Sunday, April 22, 2007

number 1s in the Desert (i had to dedicate a post to this)

Well, I survived the toileting side, I will have you know. And, yes I agree with Tom, it really is liberating sitting out in the open, feeling the breeze on your ass and doin' what you gotta do in such silence. Daytime toilet trips I very much enjoyed, can't say the same for night visits however. Having to go out with a flashlight, even with 3 girls in tow, into absolute darkness is kinda scary. The 'breeze' you enjoyed during the day becomes more of a whipping wind at night, and you just want to get over with it and return back to camp pronto.

In fact, on the first morning out in the desert, woken up by the sunlight at 6.30am, I was one of the first ones I took my mattress and walked up away from the camp and settled down on a dune overlooking the entire area. The silence was incredible. It really is hard to find that kind of silence, especially having born and brought up in the city all my life. Sometimes someone would say something at the camp, and even though i was so far away the noise would be carried over to me by the wind. After enjoying the crisp morning sun for an hour or so, I got up and walked around my dune....I discovered a little nook behind a rock, which i then promptly staked out as my very own personal bathroom. No chance of anyone sneaking up on me. Like a little cat, I did my doings, covered it up and walked back to camp.

There were traumatising incidents of course. Stopping at a random spot in the desert while jeeping around, I, Natasha and Sara just HAD to go. Now the problem with being out in the open desert: Yes it is big and vast, and the dunes are big enough to hide you....but they are actually so big and wide that firstly climbing out to get behind one away from the cars is a task on its own, and then having to worry that one of the jeeps will come driving down the dune and catch you with your ass in the just doesnt bode well for peaceful toileting.

Lesson learnt: Don't tell anyone on a camping trip that you have baby wipes. Most importantly, don't tell certain Nigerians who will sneak it out of your handbag when you're not looking.

Siwa: 6th-9th April 2007

I'm not sure where to start. Or where to stop. Borrowing Tom Gara's favorite word, Siwa was AWESOME. The people I traveled with, the Bedouins who organized everything for us, just AWESOME.

Firstly, I am officially in love with the desert. Forget beaches. Forget mountains. Forget the ocean. The desert is my favorite get-away at the moment. The enormous size of the dunes, the vastness, the absolute brightness and color of the sand. In some spots, the sand is ever so soft, and on our first evening, I spent a good half-an-hour just sitting on this random patch of soft soft sand just feeling it run through my fingers, and burying my legs in it. But the desert was not made for human habitation. How did people manage to cross it on horse or camel-back back in the day? Sitting in 4x4s I felt like we could never conquer this desert......just riding up and down dunes was complicated enough, with at least one of our trio of jeeps always getting stuck and having to be dug out. We found shells buried in the sand a few times, and the realization that this used to be an ocean once-upon-a-time scares the crap out of you.

Highlights: Huddling around the fire as soon as the Bedouins would light one up for us in the evenings. The simple needs you have being out in the desert, where all you want is the warmth from the fire. Watching the sky explode with stars as nighttime falls. There really is no such thing as light pollution out there. Starving by the end of a day of non-stop exploring, and then eating an incredible barbecued meal cooked by the Bedouins. Feeling the sand crunch between your teeth when taking a bite out of the chicken just enhances the taste to be honest. Sticking your head out of the window of a jeep while it shoots across the desert (well not quite shoots, but the wind in your face and hair certainly made it feel like we were shooting). The 2-second wait where the Jeep is sitting on the edge of an enormous sand dune — and then hollering your lungs out when it rushes down it, thinking you're going to crash at the end, but inevitably don't. Not bringing a camera on a trip with me for the first time ever and being able to just enjoy each and every moment instead of trying to view it through a lens.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


They say these are the 50 worst days of the year, where the khamaseen engulfs the city in a blanket of dust and sand. I've spent 50 days mainly cooped up indoors working in the office, so yesterday when I had to leave work in the middle of the day to get my Visa work done, I found myself caught up in a sandstorm for the first time ever.

