A travel moment in Egypt


Things were not going well. Things had not been going well since our departure from Luxor and I’d been threatened with police arrest by a cantankerous ticket seller-cum-con artist who had just shamelessly swindled us. He had sold us our bus tickets to Hurghada, from where we would catch a boat to Dahab. ‘Informing’ us that the parked bus didn’t leave for another hour, Kate and I jaunted off to buy enormous bags of pistachios and purple-coloured peanuts for the journey. By the time we returned, the car-park was empty save a forlorn looking goat.

When I confronted the old man who had sold us the tickets, he threw his hands in the air, claiming he’d never sold us any tickets and that we had to buy new ones. It was when I contested this that he threatened to have me arrested. In broken Arabic I was very prepared to battle our cause but Kate just thrust some notes at him, investing in yet more tickets for the next bus, which, true to Egyptian timing, arrived around two hours later.

This unfortunate episode was an omen – a bad one. The three-hour journey to Hurghada was in fact six, and if we weren’t crawling behind straggling sheep who didn’t seem to be much bothered by the blaring horn, we were speeding along wildly, lurching from side to side. One man, with a furiously flapping and squawking chicken in a birdcage, was clinging onto it for dear life.

When the bus finally dropped us off, it was in a dimly lit car-park in the apparent middle of nowhere. The only clue we had that we were even in Hurghada was the promising and very welcome scent and sensation of the Red Sea breeze. Within moments, however, a young man in a taxi jumped out and began removing our rucksacks, tossing them into the back seat. “Where you go? I am take you there! Yallah!” At which point Kate and I were both so exhausted that we bundled in, giving him the name of our hotel in the vague hope he could get us there.

After about an hour of hopelessly circling the dark streets, fatigue gave way to rage and I told him to let us out and we’d walk. A brief fracas concerning money ensued: (“If you take us to our hotel, not back to where we started, Ahmed, then you get a full fare,”) and as he sped off cursing, Kate and I began to wander the streets, waving away young boys inexplicably flogging flip-flops and snorkelling apparatus at 4 a.m.

We found the port before we found the hotel. It wasn’t pretty. Detritus everywhere, mangy dogs skulking in and out of the rubbish. Suddenly, from nowhere, a group of rakish young boys descended on us, laughing, asking questions: “Where you going, pretty ladies? You are from Manchester? You like Manchester United?”

“Dahab? Where is the boat?” I asked, hoping these excited children with black teeth could offer us salvation.

“You like David Beckham?” is one answer to my question.

“Yes, David Beckham is marvellous, but where is the boat?”

Suddenly, amidst the squeals and laughter and flurry of wandering hands, a voice louder than the rest. This answer made my heart drop to my feet.

“Boat no working, miss.”

H Mendoza

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