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hassan el kebir
852074.  Sun Oct 02, 2011 6:41 am Reply with quote

I wasnít sure whether to put this into the happy or the venting thread and, as I seem to ramble somewhat at times, it ended up seeming better suited to this one, especially as there are another couple of rambles due, too. It sort of keeps the inconsequential meanderings of an old pot-head in Egypt all together, in one place.

One thing you learn very quickly on arriving in this country is that time operates in a totally different way from the rest of the universe. You ask for something to be done then you forget about it. It will happen at some stage, just not now, not when you want it done.

Back in February I bought four antique papyri (that means theyíre over 50 years old, thatís all), they are large and rather beautiful and I thought they would look good hanging on my back wall. I had them framed then asked Mohamed to arrange for a little man be sent to my abode to drill eight holes in my wall so I could hang them. He finally turned up this Thursday just gone.

I invited the little man in. Fortunately, my chum, Hassan abas Nun, had popped round for a smoke and a cuppa so he could now sing for his supper and do the translating for me. I told him what I wanted done.
ĎNo, you only need one hook per picture.í The little man told Hassan after he had translated my requirements. Oh good, heís not even started work yet and already I feel like banging my head against a brick wall. I had Hassan explain once again exactly what I wanted doing and to tell the little man that was what he was to do. There was a long heated discussion between the two of them but eventually I was told' tamam', it would be done as I had requested. I could see the little man thought I was a right wanker but I really didnít care; if he wanted paying he could bloody well do as he was told.

As Hassan seemed to have understood what I wanted he said he would help the little man, then I wouldnít have to worry about things going wrong. I wasnít convinced but retired, reluctantly, to my bench where I could at least keep a beady eye on what was going on.

The little man decided to check that his drill was working but, having plugged it into the nearest socket, all of six feet from where he needed to drill, he found he couldnít reach the wall. Another long heated discussion followed then Hassan stomped off towards my back terrace. I shouted after him, asking what he was looking for. Apparently, he was going to chop a couple of meters from the lawn mowerís cable so they could cobble together an extension lead. I told him which cupboard in the kitchen to look in and he would find I already had an extension lead and if he ever attempted to cut anything from the lawnmowerís cable, I would cut off his testicles. He went and found the extension lead.

Finally, they were satisfied, the drill was working; did I have the hooks and plastic things for going in the wall? Head- table- bang: No, of course I bloody didnít. I didnít know he was coming, did I? The little man muttered under his breath, no doubt something to do with my onanistic aptitude, then wandered off to go and buy some. Whilst he was gone, I took advantage of the situation and, between us, Hassan and I measured up and marked the spots on the wall where the holes needed to be put. I retired to my bench from where I could continue to keep a beady eye on things.

An hour or so later, the little man deigned to return but at least he had the rawlplugs and hooks so I wasnít going to complain. Hassan got up to help him whilst I settled back, still beadily watching things. Hassanís arms waved about as he explained what was to be done, he pointed out the marks that indicated where the holes should go; the little man nodded. He picked up his drill and checked that it worked; it did. He stood back and eyed up the wall then placed the drill bit against the wall in readiness to start work.

My yell could probably have been heard in Cairo; Hassan and the little man spun round, startled at the tone of my voice. ĎWhat the fuck does he think heís doing?í I demanded of Hassan. The moron was about to drill a hole in the centre of what would be approximately where the bottom of the picture ought to end up. Hassan turned and translated my question.
ĎHe says you only need one hook, here.í Hassan pointed to where the moron wanted to drill. I pointed to the frame that I intended hanging in that spot, it is slightly over three feet by two feet, and asked how on earth he expected a frame that size to balance on one hook. In exasperation, I picked the frame up by its cord, a finger at either side to demonstrate exactly how I wanted it done. ĎOh, so thatís how you want it done?í they chorused. Well, to be truthful, it was said in Arabic but that was the general gist of their observation.

Still, finally, I have my pictures hanging, pretty well as Iíd wanted, and jolly impressive they look, too

Iím sure Iím developing a nervous tic. I bet Sir Richard Burton never had these sorts of problems to contend with.

852137.  Sun Oct 02, 2011 1:11 pm Reply with quote

Out of interest, which paintings did you put up?

