Saturday, January 5, 2008

No Nile Crocodile And A Half Pace Bob Marley

Just before I head off to Malaysia to get my fill of Kopi-Peng, Char Kway Teow and Martabak Manis I thought I'd leave you with these memories of my sailing down the Nile on a Felucca.

It wasn't until after I had jumped into the Nile that I remembered it's famed crocodiles. Never mind, I thought, if I've survived the papyrus sellers of Cairo's Khan el-Khalili market then I can surely survive a crocodile attack or two.

I dove under the Felucca and broke through the water on the other side, the sun glancing sharply off the water. Momentarily blinded I slowed to wipe my eyes and spotted a crocodile. OK. I didn't spot a crocodile in fact the only crocs I came across in Egypt were on feet or stuffed in museums or stuffed on feet trudging around museums. Or, as in this case, where the croc I saw was being wielded by the Nubian captain of our Felucca who, waving it in his hands was clearly using it to remonstrate with a tape player. What he expected the croc (a bright orange one I might add) to do I'm not sure but what he wanted was what he'd wanted for the last two days of our sailing. He wanted Bob Marley to stop singing at half speed. Now, I know, the sound of Bob singing as if he's stoned has a certain synchronicity about it but being advised at mournfully low speed that "no woman, no cry" is more likely to lead to crying than not. I sympathised with our captain and would have gone to his aid and remonstrated alongside him using my own, far less colourful, sandal but I was enjoying the moment much too much.

Behind the croc waving Nubian stood a proudly decaying pillar and wall. A wall and pillar shining that golden colour that all ruins along the Nile seem to have. Etched deeply into the wall were Hieroglyphs although all I could make out was the occasional cartouche. To the right of the building and by the water's edge sat an Egyptian woman washing. Behind me a small row boat made it's way across the river. Two schoolboys in white shirts and ties sat in the stern as the boatman rowed away. I wondered if he asked them to move down to the back of the boat as they entered and, if we examined the underside of the seats upon which they sat, we would find stubborn lumps of old chewing gum.

"Won't you help to sing, these songs of freedom", came bubbling across the water. The orange croc had apparently worked and Bob was now advising me to "free our minds" at a mostly normal speed. I'm not sure I needed the advice at that exact moment as I drank in all I saw around me. The Nile around me, the smiling Nubian captain, croc still in hand, sharp sunlight, the engineless Felucca, walls that spoke of ancient glories, schoolchildren in a little row boat and Bob. Somehow it all worked to, for those few minutes at least, emancipate myself from mental slavery.