Close encounters of an insect kind

My back was stuck to the plastic bus seat and sweat dripped down my face. As the bus lurched to a stop I heaved my overstuffed rucksack onto my back and staggered out onto the frantic Cairo street. By my side was Laura, a girl I barely knew but whom I'd met on the kibbutz, and who had agreed to join me on a fortnight of adventure in Egypt.

Looking for a bus to central Cairo, we desperately tried to grapple with the Arabic numbers on the bus signs. Despite having tried to memorise them from my well-thumbed 'Let's Go Israel and Egypt' guide, I realised it was no good and reluctantly we decided to take a taxi. Once on the road, we discovered that our driver had a cousin who owned a hotel. What a coincidence!

The taxi driver hurtled at breakneck speed through the city as both Laura and I gazed through the windows, open-jawed. Thrillingly , in the distance, we glimpsed the top of the pyramids peeping over the tops of the buildings.

The hotel was small but the man on reception was friendly as we paid our money (a bargain 4 a night, each) and although the room was reminiscent of a cell, we reminded ourslves that were, after all, in a hotel rather than a kibbutnik's dorm. We were now officially backpackers, and budget hotels came with the territory.

I awoke later that night to feel something tickling my forehead. Irritated, I brushed it away but it returned. When I switched on my torch, I saw a large cockroach on my bed, inches away from my head, waving it's antennae at me. I leapt up and switched on the light. It was then I realised that the black painted ceiling was in reality a sea of cockroaches. The offending bug had crept a little too close to the cornicing and had tumbled down onto my bed. Like lemmings of the insect world, the swarm was following it's lead, towards Laura's sleeping form. Whilst screaming like a little girl, I made an ineffectual attempt at swiping the cockroaches away. An awake (and borderline hysterical) Laura & I decided the best strategy was to drag our beds into the centre of the room and hide under our closely tucked sheets.

Laura began to pray.

The next morning, stiff upper lips still quivering slightly, we marched down to reception where our complaint was met with a shrug. We decided to take our custom elsewhere and headed off for lunch. We found a delicious and cheap vegetarian lunch at a nearby cafe, and made our way to the train station to buy tickets to Luxor. The next day, as we broke into a cold sweat just 60 minutes into that 13 hour train ride, our stomachs politely informed us that the mountain of warm rice and lentils probably hadn't been the best culinary decision.

After four days of misery, we admitting defeat and returned to the cosseted world of the kibbutz.

J Naik

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