Massage Anyone?

One of my friends tells me I am so resourceful – it’s called survival of the fittest. Not that I want to think of myself as just surviving by continuing to live in Dahab but by choosing to stay here it certainly has become more and more difficult to make ends meet.

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Painting in the outside wall of Dahab Cemetery. Love is always the answer.

I learnt to do massage in eNZed just for fun so when I first came here and shared a house with a German physiotherapist, she taught me more skills and techniques. She remarked I am a natural however I suspect the “natural” feeling came from years and years of grooming horses. My son says I am always equating whatever I do in my life according to horse mastership, including child rearing (since he is an awesome son, I believe I am on the right track). A good groom should follow body lines, use sensitive pressure, notice behavior, know all muscle groups, feel what is happening under their hands – and it is physical, one gets a good sweat up. Most people never really groom their horse, they just flick a brush over to remove dirt but that is hardly effective. Ask any horse.

I was struggling to earn much money over summer as a Dive Master so my German friend encouraged me to do some massage work. “Yea, why not?” Many women masseuses here will not ‘do’ men, any men; others refuse to touch Middle Eastern men. Sometimes this is because they have local Muslim husbands who do not approve of them touching the body of another male; other times it is because they can’t be bothered with the possible hassle. Here in Egypt it is often equated, as was previously in western culture, as a front for prostitution. I have a completely open mind about prostitution – if it is a contractual agreement between two consenting adults, anything goes. However I have never been that broke! Might have had sex with a pizza in mind, but that’s another story.

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Blue Beach Club Stables horses queuing up for massage.

Anyway as I believe one’s pudenda should not affect one’s agenda, I am non discriminatory. Massage is a relevant health treatment that aids body and mind. Giving a massage requires one to be prepared mentally and physically as for anyone who works in a profession that requires sharing personal body space of another human. This is not something most people do in their daily lives with strangers and requires trust on both sides. Energy passes from one to another on many levels so afterwards the client should be relaxed and comfortable while the masseur may feel exhausted and drained.

The booking was for an ‘in house’ guest of a reputable beach front hotel where I was working for another masseuse who was taking a summer break. An Egyptian man entered the room, about 40 or so, a little overweight but not obese – hard to tell once they get over 30 as smoking and Egyptian life takes effect. For the sake of my story, let’s call him Ahmad. I greeted him and clarified that he had indeed booked a full body massage with reception. “Yes”. “OK. Step behind the screen to remove your clothes, except for your underpants. You can leave those on, just wrap the towel around you.”

He stepped from behind the screen stark naked carrying the towel. Ding, ding went the alarm bells but I must have been in a particularly Zen mood that day. “I said you could leave your underpants on.”

“Oh, I don’t wear them.”

I grimaced involuntarily but I suspect Achmad is too narcissistic to notice details like that; probably thought I was smiling. “Okayyyy. Just hop up on the massage bed, lie face down and I will cover you with the towel as I work.” Ahmad did so and I placed a towel strategically over his buttocks and back to begin work on his legs. I made small talk in the beginning – to relax both of us in this case.

He complained of being too warm and removed the towel. Unsightly pale buttocks now exposed,  Ahmad says, “You do happy endings don’t you?”

What the hell is a ‘happy ending’? That expression is not something I grew up with as a teenager in country NZ where we call a spade, “A spade”. I have been known to fake it until I make it but my mother always said, “If in doubt, don’t”, so for once I followed her advice and silence ensued. Not being unintelligent, a few seconds later the penny dropped. He is asking for what!!!

Visions of Borat came to mind. There is a scene on the DVD outtakes that never made the movie (least that is how I recall it) where Borat goes to a masseur. Borat is unbelievably obnoxious  (yes, even more than in the movie,) pretending he doesn’t know how to lie on the massage table, asking a demonstration then jumping on top of the masseur, blaming the masseur for giving him an erection, etc. The masseur is totally professional throughout the ordeal. “No sir, I did not give you the erection. You did that to yourself.”

So I decided to treat Ahmad like the professional I am and said, “No, I do not do that. That is about sexual health and there are other places in Dahab for what you require.” Not that I really knew but I had been told there was a place somewhere in Masbat area. “I do not do sexual massage. That is private and between me and my partner.”

Ahmad was persistent and insistent that he got that service in Dubai and other places. He even tried to tell me massaging his prostate was for health … I don’t think he really understood the situation – he was naked on a bed with his arse up and I ride horses. The dominatrix in me was rapidly coming to the fore and visions of long dressage whips flashed across my mind. I ignored his whining until he gave up.

Of course refusing to continue would have been an option, but as I suspect he has intimidated other women in this situation I wanted to set an example to Ahmad that he couldn’t bully or shock me. I was determined I would have control and he was not going to get his own way, any way.

I completed the massage without vomiting and took my hard earned money, no pun intended. He even had the nerve to ask me I wanted to meet up for a cup of coffee. Tosser!!! When I told the hotel what happened, they asked why didn’t I come and get someone from the hotel, “I don’t see the point of running to a man to sort out my difficulties”. I hope I did some woman in his future, a favour.

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Busy beach a few kilometers south of Dahab

Just recently I returned to massage to earn some dosh. A relatively up-market hotel called to make a booking for two guests at their hotel where I use their well appointed massage room. There were two guests, a man and his wife so I was to treat one after the other starting at 6pm, early evening in winter.

The first client was the woman, a young Egyptian in her mid twenties I guessed. She entered wearing hijab (head scarf worn by many Egyptian Muslim women) and western clothes. We didn’t make much conversation but I can tell she didn’t do much physically because although she was slim, she had little muscle tone.

About 10 minutes before the end of the massage, she was lying on her back with a towel over her breasts and abdomen, when there is a voice outside and the door slides open. I hadn’t locked it but I wasn’t perturbed as she recognized the voice and didn’t stir. I realised it was her partner coming to prepare himself for his massage on the other table.

An Arabic speaking man, certainly not Bedouin but I couldn’t say from exactly where, of about late 40’s came in and over to the table and started speaking to the woman. Odd but not too many alarm bells went off in my head. They were obviously familiar with each other when he touched her on her arm. I was massaging her legs as he made some small talk with me and I started to get annoyed. “Why doesn’t he just go and make himself comfortable on the other table? I will soon be finished here”.

He does not leave the woman. In fact he continued to talk more and kiss her and she is quite comfortable with this. I was not! In fact I could believe this was happening. What is it with these people!!! Supposedly publically the most frigid uptight region of the world yet totally socially unaware of other people’s attitudes, mine in this case! I was not the least curious to see these two having sex! When he starts to fondle and kiss her breasts I have had enough. “Low somaht! – excuse me! Helas – stop this please.” The look he gave me was meant to kill but the one I returned just said “Fuck off!” He did, el hamdo allah – thanks to God.

