It’s another successful night, in another enjoyable town, on an unforgettable experience through the Middle East. Sadly, I’ve reached my final night in the desert paradise of Dahab on Egypt’s Red Sea coast. As I leave the water side restaurant that has suffocated me with hospitality, that’s made my rounded belly protrude the top button of my denim shorts, I’m full of reflection, full of thanks…… full of sweat. For the umpteenth time my metabolism, running like two psychotic mice on hyperactive spinning wheels have joined forces with the dry heat to glisten my face like a mirror ball.
With the smooth vanilla moon looking down on this well fed tourist and the sweat bubbles above my upper lip threatening to burst into slide, I continue to walk along the dusty main drag one last time. The smell of flavoured tobacco, the musical sizzle of an Egyptian barbeque and the tiny, polite waves playing piano onto delicate sea shells make me smile.
I’m so glad I came here.
Unlike it’s more popular and metropolitan sibling Sharm-El-Sheikh, Dahab is the pick of the bunch. They share the same dry mountain scapes and glorious sea, but this really is one sleepy beach town. Bob Marley lives in the speakers, bean bags take residence on the sand and although there are lifetime adventures to have every day, you’ll do it at the relaxing pace of a camel.
Luckily I got to ride one, along with scuba-diving in underwater rainbows and climbing Mt. Sinai in the dead of night. Haha yes, the blessed Mountain where God presented the 10 Commandments. There were many travelling groups that made that hike from 1:00-5:00am for all different types of reasons. I was soon to witness why.
After reaching the top and sleeping on a cliff face for all of 45 minutes, I woke to the crowd’s combined wave of hysteria and trampling footsteps as the polka dotted yolk was beginning to rise from behind the peaks. I wiped the ancient dust from my face and quickly scrammed to get as good a view as possible. However, the first sight that greeted me 2,300 meters above sea level were scantily clad Eastern European models posing for their early morning, desert shoot. Good Day. Surprised by their efforts and choice of location, what really made my eyes pop was the manner in which they embraced the rocky stage they found themselves on. These girls weren’t just posing, they were wrapping themselves around slabs of rubble like pita bread to a shish-kebab. With day light breaking behind them and the strobe effect of cameras flashing in front, it was quite a show. Any chance my libido had to imitate a similar uprising to that of the sun was quickly distinguished with an ice cold glass of holy water, as an elderly group of female Orthodox Christians began praying over my right shoulder.
What a combination.
My walk down the main drag was now coming to an end as my bus stop was in sight.
The time for memories were over. Just before it was a group of Bedouin males in their usual all whites, waving and doing their best to get my attention. One guy in particular was leading the pack, trying to eyeball me so I could acknowledge his existence…..then it would really be on.
“Excuse-me Mister! Mister! You want Taxi?!” An all too familiar tale. “No thank you, I’m fine.” “Mister! Mister! Taxi??!!” “No thanks.” “Mister! ……. Mister!”
As the insistence kept coming, I remained mute until I passed. There were seconds of strange silence until the main man who had been trying so hard uttered an unprovoked insult under his breath that blew me away.
Kus Emek. Two words, seven letters and three syllables that offensively translate to, ’Your Mother’s pussy.’
How do I know this?
Sometime post World War I, my salty, theatrical, yet care-free Greek bloodlines were exposed to Arabic culture. My Great Grandparents migrated from the Greek Islands to Alexandria where my parents were born and then eventually sailed to Australia. Fast forward to the 1980s in the North-Western suburbs of Melbourne and a junior JohnnyWifi was speaking English, learning Greek and the smallest bit of Arabic. Like any kid, pleasantries and counting to ten came first. As my innocence turned to cheek, words like breasts, vagina, dick, tramp and ‘up your bum’ were far more interesting. It was very rewarding for a youth to run around and swear in a language that no one understood. Though as much fun as I was having, I knew there was one cuss that should never be repeated. One obscenity that if I got found out, would get me into the most trouble. Enter Kus Emek!
So here I am, in the wanderlust of travel, in blissful paradise where this turd in angel’s clothing just insulted my Mother and my very existence. My angst had reached top speed in record time, and without a second thought I turned around and began walking with a purpose to confront Mr. Shifty and interrupt the congregation. As I approached, their discussion ceased and a money hungry smile welcomed me into the fold. I couldn’t speak straight away, I couldn’t think. I just glared at him and let the quiet take over. It felt like even the pebbles on the road had stopped to witness the scene.
“Excuse me, did you just say Kus Emek to me?!”
I could see his brain tick over through his eyes. The realisation that I understood his curse had hit. The unshaved, scratchy and leathered jaw began to drop as the back peddling was now in full swing.
“No…..No…..It……It’s ok…….…. Kus Emek is a good word.” He even put his thumbs up.
Not wanting to be taken as a fool but still cross at the unnecessary verbal attack, the best retort I could come up with was, “No it’s not!”
With a pleading nod he continued, “…..Yes.”
The gathered crowd was now still and silent.
“Do you speak much English?”
His surprise turned to relief, like I was reaching out to him.
With that I proudly turned to catch my bus, ensuring he ate my dust.