Saturday, January 06, 2007

Hurghada International Ashtray

Today we were free to do much as we liked; our bus to the airport would not be till 5pm. We could not have flown back the previous night, because after days of continuous diving you require at least 24 hours to gas off nitrogen in your system before ascending to great heights.

Most of the party stayed on the boat or close-by, relaxing in the bar of the Marriott, while a few of us braved downtown Hurghada again. I was hoping to find some gift items that weren't unbearably kitschy but just couldn't sift anything out of the copious dross. With almost nothing to differentiate one store from another, some owners either opted for zoning out with hookah and shisha pipes, or following you at very close quarters around the store trying to greet you in every language and thereby detect which one they could pitch their sales patter in. In one store I was asked "Are you German?... Alaskan?" which almost made me choke with surprise. One man greeted me with a "good morning"; it was after 1 but I didn't feel like quibbling, so I returned the greeting. He shot back "aha it is afternoon and you should say good afternoon". The Red Sea Sharks are more of a worry on land.

On the verge of trekking back to the hotel, I spied 3 fellow divers and we decided to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Told that it was only 10 minutes' walk away, we hailed a cab and negotiated a rate accordingly. To our mounting alarm we seemed to be covering a great distance, passing our hotel, the airport and then many city blocks of partially complete apartment buildings, before finally turning into a more upmarket area south of the marina where the Hard Rock Cafe lay. Our driver smiled as he let us out: Don't worry I am not part of mafia!

My first thought as we walked up to the entrance was that it was a mad inversion where the wreck stuck over the entrance was in better condition than most of the vehicles on the road.
Much later, after lunch, the return to the marina and gathering up our bags, we were dropped off at Hurghada International Ashtray. Getting through the security checks (the signs in fractured English warned against carrying dangerous goods...explosing you to danger or Spray that used to paralyze movement) in somewhat less time than at Gatwick, we got through to the shopping/eating area which seemed to rule that smoking was compulsory. The atmosphere was revolting even to the handful of smokers in the group. Even after huddling around a few tables that were slightly less ashen than others, an English woman walked up with her husband, dropped an ashtray at the edge of our table and emptied a few lungs over us.

After escaping the terminal building (via a bus that drove 50m across the tarmac to our plane) we had but 5 hours till we were back in Gatwick. For the first time in over a year, I didn't get the third degree from UK immigration (yay!).

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