A Whirling Dervish and a Juggling Clown

Rhythmic drumming and the sound of a wind instrument wafted their way up to the balcony on the sea breeze and it took a couple of minutes to track down their source.

Walking along the beach were a group of three musicians, two were playing mizmar’s and one was beating a drum that was attached to a strap slung over his shoulder which he hit with a curved drumstick.

Well I couldn’t miss this opportunity so I grabbed my camera and headed down towards the beach with My Love (ML), they were playing I think folk music and all the Egyptians on the beach were smiling and enjoying it. Maybe it was a well-known piece of music or folk song, I’m not sure and I don’t think there were any words as nobody seemed to be singing along.

I was absolutely fascinated by the cheeks of the mizmar players as they suddenly popped out like he had pushed half a ball into each cheek like an extreme Vito Corleone from the film The Godfather

One man obviously felt the music more than the other people and started to dance in front of the musicians, one arm held aloft as he slowly twirled around. This was not made any easier by the deep soft sand that was underfoot. Joining in is obviously not seen as unusual and so they played on slowly moving down the beach with their accompanying dancer.

I managed to get some lovely shots of them all and was just zooming in on one of the instruments when a juggling clown came into view.

Well that brings you up a bit short, the sight of a mizmar band on the beach is unusual enough but, a juggling clown complete with red nose, checked trousers, striped socks and very large red and yellow shoes is somewhat surreal. He merrily juggled away unaware I think of the oddness of the two different performances side by side.

Can you have fusion entertainment like you have fusion cuisine?

In a moment of silence, the unmistakable sound of trumpets could be heard faintly coming from the other end of the beach. Off ML and I headed towards the sound – hard going in the heat of the day and deep dry sand. Four men in bright red jackets, black trousers and pale blue beret style caps were playing the music. The pockets of their jackets were edge in ribbon or braiding in the colours of the Egyptian flag and across their shoulders were black and gold tasselled epaulettes. Running from their right shoulder down across their body was a gold sash.

We took some photographs of the musicians and listened to their music but our eye was soon caught by two other performers. One was dressed in a long yellow coat with a full skirt and a red pointed hat and a false beard. He was carrying a metal container on a long chain. The other wore a similar long coat but this time bright red with white decoration and a small red and white turban.

The guy in the red suddenly threw into the air a cloth he was holding and began spinning it around with his hand, it was brightly decorated and the twirled in every which way showing of his dexterity as the cloth spun and twirled blurring the colours. As you can imagine he drew lots of attention and one of the trumpet players wasn’t happy with their loss of audience.

He moved closer towards the performer blowing his trumpet loudly and this didn’t go down very well as he seemed to lose concentration and the cloth he was twirling collapsed. There was a little contretemps between the two and the performer marched off down the beach and started twirling again. The musicians followed and the performer twirling the cloth got very cross with the musicians and folded his cloth and marched off in a bit of a huff.

All very dramatic and obviously diva like behaviour of performers is the same the world over.

When I got back to the room I tried to find some information about the style of dancing and I found it was a derivative of Sufi Whirling. I’m sure you have all seen film or photographs of men dressed in white twirling round their full skirts. The dervishes whirl in repetitive circles as a form of meditative prayer.

The performer we had seen on the beach would have been performing the Egyptian version of this called the Tanoura. In Egypt the dance has been adapted and become a folk dance performed as an entertainment. The tanoura is the colourful cloth or I should say skirt that the performer had been twirling above his head.

If he had been performing the dance on a hard surface rather than deep loose sand he would have been wearing the skirt over his long coat. As he whirled the skirt would stand out straight from his body as it lifted higher he would move the opening up his body until it was spinning above his head as we saw. I understand that there is a show in Cairo where you can see the dances performed and some of the dancers have up to four of the colourful skirts on which as the whirl are removed one at a time.