The whole world was literally yellow. I stood in front of the Mogamma downtown, and the scene in front of me looked like something out of a 1950s photograph, yellowed with age. Sand lined the pavements and I spent the day in a scarf and sunglasses to prevent an annoying session of washing dust out of my hair that evening.

What I definitely did not expect was what I found upon coming home: My entire flat was covered in a layer of yellow dust. I'd left the windows open slightly from the night before because it was getting too warm, VERY BAD IDEA. The floor was swamped with sand, and when I lifted my pillows off my bed, there were 2 neat rectangular white patches on my sheets where the dust hadn't reached.

I'm too lazy to clean up. I need to get my cleaning lady to come in. Only problem is I don't have cleaning chemicals for her! Aah! Time to go shopping.

Monday, April 16, 2007


I dont know if they were sand flies or just bed bugs caught in the Bedouin's bedding which they provided us to sleep on in the desert. But somethin nasty bit me out there....and it is driving me nuts.

On my left thigh alone - I have 17 bites. The bastard thing travelled down the top of my thigh, all the way to my ankle, leaving big red bumps which itch like a b****. I look like I have chicken pox. I feel like I have chicken pox.

And unlike mosquito bites, these are way itchier. And even if you ignore them for an hour, they don't just go away. They keep itching, until you can't take it anymore, and you just have to let loose. It's been a week since I came back from Siwa and I am still in AGONY.

(I must admit though, the sensation of finally giving in and scratching yourself at the end of a laborious day of resistance is unlike any other feeling ... I think I saw stars. Anyone listening to me (I was alone at home) would have gotten some very dodgy ideas.....

Why am I always the victim of these bloodsuckers? Back in 2002, I spent 6 months sleeping on the same bed as Mum and Sam, and every morning I would wake up with a trail of bites down both arms. For awhile, they thought I was making it up because neither of them would get bit by anything. We finally concluded that there were bed bugs in the mattress which seemed to head straight for me, bypassing any other human on that bed. Bastards.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

big dangerous protests here I come

I finally got my press card from work! It's a very cool RED, and hangs on a red loop holder thingy around my neck and it says PRESS in big red caps. Then, it has a very forgettable picture of me under which it says my full name, followed by 'Assistant Editor'.

I feel so utterly cool.

the stars, the sand, my ass & I

So I just found out/realised........ that out in the desert we are gonna be crapping in the open sand.
I'm serious, I'm traumatised.

I can't even squat! Kent the white Canadian boy is better at it than me!

Tom Gara scares me with stories of how the girls on his last trip 'bonded' over this little desert activity. Images of 7 girls squatting over one big hole drift in my mind and disturb my sleep at night.

And I'm like sitting here thinking, what am i gonna brush my teeth with? Do they have taps? Will a scorpion bite my ass as I maneuver squatting AND contemplating the beauty of the desert night sky all at the same time? Will my attempt at getting as far and away as possible from the tents/people result in my losing my way (Naynay can vouch for my insanely bad sense of direction) and forever getting lost in the Western Desert?

Desert nights

So finally, I'm going to the desert.
Spending the weekend in Siwa, an oasis near the Libyan border. 16 of us are going together, on a 20-seater bus which will drive us there over the 10-hour journey. Actually, let me just copy and paste what Tom emailed us:

We will be staying in Siwa town the first night, then camping out in the desert the next 2 nights. The guides will make a big awesome bedouin tent for us to chill and sleep in (think of a lounge room in the desert) On the 2nd day: Go rallying around the desert in jeeps, sandboarding in the dunes etc. On the third day we will probably go to one of the mineral springs for a swim, explore the desert a bit more, etc...In the nights we will just be chilling under the stars, the guides will build a big fire, cook dinner, make tea etc.

How amazing does that sound? :)

One of my 'do-before-I-die' tasks was to sleep out in the open desert, under the stars, and on my own. I'm not sure if this trip I'll have the guts to sleep alone, especially since I'm going with an army of friends, but I'm happy that I will at least experience the desert finally. Maybe work up the courage for next time :)


Sometimes I hate being a woman. The hairy problems that we solve back home with waxing, is taken care of by 'sugaring' here in Egypt. Very similar concept, involving something sticky being ripped off your skin to remove the hair from its roots. But so very different and more torturous in practice.

