I totally LOVE the Middle Eastern dispensation with chairs. Shack after tearoom after beach bar after café simply scatters big comfy cushions on the floor – perhaps leaning up against short concrete divisions – divisions that hold at least twelve people for a gregarious lunch on locally caught fish and rice (lots of rice), or for a gentle afternoon spent with people you’ve just met sipping Egyptian tea- which, after only two days in the area, you pour sugar in from the bowl like a native rather than spooning a carefully measured “Just a half for me” teaspoon.
Lazing around on these cushions with tea and a book is turning out to be my favourite holiday pastime. While the others push themselves into their wetsuits and head off for the coral my mind flits between the Egyptian sun-baked shore where I am anchored and South Africa, Norfolk, France – wherever my literary companions are taking me. Is there any better way to spend a day? I am full of ideas of making the same sort of colourful den at home for guests to lounge around in during their stays. Of course the Egyptians have the advantage of the ground being mostly dry, which cannot in truth be said about Brook Farm, but I am considering a raised decking area outside the old 1950s caravan which will give me a fabulous cushion buying opportunity. Months of rain will not put me off the cushion buying.
The restaurants in Dahab, perched on jetties sticking out over the gentle waves raise you slightly off the ground with huge chunky wide benches – the sort I would pay over £300 for in a shabby chic secondhand shop in England but which here must be two a penny given all the restaurants have them in great numbers. Bright coloured drifts of fabric drape the make shift ceilings and wrap around the supporting poles. A massive variety of pretty lanterns hang with red, green, blue and orange bulb, hubba bubba pipes adorn the tables of the ageing hippies stranded here since the 70s and the young twenty-somethings trying to recreate the vibe. At another table a group of young British girls, presumably blissfully unaware (or uncaring) of the Muslim preference, have dressed in tiny shorts and tight revealing tops and are giggling and flirting with the good looking waiters.
Near the pool at the Dahab Paradise is a large Bedouin tent for lounging. In front of the tent a very successful ground covering succulent sprinkles little pink flowers across its front and attracts more butterflies than I saw in our English garden all last summer. (There is more than one sort of Painted Lady attracted to Egypt at this time of year.) Dragonflies flit over the swimming pool and we wonder how on earth they came to survive here – surely dragonflies need freshwater? We ponder lazily about this as we sunbathe attempting to google the answer, but the connection was too poor so we promise ourselves to look it up when we get home. I still haven’t. Procrastination has always been one my strongest attributes but the Egyptians are world leaders. Absolutely nothing is done in a hurry, perhaps it is the only way to cope with the heat. Maybe we rush around like mad things in Britain simply as a way of keeping warm.
It’s a pity then that they expect so much of their animals – though worshipped as Gods in ancient history, animals here today have a tough life. I knew that the hardest part of this trip for me was going to be seeing abuse of horses and donkeys and I travelled armed with a list of contact numbers and addresses for the Brooke Hospital (www.brooke.org.uk) so that in the event I could actually contact someone who would do something. How relieved I was then to find that most of the animals I saw were in reasonably good nick. Just as pleasing was the very prominent presence of the Brooke in Luxor in the form of long rows of palm leaf shelters providing shade and posters around the town and even at the airport. The Brooke welcomes visitors so we went to visit the office and hospital seeing a horse who had been in an accident with some scaffolding that morning nicely stitched up and resting in a cool box. Two other horses and three donkeys were also being cared for there and we were told that the vets go out to other towns and villages every month. They offer a totally free veterinary and education service. What worries me now is the effect the huge reduction in number of tourists is going to have on these animals. If their owners aren’t getting paid to drive tourists around town, how are they going to afford to feed them?
I leave you for now with this worry in the hope you will visit the Brooke website and send support!!
End of Part Two…