Having stood out in temperatures hitting the high 30oC we were both very hot and in need of something cool so headed off the beach onto the path which made walking much less effort than on the sand. On what is normally a small football pitch a small fairground had been set up but before you think of the travelling fairs with their lights and music and brightly coloured facades this consisted of small wooden roundabout and swings. Saying that the small children who were on them were obviously enjoying themselves.

As we headed down the path towards an ice cream we came face to kneecap with a stilt walker all dressed in red with a fez balanced on the top of his head waving to the children.

A somewhat fitting end to a very unusual afternoon’s entertainment.

PS: My apologies for the photographic quality, I dropped my external hard drive onto a tiled floor yesterday and can no longer access any data on it. I have had to pull the images of a post I did on Facebook but many of images I wanted to show you weren’t on it. I have everything crossed that when I head back to the UK in a week somebody will be able to rescue the data. I have a back up in the UK but obviously that doesn’t include the last 12 weeks of images and writing.


If you have enjoyed this blog you may want to read the blogs I kept when I lived in Vietnam and Costa Rica.

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Time for a few updates.

The chicks which My Love (ML) and I are fairly sure now are crows are just as noisy but there are slightly longer gaps between their incessant calls for food. Still no sign of them but having checked on the internet they fledge around about 40 – 45 days after they have hatched so we still have a bit of time yet.

Not sure if it is connected but between 1 and 2 pm every day a crow flies onto the balcony. It has a variety of perches which include the back of the chairs, the top of the balustrade or on the wall that the metal balustrade sits on. He sits there and for all the world it sounds like it is saying ‘No, no, no, no,no’ when it is not cawing, although it sounds like it has a sore throat as it is very croaky caw.

***

A couple of weeks ago the children in Egypt went back to school, and you may wonder why I mention this. What it means for us permanent residents is that we can now find a table in the dining room, there are not huge queues of people at the buffet, no more elbows or pushing. We have found and this isn’t meant as a generalisation just our observation here that people on holiday in this hotel do not know how to queue or can’t be bothered.

Also, the huge wastage of food has dropped, again I’m not sure if this is an Egyptian thing or just holidaymakers here but rather than filling a plate and sitting down to eat then revisiting the buffet a large number of people cover the surface of their table with plates full of food and then leave over half of it. In a country where there are people in need of food it is unbelievable how much is wasted.

The hotel still gets busy at the weekend as people come down from Cairo for a short break but you can live with that when you know it is only for a couple of days.

***

Not sure if the lower number of guests have anything to do with it but the chefs have been giving us some wonderful treats. It started last week, normally as you enter the dining room the end of the counter has a selection of different starters in small dishes or displayed on platters. Much to our surprise there was a large display of food and flowers and in the middle, was one of the chef’s in his whites resplendent with his toque towering above the flowers.

On closer inspection we saw the sign that said ‘Caesar Salad Station’ so we had to investigate. The chef took a cocktail glass and constructed a perfect miniature Caesar salad. It was delicious and I can’t wait for it to make a return. Just a little aside – did you know it was invented in Mexico, me neither I always thought it came from America.

A couple of nights later and we were treated to French crepés with a variety of fruit coulis and chocolate sauce. We were then treated to a night of sushi and we could watch the chef preparing it at his work station and finally last night we were treated to choux pastry. You chose the buns you wanted and the chef split them and filled them with cream and you could then add chopped fruit, coulis, chocolate, crystallised ginger and other things I couldn’t identify.

The final mini station that has appeared was a selection of sushi, tiny bites of deliciousness. Some were wrapped in seaweed, others were draped in fish others were wrapped in sticky rice. Little bowls of soya sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger were there to use as condiments.

***

The white washing has slowly been going through a colour change, it started off after about three weeks of being sent to the laundry with everything white seemed to have a slight bluish hint to it when it came back. Not the blue/white beloved by washing detergent manufacturers more a whoops that’s where the blue sock got to white.

Over the following weeks the white clothes turned more towards grey until this week we are at the stage of being embarrassed by the colour of what should be white underwear. And what is worse my pyjama top which should be lemon coloured is now a dirty looking dull colour.