I find it interesting to see which ones people choose, the popular ones tend to be Maat and Isis, or Horus and Nerfetari, or Akhenaten with his family.

hassan el kebir
852141.  Sun Oct 02, 2011 1:43 pm Reply with quote

2 different sizes of Meidum geese. A young Tut (I think) hunting and one of four birds sitting in a fruit tree which looks very William Morrissey and I'm sure someone will be able to tell me what it really is.

I shall take some photos in daylight, if they're recognisable I'll stick them on flickr.

852195.  Sun Oct 02, 2011 4:57 pm Reply with quote

From memory of selling these painting in London back in the early 90s, I remember the Meidum geese were not among the most popular here, and the one you describe with birds sounds like the Tree of Life which sold better, but was still not among the best sellers. If my guess is right and the King Tut one is of him sitting with a bow, and his wife in front of him, then that was fairly popular as well.

Hope you enjoy them :)

852558.  Tue Oct 04, 2011 5:07 am Reply with quote

I tell my Ma off if she refers to workmen as "little men"

hassan el kebir
900744.  Wed Apr 11, 2012 3:40 am Reply with quote

Hello everybody. You may (or maybe not) have spotted Iíve not been around for a few months but life here has been so excrementally horrible Iíve not been feeling overly communicative.

To start off with, this tourist season has been, hardly surprisingly, non-existent. This has been the third year running that thereís been almost no income whatsoever for this area.

The major sources of income for my immediate area are the alabaster factories and to a lesser extent the papyrus shops. The customers for these places are very rarely casual drop-ins, they are brought, as part of an excursion; they are involuntary customers and, as such, show little interest in what is being offered beyond a complimentary cold drink. As well as giving away drinks, the factories have to pay the coach driver something, too, so if, as is the current norm, nobody buys anything, it is costing the shops money just to have been shown potential customers. Should somebody make a purchase, the tour company will take 70% commission and the salesman has to be paid his whack then, of course, most people pay by plastic so there are bank charges to be added in. Once the cost of producing the piece is subtracted, you can see there isnít a huge amount left over for paying wages, electricity, for supplying the workforce with lunch (however Spartan) each day and other general running costs of a business.

To make life just a little bit harder for these shops, the owners of the kiosks that sell alabaster as well as general tourist knick-knacks outside Kingsí Valley, Medinet Habu and Hatshepsutís temple have put up huge, multi-lingual notices telling the tourists about the tour companiesí commission charges which they donít have to pay therefore, the tourists should buy from their kiosks as theyíre so much cheaper.

Poverty is not a good condition to be living in especially when the cost of living keeps going up regardless. It is quite pitiful seeing how little food some people are reduced to eating.

Anarchy seems to be the rule at present. Petrol is only delivered to the area once a week(ish) when the tankers travel across the desert in convoy as too many were being hijacked. Private cars are, however, regularly being hijacked.

Most nights I go to sleep to the sound of gunfire coming from the sugar fields though this doesnít really bother me as I reckon itís just a farmer hearing the wind rustling through his cane fields, decides itís a burglar so fires off a few warning shots, just in case, then a neighbour hears the shots, decides itís a burglar, so he fires off a few warning shots and so on and so on.

A couple of weeks ago there was all sorts of mayhem at my local police checkpoint; the police went to stop a car to check all its paperwork, the driver decided he wasnít going to stop so ploughed through the police and fired a shot at them wounding one policeman in the leg. The police, quite understandably, took a dim view of this and promptly returned fire. The driver was killed, his passenger survived. The car was found to be carrying a couple of rifles (I know not what sort) with a few hundred rounds of ammunition and 3kg of weed.

The Friday before last when everybody was at lunchtime prayers there was a bit of a kerfuffle outside a mosque just down the road from me. As the men were all down on their knees, the sound of a motorbike being kick-started was heard. One of the congregation leapt to his feet, yelling Ďoy, thatís my bloody bikeí (or something like that in Egyptian) and dashed out of the mosque, hotly pursued by the rest of the congregation. They caught the would-be thief and beat him to within the proverbial inch of his life then hauled him down to the nick so the police could continue with the treatment.

A couple of days ago there was another police shoot-out (the fourth resulting in a death so far this year in my immediate area). A man who was wanted for the murder of a policeman was apprehended and is now lying on a mortuary slab doing a very passable impersonation of a colander with over three dozen holes in his body. There were mutterings about the police being a tad heavy-handed with the attempted arrest but, as the murdered policeman was a very close friend of the captain that caught the killer, I reckon any comment about the excess of bullets in the corpse will be quietly overlooked.

