Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Life in Dahab, Egypt Part 2

Every Part 1 has a Part 2!! So after living in Dahab for 3 months now, here are some interesting things that I have noticed about living in Egypt.

- The shower!! In a typical Egyptian bathroom, you have a sink, toilet, and a shower head, with a drain on the floor, all in a tiled room. So after you shower, you have to mop the water into the drain. Luckily we were slowly eased into this style of bathrooms. With the Hilton bathroom being a typical western style - a shower over a bathtub, with a shower curtain. Then in the Dahab Dorms, we had a shower head over a square section on the floor, with no shower curtain. And then finally, the current apartment we live in. A mop was one of the first items we bought for the house!!

not our bathroom, but similar
- The water. Drinking water comes from a bottle only. Also bottled water is good for washing fruit, veg, making tea, cooking pasta, etc. Any water you want to ingest, should be from a bottle!! If you drink the water from the tap, you could get very sick, plus it sometimes comes out a slight yellow colour (and sometimes it even comes out brown)! At the Hilton, 1.5L bottle of water was 15LE, in town you can get it for about 2.5LE. But we started buying the large 10L drums of water, and decanting it into 1.5L bottles. Gaffa has been walking from the supermarket with 2 at a time..20Kg of water...walking 1km - although he has dropped 1 or 2 (dodgy handles) and got himself very wet!!! We thought we'd save time and energy, and stocked up on 10L drums of water, and got a taxi from Asala to our apartment with 4x10L for a cool 2LE taxi fare ;-)

- The rubbish. When we arrived at the Hilton, there were different bins for plastic, paper, metal, general rubbish; but when we moved into main Dahab, and to our apartment in Asala, there was no real concept of a rubbish bin let alone recycling of any kind. At the end of our street there is a large rubbish bin, but the bin has a hole in the side of it, and there's more rubbish around it than in it! Considering the amount of plastic that is consumed from water, you'd think they would have some sort of recycling... but no. One other thing that Gaffa wants me to add about the concept of recycling over here in Egypt - they leave it to the goats, cats, dogs and camels to eat the rubbish.  The unlucky goats get left to rag and ruin until the end of October, where they get rounded up and slaughtered for a religious festival....hmmm sounds very cult-like!! But it is true, so it is our advice to avoid meals with "goat" or "meat" from October onwards...think about it... if a goat eats rubbish, what's it gonna taste like?
goats eating rubbish
- Taxis. Every "car" is a taxi here in Dahab. When you're walking down the street, you get beeped at continuously and hear, "taxi?", or "tax'?" being yelled out by the driver. One of the first things we learnt in Arabic was "la!", meaning "no!". If you're walking down the street, minding your own business; they think you need a taxi. But the other day, an Egyptian guy was actually waving his hand out for a taxi and no one stopped! Go figure? In Dahab you'll hear beep beep beeping of cars as they drive by, so much so that it becomes a kinda white noise....Apparently they're just saying hello..but I fear that when we return to civilisation, Gaffa (who totally ignores the beeps now) will walk under a beeping bus as he walks across George St in Sydney's CBD....LOL!

- The seasons. When we arrived to Dahab in August, it was the end of summer for them. But man, it was 38 degrees Celsius or more, and we couldn't stop sweating! Now in November, it's 'winter' to the Egyptians. But in UK terms it's a glorious summers day, and in Australia it would be a nice spring day. LOL. It's funny seeing Egyptians wearing long jeans, closed shoes and a jumper while the sun is beaming and no clouds in the sky. But I must admit, in the evenings it does get chilly and I'm wearing a hoodie and long pants, wishing that I'd brought my beanie with me....

- Time. Egyptian Time or Dahab Time.... is always late. I guess because everything is so relaxed and chilled out here, that people don't worry too much about being on time. If an Egyptian says to you 10-15 minutes, they mean about an hour (or more).  If they say "En Shalla" (by God's Will) they mean to do whatever they say.. If however, they say "Feel, Mesh Mesh" (it'll happen in apricot season - which is never) they're not gonna do it and they're just paying you lip service...Also, Egyptian body clocks are abit out of whack compared to what Gaffa and I are used to. After 12pm they still say 'good morning' to you. Their breakfast time is around brunch/early lunch time. Shops don't open until late morning stay open until late night. Little children are roaming and playing in the streets late at night also.

