Hurghada and the Feast of Sacrifice

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Sat 28 Nov 09

1100hrs: The three of us wander up to one of the local marina restaurants called B’s inside the marina. A German couple run it and although there are Egyptian staff there’s another German lady working here. Order breakfasts of various kinds. The two women are quite friendly and ready for a chat. One is from Dusseldorf and the other comes from an island somewhere that I don’t catch.

They come down later to Jenzminc for a quick look around before returning to their restaurant. They offer to supply Christmas Dinner to the rally people for a good price but warn us to book early.

Andy and I go into town and after walking around in circles for a while manage to find a laundry shop. We’d actually passed it earlier but hadn’t noticed. The price is £1 an item. Return to the boat, collect my washing and take it back. The young lad behind the counter named Mohammed simply bundles the clothes into a plastic bag and puts it on the shelf. Now maybe it’s my suspicious character but I ask him, “How much for this washing?”
“Tomorrow”.
“Okay, I’ll come back tomorrow. But how much will you charge me for it?”
“Tomorrow”.
I pull out my wallet and indicate, “Price … what price? You count it”.
Our chap empties everything onto the floor and counts each item. He counts four handkerchiefs as one item, two underpants as one item and one sheet as two items. I nod acceptance.
“Okay then the price is £20 and I’ll pick it up tomorrow?”
He nods acceptance and then, “Tonight … 7 o’clock”.
Okay, at least we’re agreed on a price and there’s less of a chance of it getting jacked up tonight, or tomorrow or whenever I get to pick it up.

Many of the shops are closed today. We learn it’s the Eid El-Adha or Feast of Sacrifice lasting four days and is the most important feast in the Muslim calendar, which concludes the Pilgrimage to Mecca. It commemorates Abraham’s willingness to obey God and sacrifice his son. God stopped him and told him to sacrifice a ram instead. The Muslims believe the son was not Isaac as told in the Old Testament but Ismaiel, the forefather of Arabs.

We’re seeing a lot of animals being killed in the streets. Blood is literally lying around in puddles in the streets. Watch where you’re walking in the street … all the time. The family is supposed to eat a third and give the rest to the poor. It also means visits to relatives, extended families and the graves of relatives, and the distribution of sweets. Gifts are customarily exchanged. We see a group of men standing around a large butcher’s wooden block mounted on legs talking earnestly to each other. On the block is an upturned head of a bullock whose glazed eyes look on dispassionately with several flies buzzing around it.

208 signLeft: A street sign showing the Muslim view of religion compared to the Christian view starting from Abraham

Passing a corner two young boys appear to be sucking the blood from a vein in the back leg of the carcasses of two sheep with the wool still attached, but no heads. A number of other young boys stand around watching or beating on the carcass stomachs, which makes me think they might in fact be trying to blow the skin up like a balloon. For whatever purpose beats me.

Two more yachts come in during the afternoon, Roam II and Full Flight. Wash down Jenzminc with detergent.

Evening: A stage is getting set up as dusk falls on the concourse of the marina. Already there is band equipment being loaded onto it. Looks like a long evening ahead. Have a stew for dinner. Roger and Andy leave for a couple of drinks at one of the local marina restaurant/pubs and meet up with some of the Poms from other rally yachts … no names, no pack drill. At the insistence of one of them they all troop out for a meal of seafood in town. Our boys tell them they’ll go with them but won’t be eating since they’ve already had dinner back on the boat.

The Poms order a meal of seafood including three kg of prawns that on its own costs £560. Andy and Roger end up sharing one of the three bowls of calamari worth £60 and Andy has two of the prawns. The full price of the meal ends up at £890. Surprise …. the Brits want everyone to go shares-ies.

Sun 29 Nov 09

0100hrs. Music in the marina drops off … blessed quiet.

Day: Normal casual morning. Skype calls home. Been expecting more rally yachts to turn up but no sign yet. Two more yachts Divante and Esper turn up. Both boats pull up beside Jenzminc cutting off potential access to Lo Brust of Mistral and his yapping bloody dogs. Everyone troops down to a local pub for lunch and drinkies. Jenzminc keeps a separate account this time, though that doesn’t stop the Poms from wanting shares-ies again. Go out to collect the washing. Talk to young Mohammed the Laundry Man. Am told it won’t be ready until 7 o’clock tonight – he’s said the same thing yesterday.

Andy returns to the boat to tell me that a request has been made for the Australians from Jenzminc to present some sort of show for a proposed variety show sometime around New Year. At the moment we’re sort of thinking about one of Henry Lawson’s poems about a chap who got a spider bite. Some research of course will be necessary. We’ll probably do the corny thing and play Waltzing Matilda. I’ll play the guitar while Andy and Roger flog the crowd and make them sing. If they’re drunk enough maybe they won’t notice the strangled tone of my singing.