Then, just to add extra cream to my eclair, my arthritis is now so bad that I am in almost continual pain from my back and neck, I canít even walk the length of my garden without the help of a walking stick and have sod all movement in my neck so have to turn my body to look sideways.

I shall give up being depressing now and impart some good news instead.

The scabby kitten that had moved in disappeared about a year ago, I reckoned he probably come a poor second in a fight with something. Well bugger me, guess who strolled into the house about an hour ago, twice as large, filthy and noisy as before, looking nauseatingly healthy and wearing a collar? Anyway, he seemed pleased to see me again, he stamped all over me and nibbled and licked me, wandered into the kitchen and stood in front of the cupboard where I used to keep his biscuits and shouted at it, gave up when he realised he wasnít going to be given anything so curled up and is now fast akip on the sofa, beside me.

The birdlife is fantastic at the moment. Recently, I was sprawled out in the garden, watching Mr and Mrs Nile Valley Sunbird working their way along the hibiscus flowers, looking for a spot of lunch, when I looked up there was a couple of hundred White Stork circling; that was a fantastic sight.

There is all sorts of exciting archaeology going on, well, I think itís exciting. Tombs on the front of the Theban hills are being excavated and temples being restored. It seems that each time Iím driven along that road thereís something new to see.

Iím sure thereís other stuff I could mutter about but thatís all I can think of at the moment. I Ďspect Iíll remember something else soon, though.

900909.  Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:08 am Reply with quote

Hassan! I'm so glad to see you back, though disconcerted at how bad things are around you. Now all the newsworthy excitement (from the Western media standpoint) has died down, we don't hear anything about life in Egypt now, so your post was a salutory corrective to that.

Sorry to hear about your arthritis though. Are you getting any medical treatment?

hassan el kebir
901051.  Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:15 am Reply with quote

Jenny, thank you for your gladness and your disconcertion.

One thing about this ridiculous country is that the people are, at times, their own worst enemy. The touts hassling of the few tourists there are intimidates and angers them so they donít go for a mooch about town and a stroll through the souq, they stay safely in their hotels. Unfortunately, this means everybody loses out; the tourists because they donít get to experience the local life and the locals because they lose out on taking any of the touristsí cash. The police do have the occasional purge and try to clear away some of the touts from around tourist sites, as they have just done this week from Kingsí Valley, but it doesnít do a lot of good.

I canít help feeling that if the next tourist season is no better than the previous three, this will lead to more and more touts on the streets and the hassling will be even worse, this will only damage Luxorís reputation and deter visitors coming once things do finally return to some sort of balance and normality which will thus make this areaís return to financial stability even more difficult.

Egyptians are great opportunists so, once the troubles began last year and there was no government, there was a huge upsurge in building as there wasnít anybody to be interested in any of the paperwork involved and licences required. All around the area, people were spending every single piastre they could lay their hands on to buy plots of land and start building apartments/hotels/houses. The foundations would be laid and a bit of wall erected and then, they hoped, they would be automatically allowed all the permits necessary once government was functioning again.

Needless to say, pretty well everybody has now run out of funds and borrowed all that they can, so there are all these partially built grey concrete buildings littering the place, looking like eyesores. The owners of these building sites see nothing untoward in their plans. They have all worked out that when their apartments/hotels are built they will be on their way to riches beyond the dreams of Croesus. I have tried explaining that yes, the land was cheap, yes the bricks are cheap, yes the labour is cheap but thatís already a lot of cheaps and however cheap cheap is, when you have no income, that cheap rapidly becomes very expensive. Then of course, to have the sort of establishment that can charge prices high enough to give you the life you want, youíre going to have to invest a huge amount in fitting out and furnishing the place. Where is that money coming from? Then, just as a little aside, there isnít a bloody hotel in the whole world that works at 100% occupancy so why is your one going to be so special and manage it? Where are you going to magic up all these customers from?

I do wish there was some way to make them see that all they are doing is laying up more problems for the future; this is a time to be as frugal as possible, we have absolutely no idea when the tourist trade will start to properly recover. If things continue as they are then the lenders will be asking for repayment of debts, indeed, I know several who already are doing this. With no income how can debts be serviced then what will happen?

