My month in paradise has passed like a fleeting dream, and I’m reluctantly packing to return to Cairo and then home, where there is no turquoise sea, no swim-up bar or Tok Toks or daily maid service, no Abdullah or Maggie or Nick or Kadija or Victor. All of us are a bit glum about leaving. Reality is always harsh after a residency, but something tells me it will be particularly cruel this time. We’ve had a fun last week, beginning with a group event hosted by the El Gouna branch of the Bibliothèque d’Alexandrie and attended by members of the community. We each read for ten minutes, me from When She Woke, for only the second time ever. The highlight of the evening was an enthusiastically received performance of two scenes from Abdullah’s new play, Mrs. Ghada’s Pain Threshold. I played the title character; Maggie was my mother and Nick my plastic surgeon (Mrs. Ghada has an identity crisis that leads her to get liposuction).
The 22nd was Nick’s birthday, and we celebrated with champagne at the hotel, followed by an excellent French meal at a local restaurant. Nick channeled Tom Jones & Austen Powers for the occasion, as you’ll see in the photos below. A splendid time was had by all.
Photos: me reading from WSW; the big performance (I’m anesthetized during this scene, probably the best use of my acting talent); the abashed birthday boy; lovely Maggie; Nick in his groovy shirt surrounded by his fans.
Friday night is the party night in El Gouna, with a live open-air show in the marina. It’s hard to convey the surreality of watching women in hijabs watching a Russian Beyoncé wannabe wearing a black lace teddy lip sync to “Put a Ring On It” while surrounded by three male dancers in drag. The pictures really don't do it justice.
On Saturday Abdullah, Kadija and I went snorkeling in the Red Sea, both of them for the first time. Our guide, Mohammed and our captain, Mohammed (Mohammed is the Egyptian equivalent of Bob) took us to a reef 40 minutes by boat from El Gouna. The water was crystal clear and the reef populated by a gorgeous array of tropical fish. There were lots of divers as well as snorkelers, and I was kicking myself for not having gotten re-certified while I was here.
My Arabic lessons with Abdullah have continued. My favorite new expression is fel mesh mesh (in your dreams), which I’ve had multiple occasions to use since Egyptian men are such shameless flirts. Not that I’m complaining . . . they are also, many of them, handsome as gods, with their gorgeous brown skin and dark eyes full of mischief. I also like this word haram (forbidden), and our last night Abdullah and I acted on it, with Maggie and Nick as witnesses, by taking a prohibited night swim, which we’d been wanting to do ever since we arrived.
Shokrun Orascom & the El Gouna Writers Residency for an unforgettable month!
Photos: Friday night in El Gouna; habibis; Kadija on the boat; me and Mohammed, one of the aforementioned flirts; Mohammed's tan vs. mine, which I'd been working on for an entire month (he found this hilarious); Zaher, a charmer who looked after us at the hotel, in my hat; the irresistible lure of the haram.