Thankfully having been here before and as the washing always comes back from the laundry the same day I only wash and wear one pair of pyjamas at a time. When it gets to the point that I can’t bear it any longer I throw them away – I know this is wasteful but they are beyond the resurrective powers of modern detergents and are only fit to be used as rags.

With underwear I have backup sets in my suitcase that stay there until needed.

In Costa Rica and Vietnam our water came from wells and that despite being filtered wasn’t as clean as it could be and there was nothing we could do about it turning things grey although putting outside in the bright sunshine did have a bleaching effect and helped lengthen the process before the clothes were beyond hope.

I was tempted to bring out some clothes whitener that is available in the UK but I didn’t think putting  sachets of what I assume is a mixture of chemicals in my suitcase was such a good idea!!

***

We had a film crew using the hotel as one of the location for a film due for release in January, I merrily took photographs of the filming until I was told in no uncertain terms to stop. Luckily, they didn’t ask me to delete what I had taken but I feel I can’t say anything about it or show you the photographs until it is released as much as I would like to.


If you have enjoyed this blog you may want to read the blogs I kept when I lived in Vietnam and Costa Rica.

Expat blogs in EgyptExpat

Settling In

Well I’ve been back nearly five weeks and have settled in. I have been gifted with some beautiful sunrises and as our new room is about a minute’s walk away from the beach I can roll out of bed and be there to witness the first rays very easily. Most times I get to watch it by myself or My Love(ML) may amble down sometimes.

My first task in settling in to the new room (we are now in the refurbished wing of the hotel – what a difference) was to move the furniture around, for those who haven’t followed my previous blogs I am renowned for shifting things around in hotel rooms, rented houses until I am happy.

ML and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to living spaces. He prefers cosy, comfy, cluttered surroundings. Throughout our married life I have waged war on his pack rat tendencies.

There are secreted in cupboards, bags of useless bits of paper from various projects that may come in useful one day. There are bags and I mean suitcase size bags of electrical leads, power packs etc from countless electrical gadgets, phones and computers that may be of use some day. He also likes knick knacks and unfortunately our home aids him in this endeavour.

Our bookshelves have never got this bad but I’m sure if I didn’t keep a close eye they might!

There are walls in most rooms in our house covered with floor to ceiling bookcases. All those bare flat surfaces are too much for him to bear and he goes into full on stealth mode and things start appearing; normally I don’t notice to begin with – is there such a thing as knick knack blindness?

But suddenly when I am looking for a book and I can’t see the titles for things I know that he is to blame.

Now that is an exaggeration and I am making ML sound like one of those hoarders you see on the television and he isn’t that bad but you are beginning to get the picture, when I start noticing the abundance of ephemera I weed them out and put them in the loft with all the rest.

ML just likes things.

I like clean, clear surfaces with just the odd thing to introduce colour or a focal point so hotel rooms are brilliant in that they are blank slates. Sometimes you get some very dodgy art work on the walls but our new room is free of any distractions. There are a multitude of different cushions but I can live with that but that is about all the clutter there is.

The last house we rented in Costa Rica belonged to a Russian couple who lived in New York, the lady of the house had a love of clutter but she took it to a level that even ML had never considered and placed every ornament on a decorated doily. It would take too long to describe it all here but if you are interested click on the link for the original blog.

Back to the hotel room, I shifted a few bits of furniture around and found homes for everything else in cupboards – I’m sure that I will move things around some more until I am truly settled and happy with where they are.

The only thing that is really missing is a desk, a round table is not really the ideal thing to accommodate a large rectangular laptop and mouse mat. I can hear the shouts of lose the mouse and mouse mat and use the one on laptop. I need the control of the external mouse for photo editing, I have tried using the track pad but I feel I get better and finer control from the external mouse.