I worry for this countryís future.

It does have to be said that the behaviour of some visitors has been pretty bad, too.

The estate agency received a request for information about a couple of plots of land on the river, close to Karnak. I went and took loads of photos of the place, sent them off along with a map showing the locations. The dear, dear customerís response was an email telling us that with the state our country was in the land was worth peanuts so, if we wanted to sell, weíd have to take his offer................and could we let him know which side of the river the plots were on and if they were north or south of Luxor. We didnít bother replying.

A couple were looking for an apartment for a year rental. They seemed interesting so we sent them details of various places. They were offered heavily discounted prices if they were taking a place for so long. They counter-offered with the equivalent of two monthís rent and refused to budge. I doubt theyíve managed to find anywhere.

An English woman at the factory, buying a small black basalt bowl; the salesman had allowed himself to be beaten to down to 150LE but the woman kept on trying to knock the price down even further, dancing around the salesman, singing Ďyouíve got no customers, youíve got to take what Iím offeringí. The salesman checked with Mohamed if he could go lower and, as much to get rid of the woman as anything else, Mohamed allowed him to drop the price a bit more but heíd really rather it didnít go too much lower. The woman continued her dancing and singing, Mohamed very reluctantly finally agreed to her paying 100LE, she then announced that she had been coming to Egypt for over a quarter of a century, she knew how things worked here and she wasnít going to pay any more than 90LE. I so wanted to grab her by the arm and march her outside and give her a lecture, to explain that that extra 10LE price reduction she was so keen to win herself was the equivalent of £1 and thereís not exactly a lot you can buy with a quid in England but, as she knows this country so well, she ought to know that 10LE does still actually buy some food here so thank you for your custom but please donít come again. I was good, I behaved myself and kept my mouth shut.

The little man has just knocked on the door to collect the electricity money for the last two months. My bill was the princely sum of 12LE. I think I can live with that.

I am indeed taking various pills and stuff for the arthritis, they keep the inflammation of the joints under control but donít do a lot for the pain or the lack of mobility, unfortunately. Going to the doctor, though, was an interesting experience and I did rather fall in lust with his receptionist. Iím still not entirely sure why he prescribed a hot water bottle along with the pills and cream. I do now know that hot water bottles are not the easiest of things to find in Luxor. Still, it wasnít too expensive and if next winter is as cold as this one just gone then I expect Iíll be glad of it.

Not all is doom and gloom, there have been a couple of quite fun things happening. We recently had one of the most influential Turkish Sufis visiting. Iíve met this gentleman several times and we get on remarkably well. This particular evening was some sort of lecture evening in a local mosque. I hadnít realised when Iíd agreed to go so was already happily smashed out of my mind when I was delivered to him. After an evening sitting at his right hand, grinning like an idiot and his secretary taking down every word he and I said, he announced to the congregation that I was Sheikh Hassan. I donít know why my friends all think this means they can even further take the piss out of me, everybody else is as perfectly respectful as they should be.

Amusement and jolliness ought to go on a separate posting. I will attempt to tap out the sagas of my social elevation and my birthday within the not too distant future.

Sadurian Mike
901235.  Thu Apr 12, 2012 2:37 pm Reply with quote

I'm looking at a Cairo/Nile/Luxor trip for my 50th (I went to Cairo several years ago). A few years to go yet, so I hope things pick up for the country. In particular I can't see Jan being impressed by particularly persistent touts, and we are very likely to retreat in dudgeon rather than carry on with any shopping trip.

901244.  Thu Apr 12, 2012 3:19 pm Reply with quote

My mum should be landing in Cairo in about 15 minutes to see my sister's widower and their 2 boys. She'll be there for two weeks. It will be interesting to hear what she says about how things have inpacted on them, from her point of view.

901265.  Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:19 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
Hassan! I'm so glad to see you back, though disconcerted at how bad things are around you. Now all the newsworthy excitement (from the Western media standpoint) has died down, we don't hear anything about life in Egypt now, so your post was a salutory corrective to that.

Good to hear from you, Hassan. I'll echo Jenny's sentiments since they express my own as well I could. Hope it's not too long before things start to improve for you and your friends.

hassan el kebir
902320.  Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:32 am Reply with quote

Let me tell you about what I have been suffering for the last couple of days.