The woman did not react in any way and as I was essentially finished the massage, she got up and put her clothes on, including hijab. I kid you not. I waited for him to return as the next booked guest thinking I do not want to be alone with that creep. The angels didn’t want either, so when he did not return I went out to find out what was happening. They were both sitting with other men outside and I asked “Is there someone else requiring a massage?” One of the others replied “He doesn’t want it now” Thank the angels for that! “So you owe me xxxLe.” No tip, surprise, surprise! Wife or prostitute I do not know nor care, but the duplicity of some people here is extraordinary but generally people are nice and appreciative so the good outweighs the shite. Like the rest of life.

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Sundown, Lighthouse area, Dahab, Egypt

What time is it?…. gotta run, massage booked!

On the Road to Peace – Peace Road that is!

Gelabeya dresses recycled into awesome handrafted handbags,

Gelabeya dresses recycled into awesome handrafted handbags,

Peace sisters! Peace Road that is, the brand name of bespoke handbags dreamt up, designed and made in Dahab from beautiful recycled gelabeya by New Zealander Bronwyn JonesThese gelabeya are long dresses worn by local Bedouin women daily for work and for special occasions alike. When walking on the street they cover all with a black abeya and schall so tourists would hardly ever get to see these sometimes stunning clothes unless invited into a Bedouin home. The gelabeyas, usually made in India or China, have beautiful beadwork and embroidery decorating the neck and sleeves and Bronwyn incorporates these into pockets and other features on her truly original bags.

For a “win, win” situation, Bronwyn believes in supporting the local community through women and buys the old gelabeyas that would usually end up as rags or covers around the women’s’ homes. She even has a couple of women now who source the used garments for her for a small commission and so far the supply keeps up with demand.

Peace Road workshop, Dahab, South Sinai, Egypt

Peace Road workshop, Dahab, South Sinai, Egypt

When she has a new delivery, Bronwyn washes and displays the gelabeyas in her small central workshop hanging them along the wall. Decorative as they are, these give the whole workshop a festive feeling when you enter. She also photographs each gelabeya and posts them on her Facebook page  so customers can choose via the internet. Choosing is not easy, one usually wants them all!

The customer selects the gelabeya of her choice

The customer selects the gelabeya of her choice

The finished Peace Road item ready to travel the world- this one went to Switzerland.

The finished Peace Road item ready to travel the world- this one went to Switzerland.

Together with the customer, she selects the base fabric, usually a bright canvas that compliments or contrasts the gelabeya colouring. Currently there are three main patterns to choose; smaller shoulder style with lots of zips and compartments perfect for travel and daily handbag use, a larger hand bag variations with end compartments large enough to fit drink bottles – ubiquitous item here in hot Dahab, and another large shoulder bag that takes practically everything a girl could need. I used one of this style when I last travelled and used it for my carry-on luggage; it swallowed my netbook, reading book, scarf, travel papers, etc with plenty of room to spare. The advantage of a shoulder bag (the trap easily fits across the body) is that I can access everything without removing it – unlike a backpack. I also feel they are more secure as you can keep the bag close to me; I have had my wallet stolen out of a backpack style bag on the Paris Metro when I only travelled on it for about 2 minutes! – another story.

Unique shoulder bags from Peace Road

Unique shoulder bags from Peace Road

Bronwyn Jones first came to Dahab to establish a casual restaurant in the bay area. She successfully grappled with the mire of Egyptian bureaucracy, recruited and fired numerous staff members finally succeeding in making the restaurant one of the most rated on Trip Advisor. Such are the personal skills and aptitude that she brings to any business, it is revealing that once she left the business its popularity plummeted and now no longer exists.

She left Dahab travelling through Asia on her way back home to New Zealand, attended to personal and family matters but always felt she had unfinished business in Dahab. They say that once you have drunk form the waters of the Nile you leave part of your heart forever in Egypt and that you will always desire to return. Dahab is like this too – a special little oasis with a big magnet.

Smaller size Travel Bags, perfect for passports, wallet, camera, e-reader, etc

Smaller size Travel Bags, perfect for passports, wallet, camera, e-reader, etc

The magnet varies for everyone – some it is the scuba diving, the technical diving, the free diving, the snorkelling, the yoga on the beach, the almost constant sunshine, the clear starry skies, the full moon over Saudi Arabia, the inexpensive accommodation , the camels and goats wandering the streets, the horse riding in the desert, the camel safaris. Bronwyn loves the beach life, the palms, the friendly community and the ambience of Dahab.

Peace Road is an actual main road here in Dahab – running from south to north through this small seaside village on the Gulf of Aqaba. Peace by name, peace by nature if you ask the majority of inhabitants of this town – a mixture of Bedouin (mostly  Muzeina tribe), Egyptians from the Nile valley or delta,  and foreigners who are drawn to the idyllic shores.

A trained fashion designer and skilled pattern maker, Bronwyn is able to bring her professionalism to every personally made bespoke bag. The first Peace Road bags were made of fabric printed with Egyptian Kayameya patterns that have been printed from the intricate appliqué that lined the insides of the fabulous tents hand made by the tent makers in Cairo. She still makes these popular bags as well in various designs but it is the gelabeya bags that really catch the eye. Every bag takes on a life of its own as she builds a relationship with each customer when considering which parts of the gelabeya to recycle where; every gelabeya bag is unique.

These bags are infused with life, starting from the original artisan’s beautiful hand work adorning clothing items turned into functional and stunning accessories carrying Peace Road proudly throughout the world.

Colourful make-up purses  made from Kayameya fabric.

Colourful make-up purses made from Kayameya fabric.

 

 

Iftar under the Stars

There is no moon like a Dahab moon.

There is no moon like a Dahab moon.

So it is over half way through Ramadan; the full moon having waxed, now wanes leaving less than two weeks until Eid. This year Ramadan has fallen in the middle of summer so some days have been extremely hot, 40oC plus, and the longer daylight hours mean longer fasts. Summer in the Scandinavian countries must be extreme tests of endurance, however I think they adopt times of more southern climes, maybe German. I have been invited to share iftar – literally breakfast – on a number of days for which I am grateful even though I am not Muslim and not fully fasting. Food I can easily forego but restricting fluids would just make me ill especially if I have to work riding the horses in this desiccating heat. As it is, I often add electrolytes to my water as a precaution measure; sweat dries off immediately so I don’t even realise how much fluid and salts I am is losing and the minimum result is a smacking headache.