I have seen a desk affair at the top of the grand staircase that I have never seen used, I am thinking about asking the manager if it isn’t used if I could have the smaller section in our room. Watch this space it may take a little while to speak to him as the hotel is packed to the gunnels at the moment but apparently when the children in Egypt go back to school it quietens down.

***

There are a large group of young men in the hotel today and there is much activity around the foosball machine, their competitiveness is showing and I can hear through the patio doors the cheering as goals are scored.

I am not a person who likes a lot of noise or music, when I am writing I lose myself in whatever I am doing and so I probably wouldn’t hear it if I did have something playing.

Although I have a playlist on my Ipad that is a mixture of my favourite classical pieces and some songs such as the’ Flower Duet ‘from Lakmé, Now We Are Free’ from the film Gladiator’s soundtrack and ‘O Euchari In Leta Via’ from the film Vision’s soundtrack. If for some reason the silence is annoying me – I know but sometimes it does, usually when I am stuck. I can have this playing very quietly in the background and it soothes and more often than not I get back on track.

I am the complete opposite when I am on the treadmill in the gym and have loud music in my ears, I have been quite scientific in what I have found out how many beats per minute were good for the speed I walk at and found a website called songbpm that will tell you how many beats per minute a song is . I looked through my music and put together two thirty-minute playlists with something calmer for the last song as that is when the speed drops on the treadmill for the cool down.

It is a good job most of the time that there is no one in the gym with me as I mime along to the songs and just occasionally a line of a song breaks free – my singing voice much to my chagrin is awful and not to be shared outside the confines of my car when I am driving. If there is such a thing as reincarnation then I am coming back with longer legs and a good singing voice or a cat!

***

My peace and quiet has been shattered by Mother Nature – how you may ask?

On the flat roof above our room one or more chicks have hatched, whatever they are they screech worse than fingernails scraping down a blackboard and they are loud. Initially they screeched almost non-stop but today there seem to be longer gaps between the outbursts.

Going by the volume they produce the chick/s sound as if they are something the size of a golden eagle, although it will probably turn out to be something small and delicate. There is no way to see what it is as the nest is behind a parapet and as our balcony is covered so we can’t see the parents either. Logic tells me that it is probably a crow as they are the birds that are most prevalent in the hotel grounds.

Time will tell.


If you have enjoyed this blog you may want to read the blogs I kept when I lived in Vietnam and Costa Rica.

Expat blogs in Egypt Expat

Facing My Nemesis

I have for some time known that I need to improve my levels of fitness and to that end because I could not face the thought of going into a gym with all those fit, thin, Lycra bodies.

I know I am generalising here but when you are oldish, with a lumpy, bumpy body and haven’t been really fit since your twenties a gym is a very scary place. The next best thing to actually going to a gym was to bring the gym to me. After researching on the internet, I found a suitable treadmill that I could set up at home but would still leave room in the study to enable me to use the room for other things.

As with most things when you first get them you assiduously use them and that was the case but despite its size I was soon able to ignore its hulking presence, although I never disrespected it (can you disrespect an inanimate object?) by using it as a clothes dryer or coat rack and I did dust and polish it so it didn’t look neglected.

When I was home in-between Costa Rica and Egypt I decided that having a daily goal would help. Around the world the figure of 10,000 steps is lauded as the daily goal to achieving moderate fitness. I downloaded an app onto my phone and started recording my steps.

Simple you would think but to count the steps you have to be carrying the phone with you all the time, not something I do or remember to do. Also, there is the possibility of accidents just waiting to happen – not to me but to the phone. Most of my clothes and this is true of lots of woman’s clothing they do not have pockets. I will save this moan for a later date but if you have a phone in your hand all the time accidents will happen. Just off the top of my head it could:

  • Have liquid/food spilled on it
  • Dropped onto a hard surface
  • Dropped into the loo/sink/river/ocean etc

I could go on but you get the picture. Frustration at having walked the steps and them not be recorded is extremely annoying and after the third or fourth time you begin to lose your enthusiasm for the task in hand. But I persevered but was constantly cross at steps not counted.