When my house needs cleaning I have a little man come in to do it as my arthritis wonít let me cope with things like that anymore. Yes, I know I donít like doing it and never did it as much as it ought to have been done but, unfortunately, it is one of the things that is now just far too painful for me so I have to use Egyptians.

I have just walked into the living room to see that the fucking idiot has dragged a fully laden bookcase across the floor and has now got gallons of water everywhere. Did he think about moving books from the bookcase before he started flinging water all over the place? Did he buggery. He has been well yelled at and called an idiot. He doesnít understand why I am so cross. I pointed out that books are made from paper and water and paper do not combine well. He still canít understand; as far as he is concerned, the books are on the bookcase and the water is on the floor. The fact that the bookcase is on the floor and the bottom shelf, which incidentally has the most expensive books on it, is only a centimetre from the floor has escaped his notice and comprehension. I am dreading going back inside to see what chaos and destruction he further causes.

And now another little man has turned up to mow my lawn. Iíve only been waiting a month for him to deign to show. Heís almost bound to do something to wind me up.

Why are Egyptian workmen so bloody useless? I blame the Ptolemies, this countryís been going downhill ever since they were running the show.

Thatís it; I totally give up on today. A third little man has now arrived with his lorry, to take away all the general garden and household rubbish. Heís left the two other idiots loading everything onto the back of the lorry and has come and plonked himself down beside me, under the date palms, and is trying to talk at me. I am studiously annoying him and mouthing out words as I type them but to no avail, he is persisting.

So, here I sit, waiting for peace and normality to be returned to my abode and I can get on with doing nothing, as I was so happily doing, before they all turned up to ruin my day.

Thereís some horrible noises coming from the kitchen, I do hope the idiot hasnít broken anything which, as experience has shown, is a fruitless wish. Every time I have the house cleaned at least a couple of things get broken and it takes me several hours to get everything put back where it was before.

Mid-afternoon, the cleaner has managed, after about six hours, to clean the living room, hall and kitchen and made a mess on the back terrace. I have no idea how it managed to take him so long but he has been told to return at nine tomorrow morning to do the remaining two bedrooms and their bathrooms.

And now itís tomorrow morning; it is quarter to ten, I have been working in the garden for almost four hours, the cleaner hasnít turned up yet. I phoned Hassan (my driver and general dogsbody) and told him to contact the cleaner (his cousin) to tell him to get his arse down here to finish the job.

Half an hour later the cleaner deigned to arrive, apparently, his mother needed bread. Well that explains why youíre nearly two hours late, then. He managed to do about fifteen minutes work before he needed a break so sat himself on the back step for a chai and a cigarette. He is managing to annoy me quite a lot now.

Finally, heís gone. Itís just gone half past two. How has it taken him almost ten hours to clean a not very large house? I havenít been in to check his handiwork; Iím resigned to the fact that I am going to have to spend the next few hours returning suitcases and laundry baskets to the floor instead of leaving them on my bed, repositioning nick-nacks and sundry other things that havenít been returned to where they ought to have been and then the next week or so looking for things that heís moved and put away somewhere.

Yes, I admit it, I am an idiot. I really should have checked his work.

I have just woken a grumpy Hassan from his afternoon slumber to tell him to phone his cousin to tell him to get his arse back down here to finish the job. The mops and cleaning buckets have been left on the back step, yes I could put them where they ought to be and, indeed, I would were it not for the fact that the back terrace looks like a bomb has hit it. All the junk which usually lives against the back wall has been freshly dumped by the door so, sitting in the living room, you now have a wonderful view of cardboard boxes, cleaning equipment and stuff like that. What has really annoyed me though is that he dragged the washing machine to the middle of the terrace so he could clean behind it but has omitted to return it to where it ought to live.

I donít know which is worse; him doing the cleaning or the guys from the factory who always manage to break something. Much as I hate cleaning I wish my arthritis didnít stop me doing it but, unfortunately, with my spinal degeneration it is just far too painful for me and I do mean proper pain not mere man painí. Iím starting to think it would be less fraying for my nerves and patience if I just bought myself an Egyptian wife instead.

On the plus side, I do have towels nicely origamied into swans in both my bathrooms, so thatís nice.

