Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

ride like an egyptian

If great guy could be in the water every day, all day, that’s where he'd be. So, our holiday on the Red Sea was perfect for him. He was in the water, learning to kiteboard, while I did yoga, wrote and read. Or he was snorkeling in the water, with me, while dolphins watched. But, once in a while, when the kites lay down to nap or the boat returned to dock he had to pull himself out of the water.


One of our first evenings in the small, seaside Egyptian town of El Gouna, we hailed a tuk tuk (or tak tak depending on the company) and rumbled into town. The tuk tuk is a creative mixture between a motorbike and hansom cab; with ten horses instead of one, a heck of a lot of noise and no doors. Tuk tuks are about as quiet as a Harley convention; which is great if you're trying to find one, but difficult if you want to have a romantic conversation on your way back from dinner…or any conversation at all. With a hint of indifference, the tuk tuk dismisses traffic signals, flashing its lights to notify other vehicles it's coming. It fills each space in traffic by 'stepping' on the gas; like an eagle swooping in at full speed only to ply on the brakes the second it hits its target - riding in a tuk tuk is almost like that. But safer. It reminded me of Mexican taxis, where a stop sign or red light is just a vague idea; more like sidewalk deco; except like I said, without doors.


Great guy says he just likes the ‘cabrio feeling’of tuk tuks. What I loved the most, racing down the sandy streets, clouds of dust and the acrid smell of gasoline trailing behind us; aside from reaching our destination in break-neck, stop-and-go speed, was the anticipation of which tuk tuk we would end up with. Many tuk-tukkers ‘dress-up’ their little no-door taxis in pop-art themes or bright colour schemes. Speedy Gonzalez (literally) could be zooming up to you, or Warhol’s Marilyn or a metre by metre-sized red and blue spiderweb. Like people the world over, these 15-year-old-looking, tuk tuk drivers make the most of what they have, want to express themselves with what they’ve got, and take control of what they can. Copyright doesn’t seem to be an issue.


While not quite as fast as the tuk tuk, the camel has been providing reliable transportation for Egyptians since, well, the beginning of Egypt. Without the sickening gas fumes, but just as bump-y, the camel excels in endurance tests and wins all reliability awards. Only in design is the camel, well, old fashioned.


The camels I met, albeit briefly, walking along the beach or through town, didn’t seem that interested in human interaction. Where a camel varies greatly, from say, a puppy who just wants to please you, it is more cat-like in the air of sophistication it exudes. While being anything but pretty, the camel saunters with regal-ness or importance which I don’t think it’s entitled to. Like someone deigning themselves to give you their time, only for the briefest of moments, they are actually far too busy doing…well, nothing. The camels we saw were beautifully costumed in draping fabrics and bright colours; adorned from head to hump in shiny baubles and tassles. Like a faux royal maybe or Elton John. I mean, Sir Elton John. 


By far our favourite mode of transport, wherever we are, is the boat. All shapes and sizes, of horsepower or console, we are not picky. This afternoon, I asked great guy why he loves boats so much, expecting an answer along the lines of ‘open sky’, ‘free feeling’, etc. All he said was, like duh, ‘weil sie schwimme’ (because they swim). Of course.

Along the shores of El Gouna, we puttered among the lagoons in an overcrowded, wooden boat; with paint flakes falling gently into the water below and the fifteen hp engine giving its all. Great guy and I quickly found the perfect spot on board, after being told we could sit out on the front of the bow if we wanted to. So, feeling like the majestic figureheads we no doubt looked like, we enjoyed our uninterrupted view; akin to riding the open prairies in the back of a Chevy half-ton - minus the beer and police - regulations be damned! Here in Egypt they seem to be mere suggestions anyways, if they exist at all.

El Gouna City Bus


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