Street decoration for Ramadan, Dahab

Street decoration for Ramadan, Dahab

I have seen many a tourist complain of food poisoning when I suspect they are actually suffering the effects of dehydration which include vomiting and diarrhoea due to severe electrolyte imbalance. Drinking only water exacerbates the problem because the body voids water to try to keep the salt balance. They rapidly end up on drips administered in hotel rooms by the experienced local doctors. During daylight, those fasting try to stay as quiet as possible, sleeping in the shade until late afternoon. I often see Bedouin men lying in the palm covered beach arishas built close to the waters’ edge to catch any breeze. Luckily Dahab, as a renowned wind surfing spot usually has wind and the men lie on stripy blankets with their heads completely covered by their shaals to keep any annoying insects at bay. Women generally remain at home as they have the doubly difficult task of fasting and preparing food for everybody, however the men do contribute, helping prepare meat, shopping etc.

It's a free life for Bedouin children in Dahab

It’s a free life for Bedouin children in Dahab

Children, who are not expected to “do Ramadan”, play unattended on the streets or the beach. They have about four months summer holiday a year during which time they become progressively more feral and problem causing. Late in the afternoon, people start to stir and wander home to prepare for iftar. Even in Dahab there is a pre iftar rush which in Cairo is apparently manic – everybody rushing to get home, ready and out to wherever they have been invited for iftar. In this respect it is a social month of reciprocal meals at friends’ and family houses. In Dahab things are on a much quieter scale but there is still noticeable tension. This irritation could also have something to do with the fact that they are strung out from no liquid, food or smoking during the day as nothing should pass their lips. By late afternoon they are like grumpy lions. Even the driving becomes more erratic, which is saying something considering how badly many drive on a normal day.

Minaret of Mosque Sheikh Jameer, Dahab

Minaret of Mosque Sheikh Jameer, Dahab

The mosques call quietly as people go to their respective places. Mohamed invited me to eat with him at the local communal breakfast. The women’s circle of privacy is sacrosanct and as I do not know any of the women in this area, I ate with the men. The meal took place on an open sandy space in front a house under construction. I didn’t see any signs of current work so maybe it will take a year or so to complete. The owners live in adjoining properties linked by small gates and there is one double door opening on to the sandy lane where the goats congregate during the day. One evening a few of the cheeky kids actually hopped through the door and started to nosey about. They were efficiently shooed back to the lane, skittering and leaping about.

Sheep and goats loitering in the lane waiting for any opportunity to find food.

Sheep and goats loitering in the lane waiting for any opportunity to find food.

Rectangular rugs are laid out to sit on in a five metre square centred by a small charcoal fire. These are not matching or in any particular pattern although Bedouins often use colourful striped rugs hand woven out of goat and camel hair. Each person leaves their shoes outside the square and sits cross legged facing inwards. Food is served on large metal platters, usually a main course on a bed of rice or circled by bread. These vary depending on which woman made them –vegetables, chicken, meat, fish – there is no requirement. You essentially share what is in front of you with those next to you although in my case, Mohamed always tries to find something he knows I prefer, but I don’t want to feel privileged. However Bedouin do pride themselves on hospitality so certainly take no offence by it. He also placed me close to the elder men because, again as a privilege for guests. Boys and younger men poured cold drinks into plastic containers and distributed these around everybody – you end up with water, tamrahindi, juice and cordial on the sand in front of you depending on what has been contributed. The group changes every night with the local family interspersed with visitors. One night the men who drive trucks of animal food from the Nile Delta were breaking fast in the group and Mohamed managed to negotiate that I purchase their remaining bales of hay at a cheaper rate. Another night an old man with an opaque eye who wanders the streets begging for a coin here, a coin there joined the group – probably one of the richest men in town!

Dates ripen on the palms over a Dahab street.

Dates ripen on the palms over a Dahab street.

As the sun sets, dates are distributed and it is customary to have a few in your hand to break the fast as the prayer starts in the mosques; dates followed by a drink then food. It is idyllic to sit in the open air at dusk with palm leaves swishing, people grateful for their first drink and food in more than twelve hours as sohour, the last meal before dawn, had been at about 3a.m. When the meal starts everybody gathers around the platter of their choice, moving off the rugs if necessary. There is little talk and I know from experience Bedouins eat fast – even faster after a fast! However there is absolutely no pushing or aggravation. It is extremely bad manners to eat from any area of the platter other than that directly in front of you. No picking the choice bits. For guests, the hosts surreptitiously watch what you like and place extra pieces on your section of the platter so it never seems like you finish. 189   None of the food is strong flavoured and some cooks are obviously better than others but I enjoy the simple food. I tentatively try anything new because swallowing is obligatory but I certainly never go away hungry. Bedouin eat most things with the fingers of their right hand but I usually use a spoon to avoid looking completely inept at feeding myself otherwise Mohamed is tempted to put a bib on me. Last night there was a shallow dish of what looked like reddish coloured porridge. It was served with rayeb, the yoghurt drink that helps keep intestines happy. The dish, I later discovered is made with wheat kernels, was quite bland but not unpleasant. I preferred the Bedouin style vegetables directly in front of me with farisheer bread tucked around the bowl. The meat in the dish had a slightly kidney flavour which I didn’t feel like so I just ate the potatoes (Egypt has great tasting potatoes), peas, carrots, onions, etc cooked in a tomato based sauce. Next to me Mohamed ate some freshly grilled fish on a bed of rice.

Sunset over the pink granite mountians of Sinai

Sunset over the pink granite mountians of Sinai

As soon as anyone is finished they stand away from the platters and go to wash their hands and mouth out. I am always one of the last eating and Mohamed admonishes me if I finish too soon out of politeness. He says no one will notice if I am the last but I don’t believe him; they quietly notice everything, not that they would judge – they know how fast they eat! After iftar some of the men pray facing Mecca on the clean sand next to the rugs, while others relax smoking and drinking shai . Bedouin tea is made from a mixture of black tea and herbs, usually mint flavoured hbac or sage like marmareya. Last night some of the little girls who been eating next door with their mothers wandered through to see their dads. At about 3 or 4 years they are cute and cuddly. Mohamed gave me some coin to give to them, a custom to promote generosity and luck. I am not sure about that desired outcome though as sometimes I see it translate to expectancy and rudeness in the older children on the streets when dealing with tourists.

Date palms still tower over homes although less than before.

Date palms still tower over homes although less than before.

The fire flares a little, the tea is offered around, the stars are shining and the palms still swishing as most of the young men and boys slope off to do whatever young men and boys do. Cushions miraculously appeared for the remaining men to recline with their elbows resting on them. Topics of discussion ranged from politics to making a living in this difficult recession. I only got the gist of conversations but I was pleasantly surprised to hear Mohamed talking about supporting Egypt and local manufacturers; that afternoon we had had a discussion about buying local and not supporting the likes of Swiss Nestle! That company is in the process of buying access to water rights all over the world denying free access to locals. There is even a perfectly drinkable Sinacola but not many of the shops stock it. It was another happy evening outside under the Sinai night sky.

