A Travellerspoint blog

Day 235 – “The Park Is Closed”

14th May 2012

The previous night’s dinner had been relaxing; whilst the stars twinkled and the mosquitoes hummed a relentless ode to war we sat and drank with new friends. Laura slowly came to reveal her lapse of concentration with the most symbolic of objects and, for her at least, the rest of the evening was beset with worry.

For the first time in some time, we had a new priority; something to occupy our minds other than the embassy. The embassy could come second, first we had a park to visit. The park was guarded by an old man, dressed in his galabiyya; his paunch pressing the cotton tight around his middle. He spoke no English but it was clear that he had no interest in allowing us through. And so there we stood for ten minutes trying to explain our predicament. A passer by sought to help with our communication but our guard was insistent that no man should cross his threshold until the appointed hour. Frustration was taking hold when I took an opportune moment and slipped past him; which failed to make him smile. The stakes were too high and as he shouted after us we shouted back that we only needed a few minutes in his litter filled park.

The litter was a blessing. With a lawn bejewelled by ring pulls and drinks cans the little engagement ring had been sat expectantly from whence it had been placed. We showed the old man as we left but he remained in a sulk that the ring could not extricate him from.

Sunday had been disappointing, but not so much that we didn’t remain expectant the following morning. For one year or more, a path through Libya had been on our minds. A will we-won’t we question that had been answered with resignation in our early stages. Every day on the road had increased our chances of gaining entry and transiting safely, and here we were, outside the Embassy for the seventh or eighth time amongst a crowd of annoyed Egyptians. The police, still armed, guarding the doors to our passage home.

Again our high hearts had become heavy; we slumped to a sit against the wall of the Argentine Embassy across from our hole in the wall and contemplated what to do. Had Madam Hannah known of the strike when she suggested a return the following week? She had certainly appeared genuine. We had two options; the first was to sit it out and wait for the embassy to open, we guessed they wouldn’t strike more than one week, the second was to arrange our visas through a private tour company at a princely sum that was twenty times the cost of the embassy. For the whole morning we sat waiting. We spoke with a chap named Wang, a Chinese chap who had been trying to organise a diplomatic visa but was effectively in the same position as us. We met an Italian reporter who told us he’d visited Libya four times in the past year and this was the hardest he’d found it to actually get in. A Libyan chap gave the game away when he explained why the embassy workers were striking. The embassy was responsible for paying the hospital fees of the Libyan rebels receiving treatment in Cairo. The embassy had run completely out of money. Its staff had elected to holiday rather than work for free and the police were in position in an attempt to intimidate any would be retaliation from the hospitalised militia. What excellent timing they had.

We elected to give them a week, or rather six days, we’d return each day and if nothing had happened by the following Sunday we’d instruct our agency and begin travelling again.

That afternoon we found ourselves back in the park that had heralded our day’s beginning. We sat and read and watched a young boy trying desperately to impress the young girls he was with by rapping along with the tune on his mobile phone. In retaliation, one of the girls put a Michael Buble song on hers and gave us a prolonged glance to see if the foreigners were approving. We were acting middle aged and just couldn’t focus on our novels with all that racket in the background. Eventually the group came to leave, but on their way three of the young ladies stopped by and introduced themselves, Samer, Sheren and Yasmine. Their obvious beauty was of no discomfort to Somers or I and when they asked us would we like to go out for a bite to eat, we accepted. As we walked across the bridge from Zamalek towards Tahrir Square I was heckled with shouts of ‘Casanova’ as I appeared to escorting four beauties across Cairo, jealous looks and second takes abounded from the disgruntled, slim framed, skinny jeaned and slick haired male youth of Cairo. I grinned back and winked at anyone who looked unhappy with my fortune.

Dinner was to be Kosherry; a dish of noodles, pasta, fired onion and tomato salsa, washed down with water. Afterwards we went for ice cream and the evening came to an end in Sedat tube station where we garnered more numbers for our phone book and said farewell.

Posted by ibeamish 12:11 Archived in Egypt

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