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Christmas Cruise

I board the boat at 10am and find my room okay. Definately not 5 stars as promised but for Egyptian standards its ok and does the job. I unpack and get organised. I investigate the boat and discover the great deck area, which is just perfect for some R and R in the sun. After a yummy lunch I get my gear together for another walk around the city.

I come along some alleyways and decide to investigate. I continue walking and stumble across a school that is finishing for the day. This boy of about 10 or 12 years says and hello and starts asking me questions. I offer him a lolly, and he joins me as I continue walking. I go to buy a chapstick but the guy tries to rip me off by charging me nearly 3 times the price I paid for one in Cairo. I say no and walk out. My new friend offers to buy me one and I say to him that I need to check my email but that I will pay him if he goes and gets it for me and brings it back. He goes off and comes back having been charged only 2.50. I let him keep the change from a 10 EP note for his honesty and he takes it back to his mum. He asks me to see him at his table along the markets after I have finished. I spend some time finishing my emails and then make my way along the market.

He must have seen me from a mile away and comes out to greet me. He makes me sit down with him and behind his stall whilst he runs off to get me some hot tea. He comes back and I drink my tea whilst he eats lunch. He asks me questions and I answer them and correct his English as he speaks. It is very good. I ask about his family and school, how much he works and how much he earns a day. He tells me that he finishes school at 2pm and then he goes and buys his lunch and sets up his table of scarfs. He works from 2.30pm till midnight. He then goes home and studies for an hour or two. He earns 10 EP per day for working the stall. This goes to his mum because he does not have a dad. Now I know wages in Egypt are low but when he tells me that he only gets 10 EP a day it is a bit scary. I also don't know if everything is the truth but he seems pretty legit.

I buy a scarf from him which I pay a bit more than I should for but it is big and it keeps me warm. I meet some of his friends and cousins who are all joking that I am his new wife. Business is not exactly booming and the few tourists that come by are not enticed by the ridiculous prices that he wants. There is some haggling but not enough to warrant a sale.

Most travellers walk up and down the market without even looking around because they get hassled so much. This includes me. It becomes such a pain in the butt to listen to the minimum of 200 approaches I get everyday. It ranges from I love you, I want to marry you, do you need a husband, you are beautiful, you have beautiful eyes, hair, smile and bum but the best line I heard was I want to eat you. I just could not get away from it.

From the moment I step out of my hotel or off the boat, the men don't leave me alone. I don't feel for my personal safety it is just the constant hassle, staring, hissing, and talking about me in their little groups as I walk past. I asked an Egyptian guy what they think of Western women and he said that Muslim men think that we are all easy and sluts. I was pretty surprised by this especially when I am covered up and even wear a hat most days. I adopt a strong attitude and ignore most of the comments. I even walk all around the backstreets and catch micro taxis with the locals. This is a good experience and I meet some very nice people.

I have one funny experience on a micro taxi. I get on and say hello to the other people (we are in a mini van). Two girls are sitting behind me in the back seat and two guys around 24 hop on at the next stop. One sits next to me. The girls behind me start to touch my hair and the guy next to me puts his arm around behind me and rests it along the back of my seat. He then looks proudly out the open side door as we drive along. Then he too touches my hair. It is amusing because he thinks that I don't know what he is doing. He gives me a big smile when he gets out.

The other funny thing that happened to me was a trip to an Egyptian hairdresser. I wanted to wash and blow dry my hair because I did not have a hair dryer to dry it and not to catch a cold. So I went and found a hairdresser with the help of my hostel manager. We went inside and negotiated a price of 50 EP or 6 euro for a wash and dry.

I look around for the sink or basin to wash my hair but see nothing. I start to worry cause I really want my hair washed. I start to stress a bit cause my translator has left and I am stuck. I have these weird thoughts they are going to use that dry hair shampoo and hair will be just gross. As I am nervously looking around, one of the girls hands me the hairstyle book but its full of pictures of Arabic women with elaborate hairstyles in the tackiest wedding dresses I have ever seen.

The dresses are bejewelled with diamontes and other beading that is so elaborate and tacky. The hair and makeup is just as bad and the girls start pointing out the different style then tell me I would look like a model. I am just gagging at the photos and the styles. They are horrendous and I keep having to repeat that I only want a wash and blow dry. They keep saying but no you are so beautiful and your hair would look great like this (all of this in very bad broken English). I finally convince her to stop with the book when the other girl returns.

She hands something to her boss which I try to see. It turns out to be sachets of shampoo that she has been sent to the supermarket to buy. This instills alot of confidence in their ability but I persevere. They take me into another room and I see the dodgy wash basin for the first time. It looks like a relic from 50 years ago but at least I will get a real shampoo. I sit down and one girl puts a towel around me and holds it whilst the other tries to speak to me in very bad English. I tilt my head back whilst trying to listen, nod and smile in encouragement and understanding. Mr. Hisham starts washing my hair but I have a sudden fear that he is recycling the water. I can't lift my head to check so I just have to trust him. After 3 shampoos my hair feels like straw but I know its clean. He then puts some henna condiditoner in my hair. I worry that it may react with my colour but what can I do.

The girl asks if I want my hands tattooed with henna or some facial waxing. She indicates this by pointing at the hair on my upper lip and with a pulling motion. I couldn't think of anything worse and quickly say no.

We go back to the chair in the salon and Mr Hisham decides to brush the knots out of my hair. After a lot of face grimacing whilst he yanked and pulled he was finally finished. He prepped me for the blow dry but unfortunately did not dry off the hair. So instead he had sections of wet hair that was being yanked through his brush. It was a killer. I could see my hair braking in front of my eyes and falling to the floor. One of the girls started to pick it up and collect it in her pocket. Mr Hisham grabbed her and told to leave it on the floor (in arabic). I was just cracking up laughing.

The other girl was told to dry off the other sections of my hair but she had obviously never done it before and pointed the nozel at my scalp. I literally started to see smoke coming off my scalp as she burnt it. I grabbed the dryer and showed her how to get the sections and dry it off without causing 3rd degree burns. Mr. H continued to blow dry my hair super straight and is doing a really good job. He takes an hour to finish but it turns out to be a super job.

He wants to add some finishing Egyptian touches by putting the top of the hair in rollers for some added lift. He takes out the rollers and creates this buffy section and high fringe that he lacquers. I try to straighten it out saying I like it flat. He fixes it up but the style still reminds me of Cameron Diaz's fringe from that movie Something About Mary. With everything done we then take some photographs and I promise to send him a copy so that they can put it on their wall. A truely unique and memorable experience.


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