Lighthouse Bay, Dahab at sunset.

Lighthouse Bay, Dahab at sunset.

Going to the Dogs

If a nation is said to be “going to the dogs” it is envisioned that it is becoming less successful than it was in the past. In the case of Egypt if its treatment of dogs is indicative, it is not only going to the dogs, it is well on the way to hell.

House of Fluff rescued dogs - Rocky, Zuzu and Soskya

House of Fluff rescued dogs – Rocky, Zuzu and Soskya

In our small tourist town of Dahab, South Sinai on the stunningly beautiful shores of the Gulf of Aqaba, local Bedouin, mainland Egyptians, foreigners and a population of friendly streetwise dogs have been living in relative peace and harmony for many years. The presence of street animals seems to polarise people into lovers or haters and while I certainly belong to the lovers, my pragmatic streak ensures I believe that the animal population of both dogs and cats should not burgeon.

To this end many have supported a Trap, Neuter and Release programme, TNR, where dogs and cats are neutered and returned to the area they live in. By returning the non breeding animals they remain in their established territories and discourage other animals from intruding and breeding. Research shows that if 75% of the animals are neutered the population remains stable; people become familiar with the animals and everybody lives in harmony.

Temporary Clinic for TNR, Dahab run by Dahab Animal Welfare

Temporary Clinic for TNR, Dahab run by Dahab Animal Welfare

With many restaurants and caring humans these street animals in Dahab are healthy and well fed. They even have names and sometimes their own Facebook Page like Broken Cat of Dahab, who spent his last days in regal retirement at Blue Beach Club Hotel and Foxy of the Lighthouse, a pooch with a distinctive golden shaggy coat.

Eager street animals quietly awaiting their appointment with the vets.

Eager street animals quietly awaiting their appointment with the vets.

The TNR programmes themselves are run by local groups such as Dahab Animal Welfare and Janet’ Streetdogs in partnership with volunteer overseas veterinarians who come and spend two weeks on a six monthly basis to attend to the young or previously missed animals. At the beginning of this year Cogges Clinic from the United Kingdom decided to celebrate their 20 years in business by volunteering to spend two weeks in Dahab. It was a frantic but well organised effort that neutered 128 animals; this on top of other regular neuterings carried out by the busy local female Egyptian veterinarian, Dr Ameira.

Cogges vets working with local Dr Ameira and local student observing latest techniques.

Cogges vets working with local Dr Ameira and local student observing latest techniques.

The success of this programme has now been blown sky high with an orchestrated, unprecedented poisoning campaign that is currently being carried out by unknown persons in the holy week of Ramadan. It has been usual in the past for poison to be distributed on the streets at certain times, and these poisonings were one of the reasons the TNR programmes were introduced. Not many in a tourist town want to see dying dogs lying on the streets or beaches, most people abhorring the cruelty of the death. Poisoning is also totally indiscriminate and many pets have died from ingesting the poison while out running in unpopulated areas or even while on a leash!

Street dog victim of Strychnine poisoning.

Street dog victim of Strychnine poisoning.

Further investigation has revealed that Egypt’s current regime has just introduced a kill all street dogs campaign.  Photographs depicting dead dogs alongside Ahmed from Ismalia who describes “feels excited” on his Facebook status from bludgeoning 13 dogs to death along with his friends. Some more enlightened and forewarned districts of Cairo like Zamalek which fortunately for it, is an island on the Nile River and has an established TNR programme, are trying to opt out of the mass killings with notifications throughout the neighbourhood the neighbourhood and alerting the authorities.

D'fer - no longer able to run free withour a muzzle.

D’fer – no longer able to run free withour a muzzle.

The authorities in Dahab are also well aware of the TNR programme but it would seem renegade officials or locals or both, are choosing to completely ignore the residents’ wishes. This of course cannot be confirmed as all are denying any involvement and the poisonings are carried out under the stealth of darkness. The preferred method of destruction is poisoning, usually Strychnine which can easily be purchased by anybody.

293661_10150349543930815_6933405_n (1)“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Gandhi. Amnesty International reports a sharp increase in human rights abuse, thousands in detention, reports of torture and death since the ousting of the democratically elected Morsi, deposed in July 2013. According to WikiThawra, an initiative run by the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social rights, at least 80 people died in custody over the past year and more than 40,000 people were detained or indicted between July 2013 and mid-May 2014. Maybe this campaign offers the population a vector to release their frustration resulting from 74% increases in fuel prices, and rising electricity prices and other goods and services. It remains to be seen what will happen.

If it was terrible under Mubarek, unbearable under Morsi, it is descending to unliveable under Sisi.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/egypt-anniversary-morsi-ousting-2014-07-02

 

Cheque Points

293661_10150349543930815_6933405_n (1)I went for another ‘Visa trip’ to negotiate the minefield of Egyptian security cheque points (this confirms British English has it over USA English) and obsolete British system Egyptian bureaucracy that allows me to live here in Dahab. Now this is complicated, so pay attention!

As foreigners we are lucky that we can get Visas that allow us to live here for years as pseudo tourists. Some of us work in small time jobs, earning a pittance like most Egyptians that allows us to rent an apartment and buy food and bring what is left of our foreign exchange to pump in to the bleeding Egyptian economy.

I had been to visit my son in Europe the previous month and leaving Egypt had invalidated my year visa that would have expired in six months. When I re-entered Egypt, I had to purchase the only visa that is issued at airports, a pretty hologram silver sticker which is stamped valid for 30 days and costs US$20. (Even the Egyptian government doesn’t trust its own money!) I had intended to leave again before this 30 day Visa expired but delayed my departure which meant I had two options; I could apply for another year Visa or be up for the 150Le fine for overstaying when departing Egypt.

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Clinging on for dear life in Dahab.

The fine is not exorbitant but as I planned to return to Egypt in a few months I would then have to purchase another 30 Day US$20 visa, and then apply for another six month /year Visa within those 30 days. Are you with me so far? We haven’t even left Dahab yet… “Complication and confusion are the weapons of corruption” (yours truly); they give power and money to those in the know. That’s why it pays, literally, to be ‘in-the-know’, closely followed by ‘in-the-zone’.