Evening: Over to Alice for dinner. The boys and girl crack open a bottle of Egyptian red wine called Omar Khayyam. They all say it’s a nice drop. Never did like red wine. Always tasted like vinegar to me. Hailá has prepared a lovely chicken stir fry. Says she couldn’t prepare anything special because she couldn’t get the ingredients. Needn’t have worried. The meal is excellent followed by a dessert of fruit and cream. Beautiful. Coffees.

Talk turns inevitably to things boating. A beep goes off which Alan says comes on when the fridge compressor starts up. Keeps intending to disconnect the alarm but it’s one of those jobs that never seems to leave the list of things to do. Talk turns to battery charging. Andy announces he’s going to fit a new wind-charger which he has on board but hasn’t installed yet. Seems Stan from Full Flight is some kind of professional stainless steel man who might agree to assist.

Right: A traditional boat in the marina209 gulet

Fairly early evening getting to bed. Blood curdling female screams rending the quieter periods between the rock music but everything’s okay. It’s just a big bungie thing called a Rocket Bungie. They strap you into a little cage then fire you up into the sky. It plummets up and down a few times high above the ground before slowly dropping you back to the ground.

Mon 30 Nov 09

Skype call home. Had received a bit of worrying news by text message from Delma back home during the night. She’s down in Sydney at the moment visiting our daughter Lydia. The news isn’t particularly good but nothing can be achieved by my flying home. Really impressed with being able to use this Skype system. It’s got its problems but for the price – who cares?

Andy spends a part of the morning measuring up and talking to Stan about installing the wind-generator. We then go up to the laundry and retrieve our washing. Andy buys a Canon printer/scanner at one of the local shops and some rope at another place just down the road. Many of them are still shut for the four-day holiday. Back at the boat Roger has been busy cleaning out all the interior of the boat wiping down everything with a cleaning anti-septic spray mix. He’s just finishing up as Andy and I return. Boat is looking good. All the Poms are gathered together in the cockpit of Esper.

Have problems getting the new printer set up. Computer won’t recognise the printer no matter what we do. Re-install the whole thing several times. Download and update new drivers. Nothing.

Have pizzas for dinner. Watch a movie stored on a portable hard drive, on the laptop.

Tues 1 Dec 09

1000hrs: Take the computer back to the shop to find it still closed.

Walk around to a shop selling stainless steel that we’d seen earlier but which had been closed over the holidays. It’s now open. With the language barrier it’s a bit difficult getting through what we want but the bloke seems to know his business at least. We want three metres of grade 316 stainless pipe with a three millimetre wall on which to mount the wind generator. Try explaining that to someone who doesn’t speak much English. The shopkeeper says he can get a piece of pipe in by 2 pm today and it will cost £1250 (about $250 AUS). Pretty expensive. Andy tells him he’ll think about it and leaves the shop.

Return to the computer shop. Still closed. Andy asks a nearby shop where he’d bought the rope yesterday. He indicates the owner is probably sleeping, and that he’ll probably open up around 11 am. Sit down on the steps to wait. Notice the number plates on cars have both Roman and Arabic numbers. We occupy our time by learning Arabic numbers. Some stores take advantage of tourists not being able to read the marked prices on things. You can pay up to 100% more.

While thus employed a middle age man with a heavily lined but friendly face, wearing dirty trousers and with a gimpy left leg shuffles by waving and smiling at all and sundry. Says hello to us. Comes back later holding a piece of paper with the telephone number in Arabic and Roman numerals of the computer store on it. On learning we don’t have a mobile phone with us, rings the number himself. No answer. Gives us the piece of paper, wishes us a good morning and leaves.

Traffic starting to build up. Dust beginning to hang in clouds in the street. Look up and down the length of the street. Filled with dirt piles in the gutters, rocks and brick rubble, litter and plastic bags spilling food scraps and various bits of goat droppings. There is only one large rubbish bin and it’s lying on its side. Dirty washing water is getting thrown out onto the road or vacant land beside the buildings. It’s not hard to feel the stirrings of disgust that people just seem to accept living in this filth.

Within a stone’s throw of where we sit is just one of any number of large unfilled gaps or deep potholes in the bitumen roads everywhere. Those who aren’t travelling too fast tend to slow down to negotiate them. The only rubbish collection I’ve seen this entire trip so far was one man pushing a bin on wheels at Ismailia manually picking up mounds of rubbish.

There is a real feeling of walking through a war zone passing through the back streets. People are living in cement hovels. Scraggy, dirty children playing in the streets. Skeletons of buildings everywhere. Remains of previous building foundations left in place. Haphazard street layouts. Footpaths, once beautifully tiled have large areas ripped up leaving holes for the unwary. I assume someone has taken the missing footpath tiles away to put to better use somewhere else – like in their own home. Builders just throw off-cuts of brick and other materials onto the ground and into the street where it lays discarded. Isn’t a surprising attitude by the population I suppose when there doesn’t seem to be any real effort of council rubbish collection.

