I slept like dead for 12 hours, waking up with a horrible headache. That was the first time I’d experienced jet lag. I checked my email and almost rolled on the floor laughing b/c of the desperate message from Ahmad, the CouchSurfer who wrote me invitation letter to the Egyptian embassy, that he drove all the way from Cairo, and that I had to save him from Alexandria’ boredom. He picked me up from my host’s place, and promised to take me to the best place in the country for kebda (liver). We drove a long way and geez, to my surprise, he stopped exactly at the place that I had kebda the day before. The staff there still remembered my face and they were telling him the story of a Chinese girl who walked into the restaurant, ordered 1 kebda sandwich in pidgin Arabic, and then ordered one more. I forgave their racist remark, all because their kebda was too tasty.
We drove to his family’s summer house in the North Coast, about 40km North of Alexandria. North Coast was once a deserted coastal area that hosted beautiful small brick houses of bedouin – a desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group that used to live on raising camels and growing peanuts. Then the capitalists came. Agricultural land was taken to build fancy beach apartments and houses for well-off families who only come there once a year during summer to avoid the heated chaos of Cairo. We drove through the city, passed by twisty sculptures that stand awkwardly along the beach, went under enormous billboards that show all the best of Alexandria. The car turned right at a corner and here we were, on the highway. The glossiness quickly faded away and a rustic Egypt revealed. A scrawny oil rig stretched over immense red salt fields like a sad giant looked at his rustic skeleton reflected in the mirror. Broken down half-city half-countryside houses flickered from afar. Some bedouins in long white robes crossed the road, suddenly stopped at the middle and gazed at us. Ahmad went on and on about how he hated drivers who do not stop for pedestrians to cross the road. He said these people think that those don’t have money to buy cars do not deserve to live. Roads in Alexandria are all fancy highways that allow cars to drive at a steady 100km/h even in the city, yet there is only one pedestrian crossing every few kilometers. The only way to cross the road here is to run as fast as possible across 6 lanes and hope for the best. I’d been there for only 2 days but I’d heard enough accident stories to start appreciating traffic in Vietnam. Ahmad was now with his paper about poverty in Egypt. Together with jet lag, it made me terribly drowsy. We moved to the revolution. Ahmad was at Tehrir Square almost all of these 18 historical days, and he told me some incredible stories about how he responded to the initial demonstration, how it turned into a sea of people, how he shared his tent and sleeping bag with other people in Tehrir square, how the protesters started fighting with each other inside the square, how he got thrown out by his own people, how people from outside the square attacked those inside, how the government suppressed the revolution and how he lost hope just few days before the end. I wanted to note down everything, but my mind refused to work. I dozed off. The street lights were still on even though it was noon. The one who takes care of the switch had probably quit the job after the revolution, because there is now nobody in the government to give him the paycheck.
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Ahmad’s summer house is a lovely brick-roofed house right next to the beach. I literally had to sneak in and out of the house because the gardener was there to water the lawn and Ahmad didn’t want to be caught with a girl. I felt awkward. It’s a beautiful place, and it’d be perfect for couples, but we weren’t. We walked along the beach. I stood on the tip of my toes, trying to see as far as I could, getting the most of the wind blowing from the other side of Mediterranean, from Italy. That idea got me high. I’d never been closer to my dreamland! I saw a group of fishermen and wanted to make friends with them, but Ahmad was strongly opposed to it. He said that it’s not appropriate for a girl to approach strange men here. I’m not sure if he really meant it, or he just didn’t want to be seen with a girl, but I spared him of troubles anyway. I started getting bored. There is absolutely nothing to do there other than to drink, to smoke and to chill by Mediterranean sea. I wanted to go back to Alexandria, but Ahmad didn’t want to drive that far, so he insisted me to stay. We sat on the porch. Ahmad rolled a joint while I stared aimlessly at the fence. The bush suddenly turned into a parade of all kinds of creature into the sunset. There were foxes, dinosaurs, fish, rabbits and even a man riding a horse. Everything seemed to be moving. I could even hear them talking. Suddenly a bird spread its wings and darted away over our heads. When you are in front of the immensity of the ocean and the waves lull you into the state of extremely relaxation, everything becomes surreal. Ahmad started talking about his travel and all his affairs with other female travelers, but I wasn’t in mood. All I wanted was to enjoy that false sense of hypnotism.
- Want to go to Siwa tomorrow? – asked Ahmad.
- What’s that?
- An oasis, my favorite place.
- Sounds fun. – And it was settled. We’d go to bed early, wake up early to go to my host’s place to pick up my stuff, then head for Siwa. I slept in Ahmad’s sister’s room while Ahmad watched some movies from the 90’s then dozed off on the couch.