STOP HERE and don’t read this section if you want to avoid confusion. Skip to…

There is also another visa available to visitors who just want to come and lie on the beach in mainly Sharm el Shite oops, I mean Sharm-with-no-Charm – get it right! Sharm El Sheikh! The all-you-can-eat-and-drink-and-make-yourself-a-dick type without actually spending any money that will enter the Egyptian economy because some crony of the higher powers has managed to wangle it so money spent in a resort is immediately siphoned off into private pockets or foreign owned companies. The type who arrive, get a taxi to the resort, drive through the security guarded gates (another Egyptian oxymoron?), plonk themselves on a sun bed for a week, stuff themselves  at the resort restaurants because they are too scared of contracting food poisoning outside (that they are more likely to get from eating the rice on the hotel’s day after day buffet unless the hungry Russians eat it all first), get back in a taxi, drive to the airport, fly home with a tan saying they were in Egypt for a week.

For these types there is the South Sinai visa which costs nothing and allows the tourist to visit Sharm’, Dahab, Nuweiba and Saint Catherine’s Monastery area. However… should one of these types become a tourist, venture out of the resort and fall madly in love with Egypt within two weeks (it does happen) and decide to extend their stay, this visa does not allow a trip to El Tur, the small town which is the government administration centre for South Sinai, and where one needs to go to get a new visa!

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Indication of driving attitudes here – and this is a rental company!

This now tourist has to go back to the point of entry, usually Sharm’ to purchase the pretty 30 day all Egypt visa sticker, get it stamped, then within those 30 days go to El Tur. One friend with the South Sinai Visa just tried to wing it from Dahab to El Tur hoping he could just skip the pretty 30 day visa and get one for longer stay. It was easier times, so he made it through the check points but El Tur office was above bribes (or he didn’t offer enough) so he returned to Dahab, decided to overstay and pay a fine.

…after skipping, RESUME HERE.

Anyway I was on my final days before departure so was attempting to get it all done and tidied up before I left.  El Tur the government administration centre doesn’t have many foreigners visiting, other than those renewing visas or the occasional one who lands in the jail awaiting trial. I had originally planned to go on Wednesday but then realised it was the second day of the contentious voting for the “New Egyptian constitution”.

The passport office in El Tur is at the rear of the Police Station and had already suffered blown out windows from a bomb attack some months before so I guessed correctly that the office was closed on Election Day. I was also concerned that it might be closed on the Thursday just for good measure, as Friday and Saturday are Egyptian weekend. I was not concerned about bombs – unless standing next to security personnel.

“Thank Zucker” for Facebook, I was able to join four other women wanting to share transport to El Tur so we arranged to leave Thursday morning at 9am. This would allow us to call the passport office before leaving just to make sure it was open. It was. Clarify and confirm, clarify and confirm – the only way to survive in Egypt – then say in sha allah (God willing).

“I’m a good driver. I’m a good driver” Rainman

We travelled in a minivan, an official Dahab taxi – not a private car – driven by a Bedouin called Sabah who was a reliable and calm driver, el hamdol allah (thanks to God), not hooting the horn at every passing car or pedestrian like some nervous locals are inclined to do.

The trip to El Tur normally takes just over two hours. We negotiated three police check points with no problem between Dahab and Sharm’ but got stopped at the larger official looking check point on the west side of Sharm’ ; the one with the big ugly concrete monstrosity that stretches overhead that is probably meant to look like an impressive gateway but looks more like a bridge to nowhere.

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Priceless. Says it all really. Such honesty.

Of course there were no explanations when we had to pull over, just surly men standing around looking bored and suspicious. I counted more than 20 doing nothing in particular, sitting outside behind desks, in cars, leaning on walls staring at us five stranded women. I had to stop myself from physically snarling – the Fb quiz did say the dog I am most like is a pitbull.

A request to use a toilet was of course, rebuffed as I knew it would be: I just wanted to annoy them. It could also be some hours on a bare desert road at this rate, so best be prepared. We were told to go to the petrol station back across the roundabout, so three of us wandered over. We were given permission to use their toilet el hamdol allah but was told there was “No water”. Not sure what that was about though, as the tap ran water and the toilet flushed. On a scale for disgusting toilets in Egypt, I gave it a 5/10.

The petrol station over the roundabaout. I didn’t photograph the toilets but you get the picture.

On returning to the van we climbed in and Sabah did a 180o turn to park facing Dahab. For about a minute of long faces we thought maybe we would have to return to Dahab but then the police said something to Sabah and we did another 180o back to the direction of El Tur. Psychological torture maybe? We were on our way again about an hour late but still able to make the office providing there were no more holdups. Let’s not be too literal here.

Sabah muttered something about “Egyptians not good”, essentially expressing his dislike for Egyptian Security Personnel.  They had been trying to tell him he didn’t have the correct car to take tourists to El Tur but who knows? Egyptians are not allowed to drive their cars of different licence everywhere –there have to be special licence plates to do different things and go different places. For example, only certain cars are allowed to enter the Sharm’ town roads so if you get the wrong car from Dahab, you effectively have to get another car to enter Sharm’ or break the law or pay a fine or pay a bribe, or all of the above.

This used to be a small bank branch with policemen guarding outside. The branch has closed but the police still sit here.

We were stopped again at the cheque point just outside El Tur. Oh no! So close but yet so far… A young (looked early 20’s) policeman asked to see our passports. There were three “Katherine”s in the van and he mixed up the passports; we didn’t correct him. He also missed that one of them had an expired visa; we didn’t point it out. After lots of false smiles (on his and our parts) and leering (on his part), and probable desire for silver to cross his palm (unrequited), he allowed us to continue to El Tur.

The Police station was a hive of inactivity – just the usual police and military men hanging around looking for a war. The patriarchal inverse big guns, small penis syndrome – facetious yawn.

I have been applying for these Visas for six years and every time is a little different; part of the confusion technique. This time we had to have our names and passports registered at the outside gate; the extra security measure incorporated after the last bomb. When will it ever occur to these people to fix the problems that are encouraging these people to blow themselves and others up? Easier than trying to catch them when they are already past desperation; not rocket science really (she writes with tongue in cheek).

Let there be light in Sinai …

There is one polite happy lady who works in the passport office. She was sitting behind clean new windows, the previous ones having been blown out – saves on window cleaner I guess.  We all went to her window to get our forms. I was applying for a year visa of residence and a re-entry visa that would be valid if I left and returned within 6 months. You can only get the re-entry valid for the first six months of a year – outside that you have purchase a new re-entry before you leave or just go through the whole process I was going through…

The updated bureaucratic process now dictated that all passports would not be returned until after 1pm so with an hour to fill, Sahbah to dropped us in the souq shopping area. El Tur is not a tourist town so everything was authentically less expensive. I bought some shoes for M and we all had sandwiches for a lunch – tamaya and fool – cost me 2.5Le – about 25 pence; same food in local Dahab area would have been 5Le, tourist Dahab maybe 10le. Doesn’t seem much in foreign exchange, but convert this to percentage on all goods and you get the picture of the of a tourist town rip off; happens all over the world.

