14 December 2009

Leaving Aswan

Day 160 - Felucca Ride Aswan - 032

After two weeks of idling, waiting for the car to catch up with us, it was surprisingly hard to leave Aswan. We had found favourite haunts for dinner, sunset watching and beer drinking, we had made connections: Mahmoud, keeping us up to date with the non-progress of the barge that - Inshallah - would bring our car; Shahad, fellucca captain extraordinaire and his brother Shazy, hospitable Nubians serving karkady (hibiscus tea) on his boat; Mohammed from the Keylany Hotel reception, dispenser of information and correct pricing for all manner of things, and Hamid and his three brothers, wily sellers of tourist tack in the souq, who could also arrange for the sale of anything else required.

Still, the most friendly encounters since we left Sudan took place on our way out of the tourist metropolises of Luxor and Aswan. Attempting to buy bread, we stopped at a falafel cafe in a small village, where my request for “Eish" (my Arabic is obviously coming along in leaps and bounds) resulted in a group discussion by all other customers until we found an English speaker, who, after giving me a big bag of freshly fried bright green falafel, initially refused my attempt at payment, and eventually accepted a few Euros worth of Egyptian Pounds for six flatbreads, 25 falafel and a bag of tomatoes.

Day 163-7 - Aswan - 083

Later, looking for crisps and water at a roadside shop near Qena, my miserable Arabic had everyone falling about laughing. The shopkeeper eventually rescued me with stern looks in the direction of his son and daughter, who were wrestling over the privilege of packing my purchases into a bag. For some reason everything I did, pointing to things, getting out my money, even just standing there shrugging my shoulders, made them collapse into heaps of giggles. It still makes me smile now.

We stopped for lunch on a side road, and after convincing the soldiers at the road block - there is a road block at every junction on the Nile Road - that we were not going to get ourselves blown up or machine-gunned on their watch, we ate those lovely falafel with sweet chilli sauce, made all the more tasty by the fact that not one passer-by stopped to stare, and the old man over the road cutting fodder never even threw us a glance. Just as we got ready to leave a young man stopped his donkey cart next to our car and wandered off into a palm grove. He returned a few minutes later with a handful of fresh dates, just picked and thick with honey sweetness, which he offered us, smiling. Asking nothing in return, he got back onto his cart, waved and disappeared.

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