- Cars (if you can call them that) - mostly utes/pickups are of the standard that we'd usually scrap, but the locals seem to be gifted at taking a beat up old banger and driving it for another decade or so. Lights, Speedos, Brakes, Seat Belts, Tyres with tread (slicks are common here?) and closing doors are a mystery to Egyptians. The only working parts of the car are: engines, steering wheels, the horn (of course) and the mobile phone (which every taxi driver insists on using whilst changing gears, turning corners and looking out of the side windows to see their friends). On one occasion we were in a car/jeep/death trap that had the doors held shut with a screwdriver...interesting use of tools as a lock. Another time I was taking some customers to the Blue Hole, and the jeep we were in stopped about every 20m. The driver would get out of the car, open the bonnet, fix something, then get back in the car. The car would drive for another 20m and he'd have to do it again...we got to the Blue Hole, eventually! Riding in the back of utes is pretty cool though, and seat belts aren't compulsory....

Gaffa & I in the back of a ute :)
- Electrical Installations scare Gaffa, they lack any standard or level of safety. Most appliances have homemade flying leads with paperclips and alu-foil (instead of extension cords), water and electricity apparently do go well together - if you live here in Dahab you can have a shower and use electrical appliances simultaneously...if you're CRAZY! In Egypt, if it looks homemade it probably is. Nails are preferred to glue, in fact just yesterday a colleague of ours was using a hammer, with the head held on with a single nail...suspicious.    

- Cooking utensils are suspect here. Pans and fry pans generally have no handles - which can only lead to burns or spilled food. Freezers are not common, but over iced and frosty ice boxes in fridges are common.  Our house has one that is totally sealed shut with ice - cool huh!

- Carpets. Inside houses there is no permanent carpet, everything is tiled. Which is good, considering the amount of dirt/dust in Dahab, you wouldn't want carpet flooring. They do have very large rugs on the floor though. And to clean them they put them over balconies/railings and beat & bash the dirt/dust out of them. I'm not sure if vacuum cleaners exist here....

- Women - Egyptian women, I mean. If you walk down the street of Dahab, you won't see many Egyptian women, it's all men.

- Some things in Egypt are very similar to Asian cultures. They like to sit on the floor like the Japanese do, with thin mattresses and loads of cushions. You also have to take your shoes off before stepping onto the seating area, like the Japanese do. Family is very important to Egyptians, business is mainly kept within the family, brothers working together. They like to smoke like chimneys, because cigarettes are cheap here. They like to drink lots of tea like Chinese people do. In Egypt there is Bedouin Tea, and they add loads of sugar to it. It's great after a dive! They like to invite people into their homes for tea & fruit.... When Egyptians are talking to each other, sometimes they sound like they're shouting and having an argument with each other. Gaffa has said the same about me talking with my parents in Cantonese.

- Bread. Egyptians eat alot of bread - with dips as a starter; they love tahini, with breakfast with falafels and soaking up beans/foul or some soup type. I know know why my previous boss in Australia loved bread so much - he was Egyptian! Bread is of the flat-bread kind, not the usual bread we eat. The loaves of bread we are used to, Egytians call 'toast'. Sandwiches are made using this flatbread, not the toast-bread kind.

flat bread, for dips
- Friday's. In Australia or the UK, on Friday's people will go out for an extended lunch and after work drinks to wind down after a long week. In Egypt, Friday is their holy day. So most go to the mosque and pray, but in Cairo they have weekly 'friendly' protests in Tahir Square. Some of these 'friendly' protests haven't been 'friendly'.... It's abit scary, but thankfully none of the riots or trouble has spread to Dahab. (touch wood!)

As I mentioned in the previous post about living in Dahab, thick shakes here are scoops of ice cream in a tall glass. Here is a photo =D

heaven in a glass!
I haven't got many photos to show you all these ins and outs of Dahab, but I will put them up as I get them.

Next up - working and diving in Dahab!! :-) Happy Reading!!  

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