08 February 2017

Safaga, Egypt 2014

Noon-ish: Into Egypt's eastern desert I go again. Big 4x4 jeeps. I know, I'm a masochist. Three people allocated for each side bench, unlike some previous squished trips. With no side doors, getting UP over the high tailgate is an athletic and ungraceful adventure in itself. My companion "S" and I settle ourselves to observe the company with satisfaction. Until the sixth passenger is hoisted into the vehicle with the assistance of the driver and our leader. The man is not only tall and broad, he is unfortunately, grossly overweight. He slowly unfolds into place, filling most of one side. His core density is such that his appendages shoot out helplessly in all directions so the rest of us are forced to adapt (scrunch). S does not look happy with the knees of his own long legs around his ears.

The excursion promises a thrilling desert sunset on the return. A perfect ending for a camel ride from the village we are about to visit. Once we have climbed the heights, the route quickly turns off the highway onto a sand road. After an uncomfortable cramped hour or so, I have dèja vu. Yes, there is the lonely tree I remember from last year. Good, we pile out to see if our joints are still working and hear about desert flora. That means we have to make the jeep re-entry. S tries to claim leg space right off the bat but Number Six sprawls opposite, arms and legs akimbo. The third man in our group looks very ex-military and never says a word coming or going.

The familiar Um Dalfa welcoming committee awaits. We can hardly wait to unload. And of course, the customary serving of refreshing mint tea ... with reference to Bedouin courting customs. If a potential bride adds sugar to the tea she serves the young man, it means she accepts his offer of marriage.
... while our leader gives us the introduction to a tour of the village. I am, of course, peering everywhere for the camels. As soon as I can get his attention, he tells us in no uncertain terms there will be NO camel rides. OH! This particular tour operator had a recent incident with a tourist injury, falling off a camel, and so they will not risk it again. My luck! For sure, an insurance company must be involved. Crushed, I obediently resign myself to following the village tour.

The women show us bread-making.

This is the village mosque that I never realized existed in last year's tour.

I have to settle for admiration without being seated on an animal. No sign of Hassan or his mother whom I'd met the year before. Then for reasons unknown, the tempo of the visit accelerates as our tour leader hustles us along to depart.

Minimal time for the crafts display. No time to chat with the vendors and browse the goods or handle the shawls and carpets. Why are we being so rushed? Some women linger, wishing to buy, but tour leader busily motions everyone onward. Few sales take place; not a happy ending for the villagers or us.

The villagers' goodbye song gets short shrift while a couple of stragglers are still trying to pay for purchases. I suspect the tour's timing was tardy from the beginning. What a difference from last year. Once more we heave ourselves into the damn jeep. After five of us take what we think are strategic spots, Number Six is heaved in last, expanding in our space like a full-blown airbag. So much for tactical planning. No-one resents his opportunity for world travel, just could the Jeep Planning have been handled a little better? There is no break for relief on the way back for two plus hours. Long legs are trapped whichever way we wiggle.

Here behind us is the missing sunset of the "sunset excursion." In fact the sunset is never mentioned; no photography stop. Those of us who can actually move our upper bodies try for camera shots through the back window. All in all, this poorly organized tour operator is not recommended. Win some, lose some.

Later, my companion refers to Number Six as a portly man. S is obviously a well-mannered, polite person. Except for the ferociously painful face he made in the recall.

© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman

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