With time on my hands to reflect on the squalor all around I suppose it should be kept in mind that water is a valuable commodity and not to be wasted on things like washing down footpaths or advertising signs. And it’s possible that much of the Egyptian national budget is allocated to the military and police. I’m told the Israeli’s allocate something like 46% towards its military given that they tend to have wars now and then with its neighbours. And the Egyptians aren’t backwards when it comes to stirring things up and fighting other people, including Arabs. They do seem to erect some pretty good murals and memorials, even when they get their arse kicked.
So I guess it’s possible there isn’t much money trickling down from the national government, and there can be no doubt corruption is rife at all levels. It’s probably fair to say that whatever government funds are granted is being siphoned off somewhere before it gets anywhere near municipal funding, and what’s left is probably getting skimmed off by local petty officials.

Perhaps the lack of civic services is because the cities simply can’t raise enough funds since the money isn’t there amongst the population. It’s doesn’t take much observation to see there are two groups – the haves and the have nots. It must be said most of the people look to be exceedingly poor.

However this is a rather gloomy close up view of the place. A superficial view of it I suppose isn’t too bad. There’s plenty of new and exciting, artistic looking buildings around to brighten it up. You have to say the Egyptians are optimists. There are masses of new buildings underway and they’re calling Hurghada the “new Dubai”. Unfortunately they don’t seem to ever properly finish anything they start.

1100hrs: The computer shop man turns up and invites us inside. Andy explains the problem. The salesman offers to replace the printer. We suggest he try a different USB cable first. After trying three different cables the printer springs to life. Do a test of the scanner. No problem. We’re now all set or printing and scanning documents on board. If we need extra copies of anything we can simply print or scan them off without having to try and find a photocopy shop somewhere.

Back onboard. Hailá comes over to ask me to have a look at their computer. They have a Garmin GPS which used to communicate quite happily with their old computer but won’t recognise the new computer. With the view that two heads are better than one, spend a bit of time on Alice but can’t get too far with it. Decide to wait until tomorrow morning for a reliable internet connection to find out the meaning of a Windows error code.

Afternoon: Storm Dodger, Moody Time and Rhumb Do arrive and tie up.

1430hrs: The afternoon the regular Babbling Moans as I now refer to them, drift out from the numerous minarets around. Have a power nap.

Evening: Have dinner onboard. Do some computer work.

Weds 2 Dec 09

Late start to the day. Spend most of the morning working with Alan and Hailá on a couple of computer issues. Manage to get one of them solved but the other concerning getting the laptop to recognise the GPS is ongoing.

1400hrs: A group of Brits and ourselves are going to a local brewery at nearby El Gouna, about 4km or so away. At least I think it’s a brewery. Some mention has been made of wine tasting. A chap named Graham is our leader and at the front gate to the marina hails down 4 taxis. He gives each one of them instructions where to go. The fare is to be no more than £10.

Don’t much like the look of our driver. Appears to have the shits about something. Doesn’t look at us or say anything, just sits there with a grim set to his mouth. Takes off suddenly before everybody else. Off we go heading in the general direction of El Gouna. Not too long after he pulls up. Doesn’t say anything so we get out. Pay him his £10 and he takes off. Look around. No brewery. Not a clue where we are. We’re stranded with no idea where to go.

Some locals gather around each offering volubly to take us somewhere, and asking prices ranging from £20 to £100. They think it hilarious when I give them the sign which I think loosely means “get stuffed” in Italian i.e. left hand on right bicep, clench the right fist, raise and lower the right forearm up high repeatedly … but I think they got the message.

With no other real options we start walking. Ask for directions at a Vodaphone shop where the young man pulls out an English to Arabic translator device. Tells us the brewery is on the High Road. Getting further information out of him is a bit like extracting teeth. Graham tells us the next day it isn’t on the High Road. It’s actually in El Gouna about 20 km away and that the Egyptians will tell a lie rather than admit they don’t know. It’s a face saving thing apparently. We were supposed to get the taxi to a bus stop then take a bus from there.

Walking, walking. Get to a big intersection. Still no brewery in sight. Pull over a couple of unhelpful taxi drivers whose only English appeared to be “hello” and “okay”, the latter used in answer to every question. Then one turns up that seems to know where to go. Nods his head wisely when the brewery is mentioned. Says, “Sakara” (with an “r”) which clinches it, as that’s the name of one of the beers here. Should have listened a bit more closely. Set the price which requires me to walk away from him before he relents and we all climb in. Away we go heading back the way we came.

Driving, driving. See a road sign pointing to Sekala. He turns onto it. Then another road sign to Sekala. He follows it. At this point we hadn’t known Sekala is the area where the marina is located. Pull over driver. Pay him his money and get out. Look along the street and there is our familiar mosque landmark, which is just a short distance from the Roma Restaurant and a few hundred metres from Jenzminc a couple of short blocks away.

Order a pizza for lunch, have a couple of beers or coffee, then spend a bit of time looking around the shops before returning to the boat.

Evening: Roger cooks dinner. Early to bed.

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