Journal: Wednesday 4 October 2000
The pharaoh has got his revenge at last! I woke up feeling rotten this morning. I’ve been tired and lethargic for several days but today it all came to a head in a full-blown sickness. I’ve never been really sick in Egypt before and after ten visits I thought I was immune to ‘The Bug’. No such luck. By this afternoon I thought I was feeling a little better so Jenny and I went over to Luxor to change money and buy food. Not that I felt like eating anything. My main destination in the town was to the pharmacy to get some medicine for my rebelling stomach. Loaded up with pills and potions I went back to the flat to sleep.
In the late afternoon our friend Ramadan stopped by with his two young children and invited us to go with them to the fair at Kom, another small village nearby. It was a local sheikh’s anniversary and there would be horse races and a funfair for the children. By this time I wasn’t feeling too bad and Jenny was keen to go, so we all piled into the taxi for the short journey to the village. Parking among the houses, we walked through narrow winding alleys to the edge of the village, where a field had been recently cut and a long straight race track was etched out in the stubble. There were a lot of horses milling about, white, black and every colour in between, some with riders and others tied loosely to a fence. When the next race started with a pistol shot there was a mad galloping of fairly reckless riders – it would seem that the object of the race was to ride the horses from start to finish by any means possible. It was great to watch the men in the hitched-up galabeyas tearing down the track while performing as many dare-devil stunts as they could for the entertainment of the crowd, while spectators shouted encouragement and cheered the fastest. It was very noisy.
By the time a couple of races had taken place the children, Aman and Mahmoud, aged two and five, were eager to get to the fairground. Many sideshows and stalls were laid out along the road. There were sweets of every description; strange-shaped towers of sticky nutty things bound together with honey or syrup as well as brightly coloured dolls made from sugar like those I had seen before at the Festival of Abu’l Haggag in Luxor. Candyfloss stalls vied with other vendors selling little paper cones of nuts and seeds and there were toys galore. I’m sure the children would have liked some of everything but their father allowed them only one or two treats and they accepted these with gratitude. They were as good as gold among all the temptations and never once did I hear the usual childrens’ lament ‘I want…’
When we reached the fairground there was another cacophony of noise as a selection of loud scratchy pop music blasted out from many different loudspeakers. There were fairground rides for all ages, but the two children liked the ride-on horses best, sitting on top of the wooden painted ponies going round and round until I felt quite dizzy watching them. I had to admit that the various rides looked very precarious and I was sure that none of them would have passed any kind of health and safety checks in the UK, with planks loosely roped to wooden scaffolding and bits of metal wedged into spaces propping things up. It soon became obvious that foreigners and especially women, were a rare sight at these events and Jenny and I attracted quite a crowd of boisterous teenage boys who decided to follow us everywhere, shouting questions and improper suggestions. Still feeling under the weather I was definitely not in the mood for this. After a couple of hours we all left. By this time it was quite dark and the stalls were lit up with kerosene lamps and there were strings of bare light bulbs powered by a generator and threaded zig-zag fashion across the road. As we walked back to the car Aman and Mahmoud were both tired but happy and it had been a treat to see the fair through their excited eyes.