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My Comfort Zone – 2
El Gouna Day 1
My beautiful Egypt, and this is definitely part of its treasure. A heavenly little jewel, tucked within a range of low mountains, a magical place of shimmering lagoons, white beaches and luscious greenery. Houses mostly built in one of two styles, either the earthy, warm colors of the sun and it’s different shades, or in pure, pristine white that is part of the refreshing contrasts of this piece of heaven on earth. Yes, I fell in love with El Gouna.
It has been years since I was last here on a visit to my brother and his family. My Mom still had the energy to undergo the trip then, and we stayed at my brother’s guest house which is semi attached to the main house, but is quite independent. This time around, I was very fearful of my reaction to being placed in the guest house after having stayed there with my Mom the last time I came. But I said nothing, for, as a guest, I was going to do what had been arranged beforehand.
The first jolt my comfort zone got was at the Cairo airport. Though traffic was rather bad, I still got there in good time and was waiting for my sister in law and my niece to arrive, when a lovely lady, who looked vaguely familiar came up and greeted me, introducing herself as one of the party traveling to El Gouna. I don’t know why I was surprised. Somehow I got it in my brain that I would be the only guest. But when she sat down and on recalling her name, I realized that she was the lady a friend of mine was telling me about, who was a childhood friend of hers, whom she had met at my Mom’s funeral and both were surprised that each was there. From this point, an area of comfort started developing. My comfort zone which had totally disappeared a few moments ago, started coming back in a different shape, a new pattern of a comfort zone.
A few minutes later my sister in law, her son and my niece arrived, and this increased my comfort zone and established it a bit more to withstand the assault on it later by the arrival of the final couple making up our traveling party. A very good looking younger couple to whom I was introduced. We then all started moving towards the doors to take the shuttle to the plane waiting on the tarmac. Arriving there we were greeted by one of the pilots who had attended my Mom’s funeral, another semi familiar figure, then we boarded. This was a different plane from the one we had taken when my Mom and I last visited, and in a sense, that too was comforting, no memories to evoke. I asked where to sit but was told wherever I chose so sat in the first seat I saw. This turned out to be an interesting location as from where I sat I could look into the pilot’s cabin and had a screen up in front of me showing me the plane and what was in front of it. The ladies of the group fell into the other three seats comprising the front part of the plane, the gentlemen and my niece as well as her Philippine nanny sat further in the back. Takeoff was smooth and I could watch the whole process on the screen. A little frisson of excitement started at the pit of my stomach that this trip might not only not be as difficult as I had previously feared, but might even be fun.
We settled in, and during that one hour’s flight I got to know the ladies of the party a bit more. The other three were fast friends and had their own language and old experiences to refer to, but strangely enough I did not get the feeling of being shut out, even though I kept mostly quiet, as I was just trying to get to know them a bit better. They were all very kind, including me in their conversation, explaining things that they talked about and which were not familiar to me. Especially kind was my sister in law, who took upon herself the bulk of the explanations and the quick familiarization with people and circumstances. My new comfort zone stared getting deeper.
On landing we found my brother, and the husband of the first lady passenger to arrive at the Cairo airport, waiting for us, each in a car, and two extra cars for the rest of the party and the luggage. It was good to see my brother whom I had not seen since the funeral. I had a difficult moment, keeping my tears in check when he gave me a hug, but I quickly got myself under control. In the bustle of getting all the luggage in and all the people into the cars, the moment was gone. My sister in law insisted that I ride up front with my brother and she went in another car. My niece came with us.
It was a short drive to the house but a very significant one as my brother asked me what my preference was, to stay at the guest house or at my eldest niece’s suite in the house itself. My relief flooded in but I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t putting them to any inconvenience. This was repeated by my sister in law when we got to the house, and I chose to stay in my niece’s suite within the house. These domestic arrangements are invariably the lot of the women of the household, and I was very grateful to the sensitivity shown by my sister in law at handling this particular part of my visit. Not only has it placed me in the bosom of the family circle, but it spared me the raking up of old memories of our last visit when my Mom was there.
By then it was early evening and after settling in my room, I went looking for them and found them along with the young couple, in the upstairs living room, where I was told that we shall be going to dinner at a restaurant in the marina. The whole party started out and again my sister in law insisted I ride with my brother while she went with their guests.
Arriving at the restaurant, the first person to greet me was a friend from Cairo. Lovely surprise. She is part of the Ladies’ Group that meets weekly for lunch in Cairo and she had been staying in El Gouna for a few weeks now. She also greeted my brother and his family warmly, a really small world.
The restaurant was quaint and had this warm, intimate feeling, despite being in the open air. The owner came over to greet my family as they seem to be regular patrons, then his wife came and sat with us. A few minutes later we were joined by the first lady passenger’s husband and a friend of his, so the party kept growing. Later on the first lady passenger joined us and the party was complete.
The marina has an ambience all it’s own, a lovely, vibrant vibe that is a mixture of quaint old world and cutting edge hip hop. There is a promenade where all and sundry eventually meet everybody there. While we sat there the bride whose wedding we were attending in a couple of days, passed by with a group of her friends. They were bar hopping and were going to finally meet up with the groom’s party at a restaurant nearby. She came and said hello, then off again with her party of beautiful young ladies.
Dinner was great, the company cheerful, their bantering speaking of old familiar patterns, the the weather terrific. The evening ended in the small hours of the morning of the next day, and by the time I got to bed I was so exhausted, what with a great deal of emotional strain, as well as a very long day, but was feeling so relieved and starting to feel somewhat comforted at being there, that even without a shower, I just went to sleep and slept like a log.
To be continued …