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Egypt April 15, 2006 Español

Posted by Belle in : Egypt , trackback

Liz, Dio, Teo, and I flew to Egypt from India. Having heard how dangerous, unpleasant and long the journeys up the Red Sea can be, I opted out. So while Wence, David, Ricardo, and Crhistian, an old friend of Wence’s from Esquel, were vomiting their way up the Red Sea, dodging pirates and over anxious yachties, we were basking in the sun in the El Gouna Club Med.

Well, that was the idea anyway. After our twenty two hours of traveling, we arrived at the front desk of the El Gouna Club Med, carrying our conked out boys to find not a friendly face, or good service, but a lack of service and any help at all. The next day we were told that this Club Med had no services for children except for the kiddie pool. I went to try that out and the water was so cold, I would not consider dangling more than one toe. When I asked if they could help me find a babysitter in town, they basically said they did not know of any and they would be unable to help me. It was also freezing. Although that did not stop the single scene by the pool. I guess Club Med El Gouna is where many young Europeans come to find someone, if only for a weekend. So the next day after witnessing two employees screaming and throwing things at each other, I decided it was time to leave Club Med.

We moved to The Sheraton Miramar and were very happy with the service and friendly atmosphere. There were lots of kids, jungle gyms, a club where Dio could meet other kids and do different kinds of activities. Things were looking up. I could not wait for my sister to come for her visit.

I had noticed that Theodore had lost his appetite since we arrived in Egypt. At first I thought maybe he was teething and since he had no other symptoms, I did not worry about it. Then he got diarrhea. When I asked for a doctor, they recommended the hospital. I try to avoid hospitals unless it is absolutely necessary, so when a porter pulled me aside and told me he his baby often had the same problem and he would like to give me some of the same medicine he gives his boy, I accepted. For three days Theo had no diarrhea. But he still was not eating well. I spent two days just trying to let him sleep and eat. Although I was worried, I was glad that he was still breast feeding well.

The next day I went in a convoy to Cairo to pick my sister up at the airport. Apparently it is required for tourists’ protection that they travel in a convoy since the 2005 bombing in Sharm El Sheik. I was told it would take four to five hours. It took over six. I felt so badly for my sister, after traveling all that time to be stranded at the airport, not knowing if I was coming or anything. We cried when we saw each other, which seemed to really annoy the driver. She had been very sick before she came. Her doctor thought she may have mono and suggested she not come. But being the trooper she is, of course she came. We talked the entire way back.

That night Theodore started vomiting. The next morning I took Dio and Theo to the hospital. Dio had had diarrhea too, but no vomiting. The emergency room doctor suggested they both stay in the hospital for a few days, with an IV, to avoid getting dehydrated. At this point Theodore was vomiting every time he breast fed. He was dehydrated. I knew he needed to stay. But I did not think Dio did. They seemed to think it was very strange that I did not listen to their suggestion, but I sent Dio off with Liz and Liz did a great job getting him hydrated again. In two days he was fine.

Theodore was another story. For three days I was very scared. It seemed like nothing was working. There is so much I could write about that time, but I don’t want to go into it all. There were some wonderful nurses, one great doctor, and a beautiful baby Theo who smiled through it all. My sister would spend her mornings with Dio at the hotel doing fun auntie things, and then she would come be with me in the hospital. I am so happy she was there for me. She gave me all the love and support I could ever need in a situation like that. I can’t really imagine what it would have been like without her. We would talk for hours about all kinds of things. She kept me together. And then, right as Theodore was getting better, she got sick. At least now we knew it was a virus. Nobody seemed to know what it was. There were tourists in and out of the other bed in the room though. The doctors said it was the change in the climate. Hospitalization seems a bit much for a change in climate. For an adult, anyway, but what do I know? Luckily nobody was in the next bed when my sister got sick. She spent the night in the hospital.

It must have been the worst vacation in her life. We had organized a tour to Cairo and Luxor, cancelled. Dreams of bazaars and pyramids, Queen Hatshepsut’s temple, gone. We hardly made it to down town El Gouna. And then she had to get back on a plane and travel a day back to New York. I can’t wait for the day that I can make it up to her some how. Maybe we will have to go back to Egypt.

