Tuesday, April 22, 2008
It's way too cool. I am both impressed and insanely jealous. Not to mention highly turned on.
I want one too. Wah.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Salaam and Sabhar Noor! That's 'good morning' in Egyptian Arabic. :)
Have just returned from the most fabulous dream holiday EVAH - Egypt. What can I say? Gorgeous, gorgeous and gorgeous. The thought of coming back was almost too much to bear. Sigh... I still can't believe I actually went- it was too surreal for words. SO much to tell you all, but so little blog space. I shall try my best to do my memory justice.
The Good Stuff
- The history, culture and archeological sites are beyond amazing. I dont think I need to spell it out... anyone and everyone who's heard of Egypt knows of it's 4000 year story of sheer splendour and magnificence. I've been obsessed with the country ever since I could read, and I couldn't decide which site I was enraptured by more, from the unbelievable golden pyramids rising majestically out of the desert sands like silent sentinels of doorways to the past, the Cairo Museum showcasing 5000 stories of a glorious era, the Valley of the Kings housing peaceful mummies of pharaohs - gods of a time gone by- surrounded by inscriptions and hieroglyphs by artisans unmatched in skill, the numerous temple ruins filled with awe-inspiring art and mammoth sculptures, to the serenity of the Nile river with its lush banks teeming with life. It was all too much to take in. There are no words to describe how dumbstruck I was just TRYING to imagine what it must have all looked like all those centuries ago. We saw Cairo, Giza, Philae, Aswan, Luxor, Karnak, Edfu, Kom Ombo, the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut's Temple and Abu Simbel, to name a few. And to think I didn't even see half of Egypt's wonders.
The intelligence of the ancient Egyptians, clearly displayed through their art and architecture, is unimaginable. Hieroglyphs show medical tools that performed brain and heart surgery way back then, along with prescriptions for healing that are being now re-discovered, 4000 years later. Paintings depicting a birthing chair have been claimed by modern science to be the best method of delivering babies. No one still understands how the people of the past built those pyramids and temples without a single tool or technology. To this day we cannot recreate any of those structures to even one eighth of the sturdiness and quality that they did.
- Egyptian men are hot. Egyptian women are hotter. I saw a bellydance being performed and it left me sweating, whilst leaving a good few old men in the audience gasping for air. 'Nuff said.
- How the hell did they come up with papyrus in the first place? We visited a factory and learnt about the painstaking methods of making papyrus scrolls, where they strip the bark of the papyrus plant and soak it for days before weaving and pressing it into a paper format. The artwork that goes onto those scrolls is simlarly amazing. If you ever visit Egypt, don't come back without at least one scroll.
- The nile cruise was out of this world. I've never been on a boat, let alone a cruise ship. Ours was the biggest ship on the nile- The Crown Empress- and it was luxury to die for. The best part was opening my cabin window in the morning to find myself staring in wonder at the sunrise on the banks of Luxor, with hot air balloon flying above it. It was a truly breathtaking sight to behold. Apart from the fantastic views and the plush cruise features, I also enjoyed the weird egyptian humour, when every evening I walked in to my cabin to find that the housekeeping staff had fooled around with my linen and left creative towel origami animals on my bed. The first night was an elephant and the second a swan.
- I figured I look good as an Egyptian. The cruise had a fancy dress party on the final night and yours truly dressed up as Cleopatra. I didn't look too shabby, I must say, and it was a thrill being queen for the night.
- I discovered that Egypt is responsible for my favourite smells. Apparently, the base essences for the world's finest perfumes are created in Egypt and then shipped out to france, etc, for adding alcohol and bottling. We sat at a perfume factory and filled our nostrils with the heady sensations of many a designer brand.
- Egyptian Arabic is a beautiful language. There's a certain lilt to the way words are pronounced, that just sounds darn right silly when I try it. But it was nice to listen to the tour guide speaking his mother tongue and wishing I could speak it too.
- The Valley of the Kings was a creepy thrill. I panicked several times whilst climbing down 100-foot dark narrow shafts into the tombs of the Pharaohs, due to the lack of air and light. But it was so worth it in the end when I entered the chambers filled with magical art and a thousand stories. To realize that centuries ago some workmens' entire lives were spent down these desert wells as they painted and carved every milimetre in preparation for the pharaoh's re-birth, is something that leaves you gobsmacked.
- I never knew I could drink a flower till I visited Egypt. Everywhere we went we were served a welcome drink of chilled Hibiscus tea - that's shoeflower for the godayas like me. It tasted funny, but in a pleasant kinda way.
The Bad Stuff
- Egypt is HOT, and I don't mean that metaphorically. The heat is unbearable and ridiculous, soaring to almost 45 degrees. And it was still Winter! It was all I could do to stop myself from being burnt into a crisp whenever I stepped out of the tour bus, and watching fainted tourists being carried back to their motherships was only mildly amusing. Sunscreen is a must, as is the biggest rimmed hat you can find and the darkest sunglasses.
