<% pageTitle="2004 Dahshur Dawdle - Abu Sir Egypt" homeDirectory="/2004dahshurdawdle/" eventSponsor="belesemo" leftBanner="kerrit" rightBanner="ridecamp" %>

Changing Donkeys in Midstream

...After all, my dream of galloping in the desert happens tomorrow AM. Although, the thought of Shoki driving 120 km/h in the dark (I bet you a pyramid he drives with his lights off) for 6 hours was, even for me, a little daunting. Oh well - just don't think about it - insha'allah. God willing, we'll get there. So we started off ripping along the winding road toward the west coast, at 100, 110 km/h, Shoki'e eyes darting in both mirrors at all of us, staring at Jackie testing her blood and giving herself an insulin shot, not watching the road, driving in the left lane. Hortense finally told him to stay in the right lane. I got to work on my journal while I had a little light. Then I got a tap on my shoulder. Tracy leaned up to my ear (Nabeel sat beside me) and said: "Merri. Watch the driver's eyes. He's falling asleep." Oh, SHIT. That's one thing that gets the adrenaline firing through me - a driver whose eyes are closing. Hortense said, "I've been watching him. His head nods and his eyes close." Well, this is bad. Insha'allah's not going to get us home in this situation. Tracy and Hortense talked, then Hortense asked Nabeel how far it was to the nearest hotel: 100 km (already!) back to St Katherine; 250 km to a place on the coast. More talk, and Tracy & Hortense & I decided to make our drivers turn around. This wasn't going to be easy, or pretty, but then none of us wanted particularly to die that night in a nasty car crash in the Sinai desert. My Egyptian transmissions would've ended abruptly. They may still, whenever your number's up it's up, but here we had a choice in the matter. (Jackie was asleep in the front seat so was unaware of all this.) Hortense started speaking Arabic to Nabeel and it went something like this: I've been watching our driver, he is tired and falling asleep, we want to go back to stay in St Katherine for our safety. Nabeel said something like this: Only 1/2 hour to the coast, then several hours to Cairo yes - which had nothing to do with our point. Hortense's voice became a little stronger, saying the same thing, but with Nabeel interrupting her constantly. She switched to English: "Stop interrupting me!" and back to Arabic... Shoki is now wide awake and has slowed down (!)... Nabeel raises his voice and interrupts again and Hortense erupts in her commanding MOther Voice in Arabic STOP INTERRUPTING ME! Nabeel is turned backward in his seat and gesturing in HOrtense's face with both hands and yells in English this time, "You watch how you speak to me. I am not your father!" Hortense responded instantly with a soft but very forbidding voice - she knew just how to pitch it - that seemed to cast a spell on Nabeel because he didn't open his mouth. She sounded like a patient mother explaining something blantantly obvious to an errant stubborn child, and it ended in creschendoing thundering English... "because we are FUCKING SCARED!" Nabeel was shocked into silence for a moment. "I hear you but I want to hear what THESE women have to say." He turned to me. I said "We want to go back to St Katherine and spend the night, leave early in the morning." N "Ah - no, not possible, I have many things to do tomorrow." Me "OK you turn around, take us to St K, and you can still go on to Cairo tonite." I could see dollar signs in his eyes and he started to speak, but I interrupted him in my best imitation of a patient mother voice. "We will still pay you. Just take us back to St K. We'll feel safer. Drop us off and you can go to Cairo." Tracy said "We're paying you, and you need to respect our wishes." By now Shoki had heaved a sigh, and actually put the car in park, and turned off the motor! He looked about ready to beat his head on the steering wheel. N "How you get back to Cairo?" I shrugged - who knew? We'd find something, no big deal. I made something up. "Morad will come pick us up - it is not a problem. You go to Cairo, after you drop us off in St K." I was going to jump out of the car if he didn't agree to take us back. Nabeel couldn't believe us, but he told Shoki to turn around. Shoki REALLY couldn't believe it. Like one of the resigned Egyptian donkeys that accept their lot in life and do as they're told, Shoki sadly started the car, put it in drive, and turned aorund (almost pulling out in front of a car). This time he drove about 80 k/h - and guess what: he does drive with his lights off. Hortense kept talking to Shoki to make sure he wouldn't fall asleep. HOrtense called Ali and spoke French to him about the driver falling asleep. I knew then he'd drop whatever he might be doing, and come back to St K's. We got back to St K at 7:30; they dropped us and our bags in front of the pharmacy and shook our hands and said "Thank you," a civilized gesture when we were both probably thinking, You DOnkeys Asses. I don't remember who brought up the payment issue, but I said I had no US dollars on me (I didn't). Tracy and Jackie had enough for all of us but we wanted to think about this. I said "Is it OK to pay you tomorrow in Cairo - we don't have US dollars on us." He said yes. After they left we debated. 2 of us thought we should pay them the $50 apiece we agreed on, 2 of us thought we shouldn't. We concluded - let MA decide! She'll know the proper thing to do. ONe of our group was really worried about where we'd stay tonight, how we'd get back to Cairo; she didn't want to bother or impose upon MA or Ali or Morad... Me, I felt quite at peace and totally unconcerned with anything at all in life. Ali was on his way and would take care of things. If he hadn't been around to call, I still would have been totally unconcerned. I've learned in my travels to just accept help from someone when they offer. You'll pay them back in kind one day, and if you don't get the chance, you will help someone else. Just go with the flow and don't worry - things will work out, and almost always work out the way they are supposed to. I will miss my ride in the desert tomorrow, c'est la vie. Tonight and tomorrow morning I am meant to be (alive!) in St Katherine in the Sinai. A Bedouin came up to us, "Welcome. Welcome to St K. If you need anything, guide, taxi, good place to sleep not so expensive, I will get it for you." Several taxis stopped to ask if we needed a ride. "La - shukran." The muezzin started singing in the mosque across the street. People walked by greeting each other, "Salaam wa aleikum." The almost-full moon was overhead, it was the perfect 75* night, I had no idea where I'd close my eyes tonight, or when or if I'd leave tomorrow, and I didn't care. It was so natural, and it was so peaceful here. I really really wanted to sleep at Ali's place out in the desert under the moon and a warm thick camel hair blanket - but it was not to be. A hotel was decided on. Ali picked us up and drove us to several motels that wanted only US $ (~$58 for a double), and at the first place the bank card machine was broken. They wouldn't accept Egyptian pounds unless you had the bank exchange receipt (who carries those things?). Same thing at 3/4 other hotels, so Ali said, "I'll take you to this Bedouin camping place. The guy hates my guts but it's a nice place and very inexpensive." The guy hates Ali because this guy took a tour group out on Ali's land and trashed it, so Ali made him clean up not only the area he trashed but the whole wadi. But the guy welcomed him/us in, showed us a couple of rooms with 3/4 sleeping matts on the floor in each - 15 pounds a person (like $2.50). Oh, I just love these places. This is how I love to travel - staying at these neat, simple quiet little traveller's places - and this one was clean and had several toilets that were clean. We tossed our stuff in 2 rooms, then went outside and sat in the little short-walled enclosure filled with matts surrounding a fire. Ali was also there - he was calling around, trying to find us a ride to Cairo for the morning - and was going to stay the night to make sure we were OK. He was unable to drum up a driver this late - no problem we said, maybe we will find one tomorrow - whatever. We had tea, cigarettes, and talk under the moon in the Sinai. Steph would have just loved it. Does it get any better than this?


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