When I first came out to Egypt I was determined to carry on and started walking the gardens and along the shoreline. Soon the temperatures were in the high 30oC and it was very unpleasant to walk around in the that type of heat. I tried walking the hotel corridors but they are all open to the elements via the staircases and so that wasn’t much cooler. In the end, I worked out a route around our room that was 50 steps long. To complete the 10,000 steps, I had to walk that route 200 times, this is both extremely boring and hell on my knee joints as it involved lots of twists and turns.

Something had to change and so when we went home on leave this time I bought myself a Fitbit Zip, this is a small device that clips to your clothes and records your steps, it also has an app which records your daily and weekly totals. I didn’t want a watch that would record my calories, heart rate or how long I had slept for. I wasn’t going to let it rule my life but the first time I reach 10,000 steps and the app sent me sparkles and confetti I was hooked.

I chose to go about my day as normal and not be checking constantly but check towards the end of the afternoon what my total was. Whatever the shortfall was I then completed on the treadmill, some days this took considerably longer than others. Having got into the habit of completing this daily I was faced with being back in Egypt in the height of summer.

Sensibly the only way I was going to be able to carry on was to use one of the treadmills in the gym at the hotel, something I really wasn’t looking forward to using but sometimes you just don’t have a choice but to face your worst fears. The gym was in the spa attached to the hotel and monthly membership was arranged for me. I waited a couple of days – just to acclimatise myself or at least that is what I told myself. Inevitably I couldn’t put it off any longer and headed down just to check that the membership had been set up and to have a look at the gym.

Like all gyms it was full of all sorts of scary pieces of equipment that would not have looked out-of-place in a medieval torture chamber. I recognised the treadmills, a cross trainer and the dumbbells the rest I had no idea what they did or which part of the body they exercised. I was informed that there was a personal trainer that I had access too who was available from 12 – 2.00 pm and 6 – 8.00 pm. Obviously times of the day that I would avoid being in the gym, I just needed to conquer the treadmill first before venturing into unknown areas.

Having no further excuse to not start I explained that I would start attending the next day.

Personally, I would have liked to attend the gym early in the morning and get it out of the way but the spa didn’t open until 9.00 am so I had no choice but to eat breakfast first. I gave myself a forty-five-minute gap between breakfast and getting to the gym. It wasn’t as if walking was going to squash my digestive system so I thought that was a long enough gap without making myself ill when I started exercising.

I had decided ahead of time that the world or me come to that wasn’t ready to see me in skin-tight Lycra so I had some leggings, sports bras and loose t-shirts along with sports socks and trainers I was ready to face the gym. I took a bottle of water, my phone and a small hairbrush as the gym supplied the towels.

As soon as I walked in a I knew my worst nightmare was already there, in fact there were two of them. Both very young, stick insect thin and wearing tight multicoloured L. One was in shorts and a cropped top with a bewildering array of straps crisscrossing her back and the other was in leg hugging leggings and vest top. As I had already stepped foot through the door and they had both seen me I carried on in feeling like the rank amateur I was.

I put my towel and water on a machine and put my earphones in my ear and started both my music and the treadmill. I set the speed as the same as I had been using at home and started walking. The programme was 30 minutes long and my intentions was to complete this twice with a short rest in-between.

Despite the air conditioning the room was still in the high 20oC and I was soon leaking like a sieve but I kept on walking. During both of the other people finished their workouts and left much to my relief.  At the end of 30 minutes I melted into a puddle on the floor and sat their trying to cool down and take on board some of the fluid I had lost. The second 30 minutes was just as hard as by now I was really hot and I am very grateful there wasn’t an audience but I completed the full hour and although I was shattered.

The fact that I resembled a cross between a tomato and a drowned rat is neither here nor there and of course I was going to have to repeat the whole thing again tomorrow.

Update: A couple of weeks down the line and I have got myself into a routine of going to the gym for four days then having a day off. My knees and hips are not in the best of shape and they demand a break to recover.