- Visiting Egypt with a tour group full of idiots like I did is something I would recommend you avoid at all costs. We had 20 people whose sole interest was the pyramids of Giza, and nothing else. They'd brought two-month old babies along into that sweltering heat and I had to force myself to not scream obscenities several times over everytime someone inconsiderately screeched out disrespectful jokes and dumbass comments during our tour. The tour guide told me it was the first time in his 10 years of professional experience that he had a group who weren't in the least bit interested in the sites.
- To be a single and female tourist in Egypt is a curse. I spent 9 days there and came back with 4 marriage proposals that didn't amuse me one bit. It's ludicrous how 60-year old shop vendors assume that your request for a discount on a product is actually your coy expression of interest in becoming their wife. I was told many a time that I'd be a 'very happy woman' if I marry the geriatrics. Bleaurhg.
- There is bargain shopping and haggling, and then there is shopping in Egypt. 'Hassle' is the Egyptian vendor's middle name, and they will not let you go without making a sale. They will follow you and hang on you until you show interest in their wares (of the sellable kind, you pervs).'Fixed Prices' of hundreds of Egyptian Pounds can come down to a mere 5 pounds instantly, just because you raise eyebrows at the price tag. You have to experience it to believe it. It is both funny and annoying at the same time.
rinking water is a health hazzard when you travel in Egypt. We had to be careful with our choice of bottled mineral water, because even the national brand is lased with magnesium, which is a laxative. Tread food outlets with care and be prepared to risk your life for the sake of a salad.
- If you have not spent at least 150 extra dollars on tips for every goddamn thing, then you're not in Egypt. I had to pay porters even though I carried my own luggage, and even asking for directions was an expensive exercise.
- The Egyptians have no regard for the well-being of animals, and for a nutter like me that's a huge problem. I had to keep averting my eyes every time I saw a poor donkey being beaten for not being able to lift the unreasonable load on its back, or the starving and negected carriage horses being made to pull fat tourists around all day long in the searing heat with no food, water or shelter. Only the camels seemed reasonably well looked after, but even they complained from time to time, and I could see the strain that constant bending and standing had on their knees everytime someone wanted a ride. My eyes watered at the sight of a couple of baby goats in a Nubian village with their ears chopped off, being prepared for a senseless slaughter, just so that their blood could be smeared on residential walls to keep spirits out. How one can make a life suffer without just cause and then expect to appease God is beyond me.
The fact that I went there at all is something I will keep giving thanks to God for the rest of my life. It's been almost 16 years of obsessive dreaming that came true, even if it was for 9 days.
But they were a magical 9 days. In the words of Howard Carter, I saw things... wonderful things.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I had to hop over to a department store today to buy my mother a hat, to be taken to Egypt tomorrow ( I still can't believe I'm going... whee... but that is not what the blog is about.). 'Hop' would be a gross underestimation of what one can do when it comes to shopping these days. The avurudu season dictates that all forms of human life will convene like a herd of cattle at every shop in Colombo to the point that one can't breathe, let alone hop. And that is not what the blog is about either. (admit it... you are starting to become very frustrated, aren't you?)
SO I hopped... and I'd just parked my car outside the store and was walking towards it, when I noti two teen boys, shabbily dressed in that typical 'I-dont-give-a-f***' way circling around another parked car and sniggering to themselves. I wouldn't have given a f*** either, had it not been for a passing trishaw driver who stuck his head out and shouted 'thieves!' at them. Their startled looks and suspicious giggles as they moved away from the car made me wonder if the two were actually up to no good. I kept walking, as did they, passing me and entering the shop I was headed to. The fact that they hadn't previously looked like they were going shopping, or that they seemed a little to interested in the people at the shop more than the clothes made my antennae go up, and I continued to keep an eye on them as much as I could.
As expected, the store was teeming with people of all shapes, sizes and smells. When you are in a store that crowded, you have no option BUT to notice the smells. Getting up a flight of stairs felt like the biblical exodus, and it was all I could do to keep myself from being shoved unceremoniously off the staircase to my untimely death. Later, I will blog a rant about the uncouth manners (or lack thereof) of Sri Lankans in a clothing store during a sale. It was like a puddle of water in the bloody african savannah during a drought.
My quest for Mummy's hat led me (or rather, jostled me) towards the men's section, where the hats were. Whilst being thrown in all directions by the overwhelming crowd of avurudu shoppers, I spied the same two sniggering boys a little way ahead of me. My eyes nearly popped out when I witnessed them picking a man's pocket, right smack in the middle of the store with everyone around. The store was SO crowded, and yet not a single person saw the crime except, for my luck, me. Interestingly enough, it was at that very moment that the shop PA system warned shoppers to be aware of their personal belongings.
