They say the most unforgettable evenings out are the spontaneous ones, those unplanned moments that just seem to happen and then grow into something you remember for a while to come. Last night was one of those Egyptian/Arabian nights that seemed to fall rather helplessly into that category.
The pace never slackened with Shazza except perhaps during my bout of seasickness and all I have to say about that is that when it comes to nursing care she’s definitely more Private Care than National Health Service! With my colour a more respectful non white and after I had forced some more couscous ‘doon’ with a spoonful or two of a local remedy we left Alexandria and set off for Cairo.
Now you may have gathered by now that my travelling companion, a term I apply loosely to Shazza bearing in mind her somewhat gregarious and independent nature, is a bit of a history buff with a particular penchant for ancient art, literature and local culture.
“I’ll give yers history buff, Pet. Now when that Cleopatra steps out of her bath of asses’ milk and rolls out of a carpet at the feet of Julius Caesar. Now that’s history in the buff. Canny lass that Cleo. Did nt you see those hieroglyphics earlier? Saucy or what. Wait till I wear a top like that.”
We were close to the Pyramids, it was late afternoon and I was flagging a bit and in need of a sit down and refreshment. Within seconds Shazza found a small bar. I say ‘small bar’, more of a table and a few chairs with a brollie in a scrubby bit of desert next to a sign which said ‘House of the Pharaohs’, but a bar of sorts none the less. In no time she had the waiter eating out of her hand and an off white table cloth, cutlery and glasses soon appeared with a candle in a bottle. The other tables were bare and empty. Suddenly a Scotsman appeared and pulled up a chair. I think it was after the second beer a French couple with a German followed by two Italians and an Englishman from Cheltenham also joined us. All were wearing their national football shirts, except for the Scotsman who was wearing a Brazilian shirt with his kilt. He was on his way home, probably from the last World Cup, whilst the rest of us were en route to South Africa. The talk, of course, was of football and who would lift the trophy. Shazza was comparing the respective merits of Lampard and Gerard, and the weaknesses in our defence. Being a Geordie she knew her football. So too did the others. It soon got heated, voices became louder, and the beer continued to flow. There was a sudden lull in the conversation and then it all kicked off. In the background the Bangles singing ‘Walk like an Egyptian’ came drifting out from an old jukebox.
The Scotsman took up the refrain first, “Way – oh – way –oh – way –ooo – aaa – ooo, Walk like an Egyptian”, hitched up his kilt and started to dance in the sand. The French woman joined in next doing the can-can. Shazza jumped up and grabbed me and the man from Cheltenham for a sand dance, a la Wilson, Keppel and Betty style. The German was slapping his thighs in a kind of Bavarian ‘birdie dance’ and the Egyptian waiter just looked on. The Sphinx did not join in either, but there again she was inscrutable and over the years had probably seen it all before.
What a sight. A tall Geordie woman dressed in baggy silk trousers tied round the ankles leading a hotch potch of United Nations football fans on a conga in the desert against a backdrop of the Sphinx, the Pyramids and a crescent moon rising into a starry sky. Sometimes life is just wonderful.