understand his leaps of logic. Also he is distastefully vain. Boasting that he was a Muslim but also read books about Communism and Marxism didn’t impress me. Although he has never left the country, and was born in a farmer’s village close to Aswan… apparently everything he says or does is right. He seems to think that he is worldly and cultured. He even had the nerve to touch my laptop and attempt to reorganize my files. Oh, and I didn’t mention that he can read minds. He’ll ask you a question and as you open your mouth to answer he exclaims that he knows the answer and says reassuringly, ‘I know, I know – you don’t have to tell me’
Late one night he offered to take me for a walk in to Hurghada marina. Obviously I didn’t want to, it was also very obvious but I accepted as he didn’t get any of the hints. On the way there he stopped off at a perfume shop to purchase perfume. The perfume master magically and artfully mixed together Ahmed’s poison. It was really beautiful. I’d never seen perfume being made before. The golden syringe, the big wooden casket and the final solution. Though it was a bit strong for me, it was a great joy to watch. But all the while I was wondering… why do I have to witness this? Did Ahmed really think I cared that he bought perfume?
The marina itself was very cool. Bars overlooking the harbour where lavish boats were parked and there nightclubs all along the port. It looked like a mini Barcelonetta. I wish I had been there by myself, though his presence did help fend off the harassing Arab men. I would have been eaten alive alone.
Ahmed never learned how to keep his mouth shut. He said to a man who was taking photos of his children who were posing for the photo as Spiderman, ‘Hey, if you want to take a better photo you should turn your camera at a different angle and stand below the street light over there’. That man simple listened politely and uttered a noncommittal ‘Ummm’ and walked away while his two kids threw Ahmed a furious look for ruining their moment. I can only guess what the father thought. After he went back to most boring topic in the world and I would smile and nod to his narrow-minded suggestions and listen politely while uttering noncommittal ‘Hmmm’s’ to his suggestions. He probably couldn’t talk me into getting out of a burning car. I never thought that I would experience such dislike towards anybody. I thought I loved everybody he surprised me; I learned that evening that Ahmed and people like him bring out the worse in me.
Sinai Conspiracy Theory
October 31st 2015, a Russian-operated airline came apart 10,000m over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 on board, what followed was a war of spin.
Bomb on board?
Shot Down By A Missile?
I heard of a different motive; not of bombs, faults or missiles.
Deep, high politics…
Prior to the crash Russians made up 19.7% of tourist arrivals to Egypt, the largest of any single country and 1.7 million were forecast to arrive that year alone. One local theory is that Russia sought out a percentage of the tourism profits in Egypt from Russians. Egypt, who heavily reply on tourism refused this proposal. The plane crash, successfully deterred Russian visitors from visiting Egypt and now they flock to another beach in another country; Greece. Greece has seen more than 500% increase in the number of Russian tourists visiting. Putin continuously stresses the close historic and economic ties between Athens and Moscow, aiming for future economic investments. Perhaps this has something to do with him wanting a percentage of the tourism sector, and Greece accepting? It’s a known fact that the Rouble is a weak currency against the euro and pound, so a reserve in Euro’s would certainly help Russian.
Perhaps it doesn’t have anything to do with this. Perhaps it was just an unexplained plane crash. Deep, high politics hurts my head, the more I read, the more I become confused.
My condolences to the family and friends of the 224 that were killed on board
Before then Hurghada, a main destination in Sinai was a thriving destination for tourists specifically the Russians. The Egyptian government even cancelled visa costs for Russians to encourage more visitors, and there was even a currency deal being discussed.
Hurghada city, to me, is now a dismal sight but wins points because it lays next the Red Sea. If you are not well-travelled then you will enjoy Hurghada, but to me it looks like a diluted version of whatever it use to be. Washed out and lonely, many hotels have closed down and the only tourists I really saw were the old white Sugar Mama’s with their young Toy boys. Perfect for cheap package holiday goers.
Still – with knowledge of unexplained plane crashes in Sinai, I booked a last-minute (same day) flight for 445EG£ from Hurghada to Sharm El Sheik.