It was a work of art. One of the boys distracted a man by asking him something, while the other silently picked the man's pocket. Oliver Twist, local style. I couldn't believe what I was watching. The crowds and the jostling was so bad that the man would never have felt his wallet being taken out.
At first I just watched numbly, not sure whether to react, just in case I'd been mistaken about what I saw. I had, after all, walked in with the pre-conceived notion that these two guys were thieves, so my mind could just very well have conjured the whole thing up, because it gets a bit mental like that at times (again, another blog you'd surely love to read).
The boys moved off and passed me on their way out of the mens' section, giving each other sneaky winks and looks. I was too busy fighting for my last breath to even move in their direction, just to confirm to myself that they had taken the wallet.
At that point, the man who they'd picked it from started shouting that his wallet was missing. Again, amazingly, none of the thousands of people in that room seemed to care. The man desprately called one of the shop assitants and claimed his wallet had been lifted and tried explaining his predicament. All the while, the two hooligans were making a silent getaway amongst the crowd.
I needed to do something. Anything. But my damn brain just refused to work and give me words to shout out, informing the owner that I saw the culprits. I was quite a distance away from him, and the only way would have been to shout... but shout WHAT, goddamit? In it's excited state, my mind drew a complete and utter blank. So... without words coming to me, I just animatedly jumped up and down, waving my arms in the air like a retard, screaming "Arhhh...arhhhh", just so that the man would notice me.
He noticed... as did the shop assistant and the several other shoppers who were squeezing the life out of me. The boys were getting away down the stairs, albeit (and thankfully) slowly due to the crowds. "Arhh" wasn't telling the owner who the boys were and language was failing me. I panicked and did the only thing that came into my head.
I turned around and jumped onto them.
Bodily. Physically. Jumped onto the skinny guy descending the stairway. The force (my body ain't light) knocked him off his feet, onto the man in front of him and for a moment we almost played human dominoes on the stairs, until someone clutched onto the banister for dear life and stopped the mass topple. The owner and shop assistant turned up and gingerly picked me up off the squirming culprit and another shop assitant at the floor below us caught thief no.2 when I pointed to him slinking away unnoticed.
For the next half-hour, the scoundrels were drilled and searched by security and I was used as key witness. They found the wallet in the second boy's baggy pockets, and I was a hero. The owner of the wallet kept thanking me profusely, making me feel all good about myself as well as terribly embarrased at the same time. The shop assitants kept describing my little stunt to their colleagues like it was something out of an action movie, when in reality, I'd probably looked like a daft fool clinging onto a teenage boy half my size. After a few minutes of listening to the praise, I just wanted to get out of there and escape the stares. Plus I didn't want to hang around until the police showed up, because Sri Lanka's police force bugs me and I didn't have the time or patience to go through their inane procedures. I excused myself and left, after I'd done my bit by telling the tale a zillionth time to whoever wanted it for posterity's sake.
The owner wouldn't let me go until he'd paid for my shoping, as an expression of his gratitude. I tried my best to get out of that one, but he snatched mum's hat from my hands and paid the cashier for it and kept making me feel bad that I had a problem with it. I thanked him, and whizzed out of the store.
So there you have it. My deed of the day... yet another story to tell the cats about. I am now the proud owner of a free hat and a damn good feeling.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
So... I went to Pattaya, remember? I brought this good friend of mine (lets call him Teddyface) a box of chocolates and gave it to him yesterday. He was pleased, and I was pleased that he was pleased.
Then, this other mutual friend of ours (lets call him Hyper) calls me up just now and asks me where his chocolates are. Now, at this point, I could have said one of two things -
1. "They're with me" (which meant I could have gone out and bought a psedu-thai box and given it to him so as not to hurt his feelings)
2. "I didn't have time to shop." (another good excuse that one can get away with without hurting the person who's asking for gifts.)
But I said neither.
My addle-brained moment left me grappling for a good excuse and before I knew it, I'd blurted out that I gave the box of choccies with his share in it to Teddyface.
I could have gotten away with it, but within seconds Hyper decided to CALL Teddyface and ask for his chocs. Gulp. Teddyface had very rightly claimed that the chocolates were solely HIS.
What does Hyper do? He calls me back, to report on Teddyface's claim. And what do I do? Be a complete lying bitch and say "he's nuts... the chocs were for you both". Soon after, the shame got the better of me and I confessed that yes... I might have given Teddy the impression that the chocs were for him alone.
Had I known that teddyface was at the other end of Hyper's CONFERENCE CALL to me, silently bursting a vessel at my shameless treachery, I might have re-thought this business of lying through my teeth.
Now they're both pissed with me. Over a goddamn box of chocolates.
It's amazing how much trouble a lie can get you into..... I'm smarting from harsh lessons learnt.
I know...serves me right.