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… and peace in Dahab.

We returned to collect our waiting passports, paid our money – 152.5Le for visa with re-entry – and headed for home. The same young cop who had stopped us on the way into El Tur, stopped us again; at least this time all our visas were current. All the check points now have a mixture of police security and soldiers – most ‘packing’ as they say in the movies. If only they were ‘boys with toys actors’ but these real machines designed to kill humans in the hands of… shall we say, unworldly lads? We had to negotiate more than 14 check points to get to El Tur and Dahab return. Oh, I felt so much safer in the Sinai for that!

 

Peaceful Desert Storm

Let the race begin - I am with Muzeina.

Racetime

When there is a combination of Bedouins, racing camels, speeding vehicles, sandy wadis, desert mountains and a forecast for thunder storms you have recipe for excitement and chaos. For the past fifty or more years in midwinter, upper Wadi Zalaga in central South Sinai becomes a twenty-seven kilometre racetrack for camels representing the south eastern Muzeina and north eastern Tarabin Bedouin tribes.

En route to central South Sinai

En route to central South Sinai

My second trip to the race started midday prior from Dahab on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba,.My companions were a  mixture of foreign guests and Bedouins travelling in moderately comfortable Toyota Landcruisers towards the central desert highlands of St Katherine.

Over the years I have made numerous forays into this desert and it has never ceased to positively affect and uplift my spirit; full of light and delight it is no surprise biblical tales emanate from the Sinai. However again ominous grey clouds stretched theatrically across the vista as I recalled last year’s sleet with almost freezing overnight temperatures. I felt mentally and physically prepared however I was not so sure about some of my travelling companions in their lighter beach clothes.

On route our Bedouin organiser, Mahmoud pointed out the small rocky ravine where he had been born some thirty years before in a beit shar, ‘house of hair’ tent made from hand woven fabric of goat, camel or sheep wool. He added proudly that most women now chose hospital to deliver.

Riding to the race.

No camel transport – ride to the race

Reaching rocky rolling highlands about 1000m altitude we turned off the tarsealed road on to a rocky and sandy track which would take us to the head of Wadi Zalaga (wadi translates to valley). This is where the real fun began as Mahmoud, friend Clair and I transferred to his open Jeep. Part of the track is literally solid sandstone, the track visible only by tyres etching a white trail through the oxidised yellowed rock, testing new and old suspensions alike.

We dropped down off rocky outcrops to golden sands at the upper reaches of Wadi Zalaga as the sun lowered below the blue grey clouds delineating the skyline with golden light and long shadows.

“Everybody out and collect firewood!” For desert newcomers this sounded ridiculous as there are no trees, only scrubby sparse bushes that look like nothing to burn however we were soon out gathering.

“Nothing green!” they admonished. Again surprised looks as nothing looked green but what they meant was nothing still growing, just desiccated wood lying on the sand.  The men found remains of old bushes poking from small sandy hillocks and by digging around these with hands and the ubiquitous Bedouin “whatever else is available” revealed half a meter of reasonably thick dry branches. These they kicked and hacked loose adding to the pile stuffed in the back of the Jeep.

Golden minutes.

Golden minutes.

In the fading light we searched for a suitable campsite. ‘Campsite’ had led guests to imagine an organised camping area with maybe even toilets. The reality was any topographical site that sheltered us from the elements as much as possible. Every Bedouin group likes privacy too, so it is only polite to be at least a hundred metres from the nearest group and definitely not in line of sight; a residual tradition from living in wide open isolated areas perhaps.

A clear sandy area was chosen to pitch the beit shar.

A suitable clear sandy area was chosen to pitch the beit shar.

A perfect spot was chosen tucked away from the main wadi, sheltered and private. The beit shar was given pride of place in the small sandy hollow beneath a sentinel of rocks. It had definitely seen better days, almost double lined with patches of plastic sacking. Mahmoud remarked “This is probably the one I was born in”… thirty years ago. Poles were a mixture of planks and straight branches transported on the back of the pick-ups; tent pegs were any large rocks that could be moved into position and wrapped with guy ropes. I took my small tent, pitching it on the only other relatively flat smooth ground that I could find about twenty metres away from the beit shar yet close to the vehicles.

???????????????????????????????Within half an hour we had a cosy three sided shelter with fires blazing, inside for warmth, outside for cooking. The small twigs and resinous branches proved very effective fuel, burning surprisingly hot and long. As a mixed group of a dozen guests none of us knew everybody so we quietly gathered more firewood, gazed at the fading golden light, took photos and let the desert quiet entrance us.

Not like the Bedouin. They never stop talking when they are together and this was no exception. There were about ten Bedouin men with us – drivers, young teenage boys and other members of Mahmoud’s family – no women. Bedouin women do not come these events; they would not be permitted by their men folk and probably have no interest in coming.

In camp, the men do all cooking and huge pots of food were prepared as night fell. It was dark by 6.30pm as we sat around camp fires, lying on thick synthetic blankets that serve modern Bedouins as sleeping bags. In all seasons, they can be found covered from head to toe by these blankets; the only hint a person underneath is the shoes placed at his feet.

Warming the body and soul.

Warming the body and soul.

Most guests had bought their favourite tipple and cigarettes of various plant substances were smoked; drugs of choice. Huddled around the fires we watched lebbe bread being prepared. Dough was kneaded in a shallow metal basin then flattened on a large platter to a thickness about 1.5cm. With fire embers pushed sideways, it was placed carefully on the ashes, the embers scraped back over and left to bake. Ready in about fifteen minutes the loaf was lifted out, tapped gently to remove any sand and ash, then broken by hand into serving size chunks; Lebbe – crusty, dense and delicious.

Desert solitude, good for the soul.

Desert solitude, good for the soul.

It had been quite some hours since we had eaten anything more than a handful of snacks so the plates heaped with chicken, potatoes, mixed vegetables, rice, tahina,  tomato cucumber salad were gratefully devoured. Anywhere in the world there is nothing like eating al fresco.

“Was that lightning?” a guest asked. With low cloud cover it was not immediately obvious if we had just glimpsed the lights of late arrivals. Crashes of thunder confirmed it, “10 miles away…17 miles away…right overhead!”

It was already late evening when the first drops of rain fell so I decided to make a dash for my tent; I had a sense of possible impending chaos with city bred foreigners and laissez-faire Bedouin grappling with the elements. By the time I was tucked up inside it was raining heavily. I slept fitfully from fear that I had pitched the tent too close to runoff from the rocky walls but I decided there was no point moving unless I had to.

Steam drying clothes over the smoking fire.

Steam drying clothes over the smoking fire.

