I first learned that we were going out on the boat when I heard my brother and his wife discussing which would be the better time twelve noon or one o’clock. They said to bring my bathing suit and prepare for a day of fun.
Around noon we took the car to the marina where the boat is moored. The fun part of driving through El Gouna’s narrow, winding streets is that at certain points there are gates that are checkpoints with guards. This gives a sense of great security. But as my brother has lived there for nineteen years and is known to all and seems to be loved and respected by all, the moment his car shows up, the gates are immediately opened, and the military-like salutes performed. These are responded to by similar salutes by my brother and waves of the hand by his wife. On the way to the marina which took less than ten minutes by car, this sketch was performed no less than five times! It was interesting, and rather endearing.
We got to the boat and the crew was there, in their uniforms, waiting to greet us on board. It seems that to ensure that the boat is kept pristine, we all, automatically took off our footgear and for the duration were all barefooted. It was quite liberating, and the feel of the wooden planks under your feet was very pleasant. We sat at the back end of the boat waiting for the rest of the friends who were with us the day before to arrive. In the meantime my brother asked the captain to take me on a tour of the boat.
It seemed that the boat has three levels. The mid level was the one where we came on board to the peer, then we went down one level to where the bedrooms were. He showed me the master suite with its spacious bathroom and all the storage spaces, then two other bedrooms with twin beds, each with its own en suite bathroom, then two other senior bedrooms with large double beds and also their en suite bathrooms. All very beautifully laid out, very tastefully decorated and with excellent finishing.
He then took me up to the mid level again where there was a large living area, with a large number of comfortable sofas, a large screen that could become a TV or where the progress of the boat could be displayed, and just beyond it a dining room that could seat ten I think. Off the dining area is a door that opened into the galley or kitchen, that is fully equipped with all the needed equipment to cook meals and store and refrigerate food and supplies. This is presided over by a chef. The rest of the crew consists of the captain, two deck hands and two hostesses. The service is excellent, very efficient and very discreet.
The top level consists of an open deck but with a covering roof, where tables and chairs are placed for having a meal in the open air, with a bar and sink for immediate washing up, and towards the front is the captain’s chair where he can steer the boat from that vantage point. Towards the back or stern of the boat on that level there is a jacuzzi in the open air, and a seating area also,out in the open. The captain told me that quite a few features were designed by both him and my brother when the boat was commissioned. That his wife’s input was in the decor and color scheme. On the whole, it is a treasure that can accommodate life for two weeks or more, has the capability of crossing the Mediterranean, and did actually do that when my elder niece went on her honeymoon in Europe on it four years ago.
By the time I had finished the tour, the rest of the group had arrived and we were ready to go. It is a good thing that we seem to be all good sailors, but then the sea was very calm and the boat big enough not to feel much movement. The captain took her out of her mooring, out of the marina and headed out into the open sea. The view was great, the weather gorgeous and the company a lot of fun.
This same group of people who were with us the day before, plus one more, and they are all fast friends who know one another very well and seem to enjoy a very healthy bantering style. By the time we had reached the point where the captain stopped the boat to give us a chance for whoever wanted to have a dip in the sea to go ahead, we had all reached a point of relaxation with one another that made for a very pleasant atmosphere indeed.
On looking down from the boat into the sea, I decided to pass jumping in. There were coral reefs that I could see, the water was that clear, and there were also quite a few fish swimming about. I opted not to go in. I love looking at the sea, I love photographing the sea, but getting into it is not really very appealing to me ever since I was a child and nearly drowned in it. I love pools though and can swim like a fish in them. Anyway, my brother and one of his friends decided to swim and so did my niece. She wanted to jump off the railing, which was pretty high, but which she had done before. This time she got up and asked her father to take pictures of her jump, but was so hesitant it looked like she would never do it. I got up behind her and started encouraging her, she made me promise though, not to push her, and I did. When her father started getting really impatient for her to jump, she turned around and asked me to push her. When she was ready, I did. It was a glorious jump and was recorded for posterity. After that she came up and did it again without any help.
Mid afternoon lunch was served on the top deck, and it was a feast. We gorged ourselves on beautifully cooked, hot food, then had at least three different kinds of cake as well as fruit salad with whipped cream and mirangue. Under such circumstances a diet is an illusion.
The day was winding down and it was then that the glory of the sea, sky and sunset, burst in upon us. I was going crazy, running from one spot to another trying to catch the best shot from the best angle possible. I managed to record some beautiful scenes of that sunset, as well as some gorgeous clouds. We then started on our way back, and the trip in was even more spectacular than the one out.
It seems that my sister in law had set a precedent, every time they came back from a boat ride, they would turn on the speakers on loud and enter the marina to the tune of the very popular song to the army “Teslam el Ayadi”, which, in people’s minds is synonymous with Al Sisi, and therefore covertly anti MB. It has a very upbeat catchy tune and once we reach the marina, it has a magical effect, where most of the people walking there or swimming nearby, stop and start waving their hands in the air and clapping to the beat of that song. It leaves a very cheerful atmosphere of group joy.
We finally docked after a magical day, where I did not even think about my comfort zone. It was there in full. My brother and his wife were invited out that evening, so his wife encouraged me to invite my cousins who were coming to attend their nephew’s wedding the next day, to come spend the evening with me. I did call them and arranged it, and they did eventually come. My brother and his wife were supposed to stay long enough to greet them then go off to their engagement, but once my cousins came in, with a friend who turned out to be a doctor my sister in law had previously consulted, and once we started reminiscing about the past, their other engagement was put on hold and they spent the bulk of the evening with us.
To my embarrassment I was so tired I found myself dosing off. But I felt so comfortable as to actually tell our guests that if I fell asleep to ignore me as I would probably wake up much refreshed and continue the visit. And that is exactly what happened. I really wonder at my progress. I couldn’t even sleep properly in my own bed, and here I am now, sitting in a chair, entertaining my cousins, as well as a friend of theirs, and actually dosing off, and not even feeling embarrassed by it. They were also very tolerant and took it in very good part. The evening ended on a good note and we were all looking forward to meeting again the next day at the wedding.
When I finally got to bed, again, I slept like a log.
To be continued …