If you know how waxing works, you'll understand why sugaring is so painful. Firstly, they use a dry palm-sized lump of sugar paste — very, very crucially different to the hot liquid wax I'm used to. It’s like dry waxy play-dough. They spread (drag) the sugar on your skin, and being dry, it pulls at your hair, causing agonizing pain. And no, they don’t do a patch of skin all in one shot: the lump is spread over an inch and yanked off, and the same thing is repeated numerous times all over your skin, until you are about to die of pain and agony or at least be taken out of the salon with handcuffs because you boxed the sugaring lady out cold as a reflex action. And they don’t even lie you down in a nice bed, you just sit on a chair and hope for the best.

The first time I went for a sugaring session, I was going to do a full body session, but after the first ‘section’ of my body, I told the lady that I change my mind, I don’t wanna do everything. But, you might find this hard to believe, she wouldn’t LET ME. She just wouldn’t take no for an answer, she kept trying to convince me to finish the job, and finally, after she managed to convince me to do just a little bit more, I got a phonecall, and just because I was distracted and couldn’t quite shout bloody murder down the phone — the sneaky little thing went and did it all!

Prices: Maadi, Road 233, one salon charges me 10 LE for underarms. The salon 50m down from it charges 20 LE!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

the new pad

Oh I should be shot. I never thought I would feel guilty over not updating my blog.

So here's the deal. I got an apartment. Luli's to be exact. I'm moving into Luli's old place in Dokki, which is literally across the street from my former apartment on Tahrir Street! haha. I can now officially claim to be from Dokki. The rent is approximately the same as my room in the penthouse, albeit this time I get a whole apartment! Finalised everything last week, and on Sunday night I moved all my stuff there. Today is Wednesday, and even though I have unpacked everything, bought groceries, filled my fridge and spice cuboard, I haven't actually stayed the night there yet! I don't have a roomie as yet and I have to admit, am a little scared to be there all alone! (Yes, yes I'm a big baby). Also that I prefer being with my friends, its just so much more fun!

Nevertheless, I am so excited about my new place. Would you believe that this is the very first ever apartment that is MINE MINE MINE? When I had a flat in London, it was sharing with my sis and Bro-in-law — so thats not the same. Other than that I lived in halls. The last apartment in Dokki was sharing with 3 other girls temporarily. This tiny, cosy 2 bedroom place at the moment is all mine. I paid the deposit, I paid the rent, I signed the contract, and I get to make the rules :D It's such a thrill! I cant wait to decorate it all up, and add some color to the walls, and really make it my own.

On Monday night, Kent took me shopping around my neighborhood, and I realised I live on the most amazing street. You can buy anything and everything on my street. From kitchen utensils, to vegetables to pasta to spices to loofahs, I'm all set! I bought a small set of kitchen ware for the first time — I bought my very first KNIFE. And the wierdest purchase, I have to admit, was buying salt and sugar. Like, who the hell buys salt and sugar? Every household always has salt and sugar!

The only bad thing about my flat is that it's on the 6th floor and there's no lift. It's not too bad a climb, good for the thighs, but I have a feeling there will be plenty a time I will be a cursin' — but otherwise, the flat is adorable. I have a HUGE balcony, almost the size of my bloody apartment itself, and I plan to have lots and lots of BBQs. I am going to turn it into a regular boudoir — decked out with shisha, wireless internet and lounge chairs.

Realised something totally awesome on Monday. I bought a whole bag of veges from the street, and it came to like 5 pounds. We then proceeded to cook a really nice vege meal consisting of fried potatoes in south indian-esque coconut curry and rice. It was divine! If you don't buy meat in this country, you can get by on an outrageous budget! And since crashing with friends over the last 3 weeks, I've realised how much I miss cooking at home. Although cooking with friends after you've all returned home from work is a unique pleasure on its own — not the same as cooking daily for one person.