Muslim Matrimonials and More's Egyptian Tales: stories of life in Egypt

October 2004

The Overlooked Experience, Part Two

(If you haven't read Part 1, you can see it here)

Touring Upper Egypt

by Shaden Mohamed

Sweet smells of perfume and flowers engulfed me as I stepped into the lobby of the five-star Cruiser ship. A very well-presented Concierge bowed his head and welcomed us as we walked through the gilded archway and into the reception. The ship was incredibly luxurious - gold trimmings and stylish furniture adorned the waiting room. The marble staircase was accentuated by the colours of the crystal chandelier, which sparkled and lit up the floor in a brilliant array. The Concierge - who stood oblivious to the splendour - waited a few moments, as if giving us time to find our bearings.

After making a quick assessment, the Concierge spoke confidently in English: "Good evening ladies (and gentleman)" he added, winking at my brother. "Is this your first visit to Luxor?" My sister and I smiled reluctantly, somewhat irritated that we had failed to blend in as Egyptians.

My mother took charge and replied: "Yes, we are here on holiday from Cairo."

The Concierge looked at my mother - somewhat confused by her fluent Arabic - then at the rest of us, and smiled in resolve. "Ah, yes Madam, you and your tour group are looking for accommodation?"

My mother, realising that he thought she was a tour guide of some sort, smiled and said, "Do you mind if we take a look around?"

The Concierge quickly obliged, taking us through the corridors and dining areas of the ship. By the time we reached the top deck, we were all relaxed and speaking in English without hesitation. We usually kept quiet so as to avoid detection and to remain unnoticed. We walked around the swimming pool and sauna, which sparkled under the light of the stars. As we walked back inside to the social lounge, the Concierge left us to retrieve some refreshments.

As we sat there enjoying the atmosphere, a tall, distinguished-looking man approached us. He spoke in Arabic: "Hello how are you all tonight?" and without asking he sat down and joined us. "So what do you think of the ship?" he continued, smiling all the while, as if he had known us for years. My mother politely replied, complimenting both the ship and the staff. We all added our comments, except for Murwa, my shy cousin, who sat there looking at the floor.

"Well," the tall man continued, "I'm glad you like my ship, and I hope you can stay for our buffet tonight." My mum started to laugh, "Why didn't you tell us you owned the ship from the beginning?!" He simply smiled and shrugged. He began to tell us of his adventures as a 'Captain' although technically he had staff to do everything, so I guess Captain was the wrong title.

We spent hours talking about travelling, and strange things we had all encountered along the way. After a magnificent dinner, the entertainment began. The social lounge became crowded with people, most of whom were European. A band played Arabic music as traditional Egyptian dancing and singing kept the guests entertained.

By the end we were all exhausted, and neither of us could keep our eyes open, and yet the Captain did not waver slightly. He looked as though it was still the afternoon. Seeing our weariness, the Captain immediately offered us a cabin where we could rest our eyes. Sheri and my brother Shehab had already fallen asleep, heads propped up against the lounge. Nadia was slowly falling asleep, trying to disguise it by smiling every now and again. My cousin Murwa and I, however, quickly accepted the gesture, taking the keys and racing down to the cabin.

Once inside, we freshened up and lay down for a moment, but found it difficult to sleep with the sound of the water and the gentle rocking motion of the ship. So we decided to return to the lounge.

When we returned to the lounge, the Captain insisted that we have "sohoor" (breakfast meal before the sun comes up) because fasting would begin again in a few hours time. Everyone was woken up, and the Chef was asked to cook us breakfast. Sheri watched the Chef make a delicious french-style omelette while the rest of us tried to sneak in a few more minutes of sleep. After the meal, we were all a lot more refreshed, and we decided to leave while we still had the energy to do so. My mother thanked the Captain for his wonderful hospitality, but she politely declined his offers to stay longer.

The Captain, who in retrospect seemed to be lonely, even offered us complimentary accommodation, telling us that the ship would leave for Cairo the next day. But we still had a few more days of sightseeing in Luxor, so we thanked him again and made our way down to the exit. As we left the glow of the foyer and stepped outside into the darkness, I realised that there were times in one's life that passed as quickly as they occurred, and this was one of those times. While my sister took away a great omelettte recipe which she still uses today, I took away the wonderful memory of a magical ship.

Shaden Mohamed is in her 20's. Of Egyptian background, she was born and bred in Sydney where she attained a degree in Media & Communications. As an accomplished writer, Shaden has a passion for educating and informing others in her community on the beauty of her culture. "My dream is to inspire people with my writing because I believe that literature is the most beautiful form of expression."

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