Ill never forget how strangely wonderful it was to see Simpatica sail into El Gouna. Liz spotted her. We were eating lunch on the beach, waiting. We ran out as far as we could on the beach to greet them. Waiving our arms again and again. I got a little teary as she came closer and closer. We had been waiting for so long. I knew the Simpatica crew was exhausted physically. And I felt exhausted emotionally. It was so nice to be reunited.

Shortly after Simpatica arrived in El Gouna, Wence arranged a wonderful tour for us. We went to Cairo, saw the pyramids, museums, mosques, and bazaars with Crhistian, and enjoyed the food. What Cairo has to offer, is quite impressive, but they seem to be the only ones who don’t really believe it. The museum in Cairo has some of the most impressive pieces I’ve studied in all my little art history classes, but the way the art is displayed is so blasé. They need to redo that museum entirely. They need a building four times that size and they need well written information in various languages posted near major works of art. As it is now, you stumble upon very important pieces and there is no information given. Our tour guide, while being an interesting character, seemed to have stumbled into her career because she liked people not because she had a passion for Egyptian art history.

The pyramids, which of course everyone must see, were a bit of a disappointment. Aside from the highly claustrophobic experience of forcing your way up a dark, narrow, totally crowded ramp. There were signs that said no cameras but people were handing the guards a buck and taking pictures all over the place. Some would say defiantly, I’m not using a camera, I’m using my phone. The worst was when we saw people sawing chunks of stone off the pyramids and putting them in their pockets. Instead of mutual respect there seemed to be an attitude of mutual disrespect here. The tourists had no respect for the monuments and neither did the guardians of these ancient treasures. The tourists wanted something to show to their friends and sell on ebay and the guards wanted money to buy their cigarettes. It was a shame. Before I went to Cairo I had been outraged when I found out that the famous Nefretitti bust, my favorite piece of Egyptian art, had been stolen out of the country and was on display in Germany. I could not believe it. I could not believe that the international community did not demand she be returned to her rightful owners. But, I have to day, after seeing the way these things are treated in Egypt, I will stop complaining about Nefretiti knowing that at least she is being taken care of.

The next part of our tour was by dahabiyya boat down the Nile to Aswan, Abu Simbel, Com Ombo, Selsela, Edfu at night, beautiful Edfu, El Kaab, and Luxor. It was a beautiful boat with very nice staff. They were all wonderful with the kids and very accommodating in general. Aside from seeing all of the amazing monuments, which I cannot describe now because they are a bit jumbled in my head, we really enjoyed floating slowly down the Nile. It seems like they way people live along that river has not changed in centuries. It was like watching a reality show on the bible from our bedroom window. Children in traditional Muslim dress riding donkeys who are carrying all kinds of plants, pieces of wood, food, and water. Small villages with primitive looking houses. The land looked so rich. So good for farming. Dio had a chance to meet some of these boys and play. They were all very kind and took good care of him. I think riding the donkey may have been the most memorable moment for him.

Shortly after we got back from our tour, Wence and I darted off to one of his business meetings and had a wonderful reunion with my family in San Francisco. Although it was extremely short, it was so nice to see them all. It was also nice to see them without the kids. I was able to become their little girl again for a few days, instead of always worrying about my boys. When we were gone, however, there was another terrorist attack in Egypt. At first we did not know where it was, just that it was in a tourist enclave. Well, El Gouna is just that. A town pulled up from the dirt for tourists only. We imagined Simpatica, filled with our precious cargo, our babies and friends Liz and David and we felt so far away. So helpless. Shortly afterwards we discovered that the bombings were in Sharm El Sheik, on the other side of the Red Sea. Those poor Egyptians. Those poor tourists. But we were so happy that our family was safe.

When we talk about Egypt now, Wence says he has no desire to go back, but I do. Yes, the people can be aggressive and unpleasant, but it is still worth it to me. The cradle of civilization right in front of you. And even though the Egyptians do not take care of things the way you might like them to, it blew my mind and inspired me to learn more about Egyptian history and culture.


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