I will keep you informed of my progress.


If you have enjoyed this blog you may want to read the blogs I kept when I lived in Vietnam and Costa Rica.

Expat blogs in Egypt Expat

Welcome Back

What should have been a four-week leave for me at least turned into eight. My Love (ML) had to come back at the end of the leave period but I stayed on. We had booked a holiday with family and due to a change in our leave date ML couldn’t attend the holiday, it was all very complicated due to early completion of one contract and moving forward the start date of the next. Suffice to stay it was easier for me to stay and go on holiday and ML to return to Egypt.

So I’m back and it really does feel as if I haven’t been away, everything looks the same although we have moved to a suite of rooms which is glorious, we have a lounge/dining room, bedroom, bathroom and additional wc and the extra space is glorious. We have also gained a huge balcony which overlooks the pool and the beach.

I have set up at the inevitable small round table in front of the patio doors to the balcony from the bedroom. The view is sumptuous, if I look up from my screen I can see the sun glinting of the tiny waves as they run in towards the shoreline. Below this is a forest of white wooden umbrellas shading white sunbeds. Bright blue and white beach towels are scattered on the sunbeds decorating them with as they flutter in the breeze.

There are flashes of reds and pinks from the Bougainvillea that arch out from the buildings on the left of the view and the fronds of palm trees arch graciously in front of the pillar. At the bottom of the view I can see a table tennis table, two foosball tables and an air hockey table all standing forlornly unused as the children are all in the lagoon pool.

If I look to my right I can see a section of the lagoon through the palm fronds and the decorative metalwork of the balcony. The occasional high-pitched scream reaches me if I am inside with the doors closed, but if I am out on the balcony I am met by all sorts of sounds.

The gentle splash of water as it tumbles over the waterfall, laughter, screaming, shouting, tears, music, the scrape of the plastic sunbeds as they are dragged to a more advantageous position to either gain better access to the sun or to huddle under the shade of the huge canvas umbrellas that encircles the lagoon like a bead necklace.

I have the door closed at the moment as it is much too hot and I am craving the relief of the a/c as it sends a stream of cold air onto the back of my neck. As we move into late September and beyond the temperature will begin to drop and we won’t have to be so reliant on the a/c. I may even be able to transplant myself out onto the balcony to work. I think there may be too many distractions though.

I’ll describe just a little of what I can see and you will understand just what I mean by distractions. There is a little boy on his daddy’s back being brave as they go into the deeper water but by the look of the death grip he has on his daddy’s neck I think it will be a while before he finally let’s go.

A whole array of blow up toys fill the lagoon including little seats for babies that have a blow-up canopy to protect them from the sun, I can see a ring with a blow-up parasol for a slightly older child, a huge variety of rings all neon and bright colours. There are even a couple of small boats beached at the side of the pool.

Movement at the foosball table has just caught my eye and two men are having a very competitive game with much spinning of handles and sharp arm movements.

Very competitive, I’m not sure if there are any rules but I think they may have been long forgotten.

Oh dear, one of them has just thrown his arms out in disgust at his performance.

This is getting serious, they have changed sides – is there an advantage to a particular side of a foosball table?

It has reached the ‘wiping the sweat from the brow’ stage ……. I think I ought to leave them in peace.

Hopefully you are beginning to get the idea of just how much I can observe from my new room, it is in fact a people watcher’s paradise. I shall have to be strict with myself and try to concentrate on the job in hand.

I have already lived in this hotel for four months and the staff were always friendly and said Good Morning etc. when they saw me but I just assumed that they were doing their job and their bit for their company’s customer service.

Good customer service = Happy Guest = Positive Reviews = More or Returning Guests

I’m not being cynical but pragmatic, hotels are in business to make money but I must admit my pragmatic little heart had a little jolt when I returned.