Morning revealed that water had been flowing about one and half metres from my tent; not deep enough to be dangerous but it would have made things very uncomfortable. Two extra tents had been pitched on a slope, one with a gaping hole in the side.  The beit shar had leaked and water seeped down the sandy area it had been pitched on; it was not smoothed clear by accident. A fly had been rigged between two pickups and the young boys emerged smiling from piles of blankets. Guests and other Bedouin had taken refuge in any vehicle they could find space.

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A bright day dawns on Wadi Zalaga

No one complains about rain in the desert so we joked with each other while steam drying clothes over the smoking fire. Personal tales of disrupted sleep were regaled, “You kicked me in the head”, “I slept OK except for the steering wheel against my temples” and “My feet kept sliding out the bottom of the tent”. Damp blankets were laid out on the slopes to dry in the weak sun. A soggy, sandy headscarf was picked off the ground. “Does this belong to one of the men?” A Bedouin replied, “No way a Bedouin would ever drop and forget his head schaal.” Turned out it belonged to one of the women guests.

Baking farisheer - team work.

Baking farisheer – team work.

Breakfast was quickly prepared – feta cheese, fool (fava beans mashed with tahina and spices), halawa (sweet sesame seed fudge) and jam served with the remains of the lebbe and freshly cooked farisheer bread. Farisheer is my favourite bread in the whole wide world! (not stated lightly considering how much I love bread). I could never understand why the Lord’s Prayer says “Give us this day our daily bread” until I tasted farisheer. It is made from fist sized balls of dough that are worked by hand into thin large ‘pizza’ rounds then placed on a ‘upside-down-wok’ (or the lid of a forty-four gallon drum) over an open fire. The dough blisters and chars slightly taking on a chewy texture and distinct flavour.

The race was ‘scheduled’ – scheduled being a difficult concept for Bedouin – to start between 7.30 – 8.30am because, being Friday, everything should have been completed by midday Islamic prayer. We clambered into vehicles and drove up wadi passing vehicles and blanketed camels heading to the blue start flags.

On the way to the start.

On the way to the start.

???????????????????????????????Contrary to popular belief camels store fat not water in their humps, so humps are almost nonexistent on racing camels, their tight abdominal muscles tucking up their flanks like greyhounds. I was told even their water intake is limited during training yet I doubt that is advantageous, but on race day, most likely. The small utilitarian saddles with no colourful trappings or fringes are fitted across their loins, double girths around their bellies, some with cruppers and breast straps. The saddles are padded in such a way so that jockeys wedge their bent legs between so as not to be bounced off.

Unlike track racing in some parts of the Middle East where the camels run without human jockeys because of alleged and proven human rights abuse, these camels are proudly ridden by young tribal boys, mostly aged between 8 -12 years, tiny and tough. They wear no colours, no helmets or protective gear and the only distinguishing marks are dark blue markings painted on their camels’ necks.

???????????????????????????????As the highly strung and prized thoroughbreds they are, some camels were cool, calm and collected others feisty and eager to get going. With their jockeys perched at the back and only one long rein attached to the halter that has a metal plate and chain under the chin, some camels do not heed much direction control. I saw one determined camel break away from the group dragging his handler, with jockey on board about fifty metres before they could stop and turn him back to the start.

???????????????????????????????A hundred plus vehicles gathered around the flags and across the wadi revving engines in anticipation, not leaving much space for the animals. The event is as much about skilful driving; in front, beside, in the middle and behind the racing camels for the entire race, avoiding rocks, ruts, camels and other vehicles. One might think the event is sponsored by Toyota; their vehicles far outnumber the Jeeps, Nissans and occasional Isuzu.

Before long all were off, full speed ahead choosing their own line down the wadi. It would take just over an hour for the first camel to finish.

I was at the back of Mahmoud’s open Jeep waiting about two hundred metres down wadi. I wedged my right foot against the tow bar so with my left hand clinging to the top frame I could swing free with my right hand to take photographs with my small Canon S110. I wasn’t game to handle an SLR and enjoy the race at the same time. It is an ill wind that blows no good; the rain meant there was no dust, just a few mud clods. On drier years one only gets glimpses of camels through the choking dust clouds.

Also in back were Sulieman and Mahmoud’s brother Firaj who kept up a constant stream of directions about where and how Mahmoud should drive. I do not know if he paid any attention but I can attest to his driving skills despite it being the first time he had driven in the race.

???????????????????????????????Before many kilometres the camels were well strung out, some racing on the left, some on the right, others veered off track completely. I do not know if there was much forethought or strategic race planning or whether it was just go all out for as long as one could. Most of the camels were cruising in their long legged pace – legs on either side moving in unison, not a trot where legs move diagonally. Some were in a gallop which looked energy sapping and more difficult for the jockeys to ride.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Firaj had won the race for Muzeina as a ten year old about twenty-five years ago and I am sure he relived the entire race over every bump and sand hill as we sped along. As a foreign spectator most of the excitement is in the vehicle ride – hanging on for dear life as vehicles raced and overtook within metres and vice versa. By the end I joked that I was probably one centimetre shorter from a compacted spine.

Whereas Bedouins perched nonchalantly on the back of pickups, three abreast in perfect balance. Dressed for the chilly air, head schalls de rigueur – mostly red and white check but there were a few other colour combinations all tied or draped according to individual choice. Most wore traditional jelabeya, the ground length shirt styled garment, mostly white but some in grey, brown or black. Some, like Mahmoud had western jeans and tops and some even overalls that looked suitable for arctic temperatures.

Traditional winter coveralls looked like a cross between large overcoats and open capes, some ancient tattered fine woven wool with a thick lining of lambskin where nowadays it is often synthetic fur.

???????????????????????????????After last year’s dispute as to which acacia tree had been the finish line, this year a white line had been marked across the wadi. After twenty-seven gruelling kilometres on heavy sand it was impressive to see two camels still within racing distance of each other, foaming at the mouth, racing neck and neck, both representing Muzeina. A thrilling finish watched from the natural terrace lined with Bedouins who did not partake in the vehicle rally.

The race won, both boys dismounted quickly into surrounding supporters and were whisked to the presentation area. There was no dais, no pomp and ceremony, no weigh in – just Bedouins and the few foreigners crowding in a circle, those in the forefront crouching down on their haunches. I am envious of how they can do this for long periods without developing painful hips and knees. Short speeches in English and Arabic were made, congratulating the winners, the participants and the supporters.

There had been some doubt as to whether the race would take place this year, 2014 because of an ongoing land dispute between the tribes that threatened to escalate into violence. It is traditional for Bedouins to celebrate by firing rifles but this year firearms were noticeable by their absence, only a few random shots fired. It is a tribute to tribal wisdom and ability that customary Bedouin are best able to police themselves without any interference from outside security forces.

