This blog has been quiet of late because I’ve been away. I’ve been to the land of Pharaohs and pyramids.
This trip was organised by hubby’s dive club some time ago. I am not a scuba diver – having asthma prohibits me from such an activity. Occasionally I tag along on the trips the scuba club organise, but generally there’s not much to do for a non-diver who’s not fond of boats.
However, I decided at the last minute to tag along for this trip, as a week of doing nothing but lie on the beach and read actually sounded rather appealing, after a few very stressful months. I also had a plan to take the NetBook along, and do some writing.
The accommodation was a dive village in Marsa Shagra, on the shores of the Red Sea. It was rather literally in the middle of nowhere. After flying into Marsa Alam airport we had a 40-minute drive through miles of arid desolate desert land to get there.
The dive village, however, was well appointed. As well as the dive centre there were various bars and seating areas, all out in the open air but under shelter, where I could set myself up with my NetBook out of the glare of the Egyptian sun. The accommodation ranged in luxury, from tents to air conditioned en suite chalets. As the site was rather full by the time I decided I wanted to come, it wasn’t possible to get an air conditioned chalet. We were in a hut. This was a stone building that was effectively one small room, with the usual furniture one would expect in a hotel room – wardrobe, dresser, bedside table. There was no air conditioning, but the room had windows, and a fan, and we found it stayed relatively cool at night.
We had to share the toilet and shower block with others, but these were clean and in good order, and the nearest one was only a few yards away from our room. Perhaps one of the most important facilities was a limitless supply of clean drinking water, as Egypt is fairly notorious for its lack of drinking water. As the accommodation prided itself on being an ‘eco village’, it was encouraging its residents to recycle water bottles. We could fill them up without limit from the various water coolers that were placed around site.
So, after breakfast, when hubby and his fellow divers went off to don their scuba kit, I took my NetBook and bottle of water and set myself up to do some writing. My favourite place for my morning writing session quickly became the Oxygen Bar. This bar did not sell alcohol, but oxygen – literally. I’m not sure what the benefit of inhaling flavoured oxygen is, but apparently this is all the rage in parts of Asia right now. The bar was closed during the day, but I found a nice comfy spot with table and chair, and more importantly a power point – in the shade where I could write. I would get a couple of hours’ work in before going up to the restaurant for lunch, with maybe an hours’ snooze in the bean bag somewhere in there as well.
The position of the sun meant that I couldn’t go back to the oxygen bar after lunch, as it was no longer in shelter and my NetBook isn’t glare resistant. So after lunch I took an hour or so to lie on the beach and let my meal digest, and the restaurant to clear. It closed at 2pm, but the outside terrace became a good place for my afternoon session, as there were plenty of tables, sheltered from the sun, and I had a spectacular view of the Red Sea to offer inspiration.
The divers came back between 4pm and 5pm, at which point it was time to stop writing and go for a shower.
For a week this became a most agreeable existence, and I did manage to get quite a lot of work done, too. But it wasn’t all snoozing and writing. On Monday 24 October – my birthday – a few of us decided to do the day trip to Luxor, to see some of Egypt’s history and culture. It was a long old drive from the dive site – a good 4 hours – so we had to start early. But we managed to pack in rather a lot in a day. We went to Memnon Colossi, which were moved from their original site in pieces when floods threatened to destroy them. We went to the Valley of the Kings, where most of Egypt’s Pharaohs were buried, in elaborate tombs. None of the mummies or the valuables that were buried with them are still there – they’ve either been sent to museums around the world, or were stolen by grave robbers over the centuries. But the hieroglyphs and paintings that adorn the corridors of the burial sites can still be seen, in remarkably vivid colours considering they are 3000 years old. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take photos in the Valley of the Kings – the flash fades the colours, and people have abused this in the past so now no cameras are allowed at all.
We also visited the Temple of Hatshepsut, which is not quite so old, as it’s been reconstructed. Hatshepsut was the only woman Pharaoh. Women were not allowed to be Pharaohs, but she had no brothers, and was instead married off to her step brother so that he could be Pharaoh. She wasn’t having that, so she killed him, and eventually gained the respect of her people and was accepted as Pharaoh. It’s always interesting to hear stories about strong women who know what they want.
After crossing the Nile to the East Bank, we paid a visit to the Karnak Temple – a vast and awe-inspiring place full of columns and ancient statues.
We got back rather late but it was a trip well worth doing, and a most memorable way to spend my birthday. In fact, it will be hard to match it in future years.
The Luxor day trip added a touch of history and culture to what was largely a trip about relaxation (for me, anyway – hubby got 2 or 3 dives in per day, so he came back at the end of each day quite exhausted).
Egypt also proved to be inspiring for me, writing-wise. When we left the UK, I had a vague idea for a new horror novel that I thought I might be able to work on. I returned, a week later, with not only three pages of notes and basic plot outline, but also the first 8,000 words of the first draft written. I attribut the inspiration to a combination of the sea air, the sunshine, and the inspiring view. Too bad I don’t have these sources of inspiration available to me all the time – I’d be far more prolific.