From the moment I walked back through the door from my extended holiday I have been welcomed again and again. The manager (more of his welcome later), the security guys at the door, the people on reception, the guys in the bar, the porter who took my luggage up to the room and the waiters in the restaurant all popped over at different times and welcomed me back. I actually felt like they meant it and I’ve been walking around with a big smile on my face.

There are one or two people staying here who have been looking at me trying to work out if I am anyone special as yet another person welcomes me back. What they don’t know is that I am this hotel’s Eloise, who lived in a “room on the tippy-top floor” of the Plaza Hotel in New York City with her Nanny, her pug dog Weenie, and her turtle Skipperdee.

Unlike Eloise  in the  books  written by Kay Thompson and illustrated by Hilary Knight, I have an ML not  a Nanny, and I’m not sure what the hotel would think of a dog and a turtle but I do have a blue starfish who I haven’t named yet. I don’t think I am anywhere near as adventurous as Eloise and I certainly don’t get in as much trouble as she does.

I have come to the conclusion that wishing people good morning/afternoon/evening. Being polite, not too messy unlike ML (that is he is messy not impolite) means that I am a good guest and not too labour intensive.

The manager’s welcome was a small display of miniature red roses, a huge fruit bowl, a small plate of delicious patisseries and a flock of towel peacocks/swans/spitting cobras inhabiting the room we really couldn’t decide which.

All in all I’m glad to be back, but as usual it was hard to say goodbye to everyone at home.


If you have enjoyed this blog you may want to read the blogs I kept when I lived in Vietnam and Costa Rica.

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Who Knew the Eye of a Needle Could be so Much Trouble?

When you are living overseas especially when you are in a hotel there is only so much room in your suitcase and that is mainly filled by clothes and shoes. Of course, I make life difficult for myself as I also need to pack two cameras, lenses and battery chargers, portable hard disk, laptop and iPad. All of which are necessary for me to be sane and productive during my stay. I am in the middle of nowhere on a hotel complex.

If you have ever stayed in a hotel depending on which one it is there are always a collection of extras in the bathroom and usually in a desk drawer. These can be a simple as a bottle of shampoo and conditioner to a basket of luxury bathroom products. I have even stayed in hotels that have a pillow menu, a dental kit and there are even a hotels in the US and Europe that will loan you a goldfish for the length of your stay.

In amongst all of these complimentary items is usually a sewing kit, usually located at the back of the drawer with the single sheet of writing paper and envelope or in amongst the hotel information. ML lost a button off of the collar off one of his polo shirt so I said I would sew it back on.

Simple task you would think.

The sewing kit contained one lonesome needle so I promptly stuck it into my top so that I wouldn’t lose it and tried to unravel the black cotton from the other colours. It was and All the ends were twisted together and tightly wrapped around the cardboard. I set about the fiddly task of separating out the one I wanted. The black cotton was not smooth as I expected but fluffy and that didn’t bode well for threading it.

Ha. That was to turn out to be the least of my worries.

I wet the end of the cotton – does everyone do that? My grandmother and mother both did this so I suppose that is where I get it from, anyway my eyesight like most people my age needs a little assistance but I usually don’t have much problem in getting the cotton through the eye of the needle.

I tried.

I tried again.

I tried a third time.

I cut off the end of the piece of cotton and tried again.

Even Suzy, Perla and Mary the mice in Cinderella who try to make her a dress for the ball would have had trouble threading this needle.

Then I looked at the needle more closely only to find that the cotton was thicker than the minute eye of the needle.

I could have sat there until the end of time, that cotton was not going through that eye – ever. Thwarted I packed everything away and when we went home on leave sewed it back on. When we came back after our leave I brought back some ready threaded needles.

***

Although the food is very nice it does get to the point when you crave something new, unusual or different. We have no fast food restaurants close by, the closest is about ninety minutes away and even if we did get someone to pick it up we have no access to a microwave to reheat whatever had been bought.

One of the Health & Safety guys is from India and although the hotel produces their version of Indian food it isn’t quite what he wants. It was decided that the next time someone went up to Cairo for a meeting they were to go to a particular Indian restaurant buy a selection and take it back to the work site where they do have access to a microwave.

