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(Coffee) Shop Talk

Welcome to the shop where I talk about things that go well with coffee, which is almost everything.

We began as a group of seven.

We struck out for Hurgada, a small city on the Red Sea coast, on Thursday. In the 24 hours that followed we had an 8 hour bus ride, found a decent hotel, dressed up, went out, acquired several persistent male admirers, got our dance on, and 90% of us went to sleep.

Cut to the next morning.

Check-out time at the hotel was noon, and two other girls and I had decided to set out for Aswan that evening. At 11:30, two of us were packed and ready to go. The third party was nowhere to be found and had last been sighted in the company of some attractive German men. Ciarra called her to let her know that checkout was imminent. The conversation went something like this:

Ciarra: Hey, Erin. Just calling to let you know that it’s almost time to check out. Where are you? You’re where? Did you say the roof? What’s that? Well, where are your pants? Oh…oh dear…

She handed the phone to me.

Me: Erin?

Erin: I’m stuck on the roof! I can’t find a way down! And I don’t have any pants!

Me: Ok, don’t worry, we’ll come get you down…and I’ll bring you a skirt.

We quickly figured out that the roof of our hotel was extremely accessible, lovely, and even had lounge chairs and a fountain. Also, there was no one on top of it.

Me: Erin? You’re not where you think you are. Do you remember any other hotels you might have gone to last night? Ok, well, can you see the ocean? Good, so how many streets are between you and the ocean? Are there any big billboards near you? All right, well, we’re going to try to find you. Just sit tight.

Half an hour later, Ciarra was looking for her cell phone and I was trying to explain to the management how we did want to check out but not all of us were here, so we needed to leave without paying but would come back very soon, I promise, with our friend and then we would all pay. Really.

Just as Ciarra found her cell phone and the clerk was agreeing that we could leave our bags at the front desk and come back later, Erin wandered into the lobby, sans pants and shoes but with makeup perfectly intact. She’d found a large, colorful shirt somewhere and tied it around her waist.

Erin: Ok, I’m here. I climbed down the elevator shaft and caught a cab. It wasn’t that far. Anyway, where is everyone else?

I handed her the skirt. She tossed it over her shoulder. “So where is everyone else?”

“Um, I’m not sure. I think they went for coffee. Why don’t you go upstairs and, er, change?”

“First let’s figure out what the others are doing.” She pulled out her phone and started dialing another of our friends, all the time standing nonchalantly in the lobby as if there were nothing unusual about the situation.

Ciarra: I’ll call them. You really might want to go on upstairs…

We finally persuaded Erin to go upstairs, change, pack, and get ready to check out. I washed my hands of the situation, paid my part of the bill, and went off to the cafe where our other friends had gone for coffee.

As I walked down the sidewalk of the main strip, shaking my head, I noticed water flowing across my path several feet ahead. Then I noticed that the “water” appeared to be red. My first thought was that someone had dumped out some Kool-Aid, but as I scanned to see where it was coming from I realized that its source was the throat of a sheep that was lying in front of a shop, clearly not alive. Then I remembered the reason why I was on holiday: Feast of the Sacrifice, a Muslim holiday that features the slaughter of sheep pre-feast. Some people like to cut down on their costs and do a little DIY butchery rather than going to a proper abattoir.

The sight was a little more than my vegetarian mind could handle pre-coffee. I skirted the stream of blood and skittered down to the cafe where I dropped into a free chair next to my friends.

“Do you want this cappuccino? I ordered it but I don’t think I’m going to drink it.”

I gave Sam one of the most heartfelt thanks of my life and tossed back her cappuccino, then ordered some strong tea to follow it.

The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. Erin appeared eventually, fully clothed and proved to be a very good sport about the whole situation. Slowly, over the course of an hour, it became very funny.

Eventually we all made it down to a lovely beach and had some lovely beach drinks. Some friends of Erin’s showed up and bought us some more lovely drinks.

At that point our fellowship of seven split up. Two were staying in Hurgada, two more were departing for Luxor that afternoon. The remaining three of us had a pretty bawler night involving sunset on the beach, a couple of pitchers of beer in a nearby restaurant, excellent Greek food at another nearby restaurant, and a very drunken Finnish man in the same restaurant. Then we bid Hurgada a fond farewell and went down to the bus station to catch our night bus to Aswan.

Or so we thought.

The 11pm bus was full. It is not possible to buy tickets in advance on this particular bus line. But the man at the information booth assured us that there was another bus at 12:30, and it would certainly not be full. It was. There was no other bus until 10:30 am the next day, and we had no hotel reservations. Luckily there was an extremely sketchy hotel near the bus station that was not opposed to accepting walk-ins at one in the morning. There may or may not have been cockroaches.

At 10:15 we showed up at the bus station only to be informed that there was in fact no bus leaving for Aswan at 10:30 or any other time that day. An hour of checking around town proved that there were no busses leaving Hurgada at all that day. In the middle of everything, our two friends who had allegedly left for Luxor the day before showed up with a story strikingly similar to our own. We and some very disgruntled Egyptians conveyed our disgruntledness to the bus station loudly and repeatedly until finally we were told that there was a bus leaving for Quina in an hour.

“Where is Quina?”

“I don’t know. Look it up.”

Our Lonely Planet guides told us that Quina is quite close to Luxor, which in turn is not too far from Aswan. Also, due to military activity, it is closed to tourists and is only accessible via police convoy. Happily the bus company didn’t seem to know that, so they sold us tickets and let us board the bus to Quina. For our part, we were just glad to be getting out of there.

To be continued….

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