The camels were seemingly quickly forgotten however the winner’s value would have increased for sure. They were probably happier away from the gathered melee, recovering their breath and heading off for a well earned rest, food and water.

I did overhear a remark from a Dahab visitor, not a local tribal member, that “We should organise this a lot better”.  Without knowing exactly what he was alluding to, I suspect he envisages formal advertising and more tourists but I think this would be a pity. We were there as a welcomed guests, not as a tourists expecting display for our benefit and I would not want it any other way. No whinging about the sleeping arrangements, the rain or cold. I appreciate the cultural authenticity of the event: it is about Bedouins, their culture, their traditions and their pride.

The return journey was time to catch up on sleep, to stare out the window at spectacular desert vistas, for quiet contemplation. It had been a full and satisfying twenty-four hours that left impressions far greater than time actually spent. In fact I will think about it all year and hope I get another opportunity to be a guest at the Wadi Zalaga camel race, in sha allah.

Yesterday was October 6…

Yesterday was the 6th of October which is a national holiday here to commemorate the day, 6th October 1973, that Egyptian military forces made a brilliant tactical attack across from the West bank of the Suez Canal against the Israeli forces holding the East. (For anybody interested there is comprehensive information on Wikipedia.) It was Yom Kippur for the Jewish people and Ramadan for Muslims so the Israelis were probably somewhat complacent about any possibilty of attack from the Egyptian forces. The Egyptians planned and executed their attack audaciously with rubber dingies, smoke screens, water cannons to blast sand defences and artilliary supplied from Russia that destroyed many Israeli tanks. Syria was also attacking across the Golan Heights to the north at the same time and initially the Israelis were routed.

However after some days, the Israeli army mobilsed their civilian based troops to mount a counter attack on both fronts. Despite general El Shazly’s advice Sadat had also ordered most of the Egyptian force to cross the canal to the east leaving no rear guard. In the Sinai desert there was a massive tank battle and after the intense battle of the Chinese Farm, the Israelis were able to break through the centre of the Egyptian troops and crossed the canal into Africa. With little or defence from the Egyptians who were all on the east bank, the Israelis advanced to within a about 100km of the Egyptian capital Cairo. Both sides aquitted themelves with valour and determination but like most wars, the outcome termed success is dubious.

At this point politics and diplomacy took over and the Israelis retreated to the east bank of Suez and set up lines 16 kilometres into the Sinai with a UN buffer zone. The Suez canal again came under Egyptian administration with its significant revenue. The remainder of Sinai did not return to Egyptian rule until after the Camp David Accords in 1978: I think it was not until 1982, that the last Israeli settlers were forced to return behind the Gaza-Taba border.

While the Egyptian people do celebrate a distinctive and brilliant battle on the 6th of October it appears they are not encouraged to learn about the following days, the descision of Anwar Sadat against his generals nor about Israel crossing to within 100km of Cairo and the subsequent diplomatic action. They are also not told about the 1967 debacle that was planned by Egypt, Syria and Jordan mobilising troups to menace fronts with Israel, the blockading the Gulf of Aqaba at the Straits ot Tiran to all Israeli ships despite being told this would be considered an act of war in international waters. Israel decided the best form of offence was attack and anihilated the Egyptian aircraft before they could get off the ground then pushed into Sinai as far as the Suez and took over the West Bank of the Jordan river, thereby extending the misfortune of the already beleaguered Palestinian people.

I personally don’t want to take sides because I live on planet earth and last I time I saw a picture taken from space, earth was round – it doesn’t have sides. I don’t profess to be an expert but I am interested in shades of truth, one reason being Egypt is the country in which I currently reside. (Might have to leave after publishing this blog) However yesterday I commented on a photo . It was on a closed facebook group for local news and discussion. The previous comments made by Egyptians implied that Egypt were great and total victors of the short war by their grand martyrs and military efforts whereas Israel is a country that doesn’t exist. I have to admit I am tired of what I percieve to be this misguided patriotsim and commented “RIP all those who died on both sides”….

…well I could have started 6th October Battle II. Words rained down in irrelevant accusing fashion. I appreciate the fact that they attempted English as I don’t read Arabic so overlook and spelling, grammar, etc
“Sorry L, RIP 4 the martyrs of Egypt only …. The other side was an occupiar Enemy & without The historic victory of the War Sinai wouldn’t return back to the homeland”
“L the other side will rest in hell ,and any body think to stole our land will rest in hell this is only what we can offer ”
And when I asked if they knew what happened in 1967 as alead up to 6 October.
“i know very well , My history , the problem is with who create a fake History , only the homeless who do that ”
“. i say it again it is my history , no need for research , especially when i can here pull shitt says for example isreal won in 1973 , if you want research i can post a decoumentry done by israli themselves telling you what happened , im still young dont yet suffering from Alzheimer”
“by the way what was in 1967 was not a war ,war mean 2 army against each other ,what happened in 1967 was occupation that why we call it ‘naksah'”
From there the debate, if it could be called that declined into a diatribe that I must be suffering ahlzeimers, a coma, deafness, shame, embarrassment, comments concerning my reproductive capabilities, my age… even trying to justify their attacks…
“Thx J 4 being neutral …. but if u notice in the whole post she insist to bother us ….. we are peacful people All wars fought imposed on us …..We did not start the war never ……Who should be blamed …. when u always have right so u are stronger”

My reply “mmmm well here’s my peace offering … how about I agree with everything M and K say? You are absolutely correct in all your postings. You are peaceful people who have never started a war, only those imposed on you, you are never to blame. You never try to turn a debate into a personal attack on anyone who debates with you, that they are suffering a coma, ahlzeimers, deafness, shame and so long and thanks for all the fish. I’m off to the galaxy of my dreams.” I’ll never make diplomat and I do admit I did make some sarcastic comments… I know, I know. Lowest form of wit…

This is part of a problem for Egypt and maybe other societies. Generally they don’t have the skills to debate, the will to be introspective, to question history so it doesn’t repeat. They have never been taught to question the world around them, they believe all the propaganda.

What is also notable is that all these were Egyptian men who tried to comment in this manner (no pun intended). They tried to turn debate on historical events into hysterical events by trying to attack me personnally. Egyptian men regularly try to do this to women, bully and criticise. I am not being an over sensitive feminist here, I couldn’t give rat’s what they think of me. But their lack of respect for womens’ intellect among other things, is palpable.

I despair even more that this country can pull itself up by its shoestrings, especialy not sometime soon. I fervently hope God does bless Egypt because that is where they put their faith as well as in their masculine military might.
http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/history-revised-missing-chapter-6th-october-war
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