April 5, 2010

The Reluctant Princess.

Billy goes down to the port first thing, to check which o’ clock the boat’s decided to leave. The moustaches shrug and say

Ten o’ clock two o’ clock

… which is a whole new time. We take our time having breakfast at the wrestling cafe, and sit with our bags, waiting for the crowd of men and suitcases gathered on the street to move towards the Port Authority gates. When it does, we hurry to join it. We’re upbeat- it’s only just ten a.m and we’re off. Good to be making progress. The boat waits in the dock, funnels fuming.

We get no further than the benches on the other side of the gate, though, and we’re told to wait there. Wait we do. Mohammed beckons me to sit with him- he’s a farmer with a boss’s slouch and a violent-looking prayer bruise high on his forehead. The conversation is lopsided, my new mentor bombarding me with questions.

Why is it only Muslims being murdered?

Why are all the bad things in Arab society the fault of the West? Smoking, homosexuality?

Why don’t I study the Koran?

I’m tempted to tell Mohammed that I’m a gay 40-a-day atheist. He invites me to his village. Billy comes back with the falafels. We eat, and wait.

Waiting is the game we play all day. Time circles the docks slowly. More people trickle in. Westerners look flustered and ask questions. Egyptians take their shoes off and flick prayer beads, no hurry. The ship’s funnels stop smoking. The Nefertiti is cancelled for five days. Move to that other waiting area. Wait for the Princess. We meet a Canadian and a South African girl. We swat away flies. We play a round of Shithead. We shift in our seats. We meet a Dutch bloke. We dance for release, to rounds of applause from the waiting humans and a stern telling off from a port policeman. We drink tea, coffee and more tea.

At 7pm, the boat is finally ready for boarding.

There’s something about Nuweiba I’ll miss.

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