Journal: Saturday 7 October 2000
For the past couple of days I’ve been feeling so bad that I haven’t been outside our apartment. I have not been short of company though. When I’m ill I just want to curl up in bed and sleep, not talk to anyone and generally feel sorry for myself, by myself. In Egypt however, it would seem that the whole village likes to turn out and sit around the sickbed to gossip – it’s a custom, I’m told, a perverse form of entertainment like reading the obituaries and going to funerals. To be fair, all of these well-meaning people stop by with alarming regularity to see how I am and if I need anything. I don’t – but when they are gone I can be grateful for their kind thoughtfulness.
Sometimes I’ve been woken by the steady thump and drone of the distant irrigation pump that invades my restless sleep, or the stifling heat in the apartment and the incessant irritation of flies landing on my skin looking for moisture. When I haven’t been sleeping I’ve been alternately bored and furious at not being able to go out. My bedroom contains a large double bed with a firm mattress, cotton sheets and a couple of rock-hard pillows as well as my new soft pillow that thankfully I bought when I first arrived here. On my bedside table there is a pile of books and notes that I don’t have the energy to read and a large bottle of water which I should drink continuously but can’t. I stare at the white walls and flaky ceiling that could do with a fresh coat of paint. Outside the sun is shining and I’ve spent hours looking out through the ragged mesh covering my bedroom window. There isn’t really much of a view from the window, which overlooks the tarmac road by the canal leading to Medinet Habu. Every now and then a service taxi goes by or someone on a bicycle cycles past whistling. On the other side of the road a grey donkey is tethered to a tree and brays loudly and often while next to it in the shade of the branches, a small pen made from palm fronds contains a couple of baby goats. They have thick curly black coats and as they practice teetering on their thin spindly legs I wonder why they have been separated from their mother so young. A little further along is the jamoosa, the large brown buffalo that I stop to say hello to whenever I pass. Beyond the trees, the cultivated fields of the West Bank stretch down towards the river, but I can’t see that far from my window.
As evening comes to cool the air and the sun casts long blue shadows over the road, a thick cloud of mosquitoes rise as one evil being from the murky green water of the canal and make a beeline for the holes in my window mesh. Consequently I am plagued all night, scratching and itching until I eventually have to get up and spray the room with the hated can of mosquito killer. I do have one constant friend however, who lives on my bedroom ceiling and tries his hardest to catch the mosquitoes. He is a lovely gecko who scurries up the wall and clings above me to the high ceiling with his tiny pink suckered toes, regularly flicking out his long tongue.
Jenny has been in Karnak Temple all day today. She came in with boxes of pills for me after going to the Luxor pharmacy and talking to a doctor there. He told her that it sounds as though I have amoebic dysentery and he prescribed a course of two different antibiotics. As far as I know I have never taken antibiotics before in my life so I just hope I’m not allergic to them. Right now I would chop off my head if I was told it would make me feel better.