Unbeknownst to me ML had hatched a plan to bring me a small taster. We are not allowed to bring any food or drink into the hotel and all of our bags go through a security system similar to what they have in airports.

ML appeared one evening a big grin on his face and started emptying the contents of his work bag until he brought out a carrier bag tied tightly at the top. He ripped this open to reveal a foil wrapped parcel. The room suddenly began to smell spicy and I was intrigued as to what he had.

Almost reverently he opened the foil to reveal a small cardboard container filled to the brim with small spicy samosas. The foil had help retain the heat and the plastic bag had trapped the aromas from escaping.

I didn’t ask how he got them through the security but I can tell you that they tasted wonderful, and I was going to only eat a couple – honestly. But then ML said that what we didn’t eat would have to be thrown away and therefore I made a bit of a piggy of myself but I really did enjoy them.

Just an aside – I didn’t think through eating more than a couple of spicy samosas in one go and the effect that they may have on me.

LOL. Despite the side effects I would do it all again – soon.

***

The lovely girl’s that work on the reception to the dining room have to wear tights and a surprisingly large number of them wear white ones that have a glossy sheen to them.

Now I know I wore white tights as a child with Sunday dresses, and I vaguely remember wearing them in the early 1980s along with piecrust collars of a very young Diana, Princess of Wales. But unless as an adult you have legs like Twiggy they really are a big no-no.

Maybe it is part of their uniform – if so poor girls because most of them have untwiggy like legs and their legs end up looking remarkably like uncooked bratwurst sausages.

I’ve just read that last bit back and it really does make me sound horribly but I don’t mean to be, when you are sat in a dining room full of people on your own eating breakfast your mind wanders and over the period of umpteen weeks that I have done this you can’t help what pops into your head.

Although I am surrounded by people I am for a large proportion of my time alone and therefore I have had to become self-sufficient. I get huge enjoyment from my photography and writing but both are singular pursuits. This does not mean to say that I am lonely but that I embrace my aloneness if that makes sense. I am not unhappy but would sometimes like more interaction with other people’s.

Living in a hotel is strange in that other than the staff and even in some respects them the people that surround me are all transient. Only occasionally do I get a return from a smile from anyone other than the staff and as a majority of the guests are Egyptian I don’t hear English spoken very often. I know the fault is mine as I am in their country but some people, me included have real difficulty learning a new language. It just isn’t part of my skill set much as I wish it was.

There has even been a study by the International School of Advanced Studies in Italy; researchers found ‘…if we watch someone smiling, we tend to smile as well in order to appreciate what that person is feeling.’ Unfortunately, I have found that ‘Smile and the whole world smiles with you’ doesn’t always work.

Going of at a tangent slightly I was curious as to where this quote originally came from. It is often misattributed to Stanley Gordon West on the internet and the full quote is shown as;

‘Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.’

But with more research I found that the quote is the first two lines of the poem ‘Solitude’ by an American author Ella Wheeler Wilcox and is included in her book Poems of Passion published in 1883. The book is available to download as part of Project Gutenberg. I have included a link to the poem if you would like to read it and to the book if you would like to read more of her work.

A few days ago would be classed as a red-letter day in that a man started up a conversation with me in the line for breakfast asking if I was enjoying my stay. We had a lovely chat that made me smile afterwards when I thought about it; when I bumped into him later on in the day with his wife and son we picked up the conversation where we had left off. He lives and works in Cairo and was a very interesting person who was brimming with information about where and what to visit if we got the opportunity.

So not the most coherent of blogs but more little snippets of some of the things that happen in my days of hotel living, but also a brief insight into just how powerful a smile is to someone or even just a couple of minutes of conversation. Neither cost the giver much but to the person on the receiving end it could make all the difference in the world.


If you have enjoyed this blog you may want to read the blogs I kept when I lived in Vietnam and Costa Rica.