Rant over, sorry.

hassan el kebir
912910.  Thu May 31, 2012 4:14 am Reply with quote

Oh look, you lucky people, it's another ramble from Egyptland. I thought you might like to hear about my last visit to the bank.

So, if you're all sitting comfortably, i'll begin.

Quite miraculously, Hassan, my driver and general dogsbody, arrived at 9.30, as I had told him to. I squelched sweatily to the car, clambered in and off we set.

Itís a pretty drive to Luxor, the sides of the roads are planted with various coloured Bougainvilla, something that looks green and glossy enough to be Prunus Otto Luyken, acacias with stunning red and orange flowers which, I think, must be flame trees which all make for a colourful journey. On one side of the road, an irrigation canal with houses built along the side of it, donkeys or buffalo lying idly in the shade of date palms, chewing contentedly on sugar canes. The other side of the road, across fields speckled white with breakfasting Cattle Egrets, the Theban hills, today hiding behind a haze of sand and dust still hanging in the air from yesterdayís winds. All was well in my little, bucolic world. I was a happy little Hassan.

After twenty minutes of driving south we reached the bridge to take us across the Nile. As you come off the bridge, on the west bank, there is a giant road-bridge under construction, this is directly before the police checkpoint so does cause a general snarl up of traffic that only the Egyptians are capable of creating. A lorry overtook us as we were crawling towards the checkpoint then promptly turned left, right across out nose; quite how we didnít connect with each other Iím not sure. Iím none too sure that the police would have been any use had we collided as they were busy having a purge on motorbikes and were impounding all those whose drivers didnít have the necessary paperwork or licence. They had two vans full of bikes and a dozen or so disgruntled drivers kicking their heels at the side of the road.

Sniggering unkindly we drove through the checkpoint and turned north to drive for twenty minutes or so to reach the chaos that is Luxor town. We reached the bank and, miracle of miracles, there was a parking space outside a closed shop almost next door to the bank. Hassan parked, we clambered out. The doorman of the hotel directly next to the bank appeared and demanded of Hassan if I was staying at the hotel, Hassan politely replied that I wasnít, I was on my way to the bank. In that caase, the doorman told Hassan, he could bloody well move his car somewhere else and stop littering the road in front of his hotel. Hassan pointed out that he had an invalidís licence and, if the doorman bothered to open his eyes, he would see that I had to use a walking stick so, if he thought the car was going anywhere until I had finished my business in the bank, he had another think coming. Egyptians being Egyptians meant this had to turn into a full scale shouting match, for a little man Hassan has a powerful loud voice. In the end Hassan told the doorman to go and shag a camel or some such colourful Egyptian phrase and we left him to his fuming.

The bank, as usual was cool and dark and absolute bedlam. I ploughed my way through the masses, looking for my chum, Abdulllah, who didnít appear to be at his desk. The tea-boy spotted me and came rushing over to greet me and ask me what I wanted to drink. I assured him that I was well and that I hoped he was, too and a cup of ahwa ziyaada would be wonderful, thank you very much. I asked him if Abdullah was about to be told that he was having a day off. This was a bit of a bugger as he speaks quite good English, certainly better than any of the other bank people I know. I turned, sighing resignedly, to make my way to the haphazard lines of people waiting for a teller to become available and bumped straight into Abdul Rachman, the manager. We did the customary kissing and handshaking then he asked me what I wanted. I explained that I wanted money but that I had a couple of questions I needed answering. He turned, shouted at one of the tellers, demanding that I was served next, shouted at the tea-boy to bring my drink to his office and told me to wander up once Jabba the teller had given me my cash.

Two minutes later, cash in hand, I mooched towards the door that leads to the upstairs offices. I shook hands with a couple of the guards I already know then a third guard, one I had not met before, solemnly guided me to Abdul Rís office. I wandered in and plonked myself down on a chair, Abdul R passed me a joint and asked me how I was. I must admit, I do rather like being given exotic smoking substances by my bank manager, I canít imagine that happening in UK, even if Iíd ever been on such intimate terms with any of my previous bank managers.

We idly passed the time smoking and chatting about nothing, the tea-boy brought me my coffee served, not as usual, In a little plain white cup but, this time, in a little white cup decorated with roses.

About three weeks ago I had received a text message from the bank, usefully, all in Arabic. Not understanding a squiggle of what it said I had asked Mohamed to translate it for me. He hadnít really understood what the message was about but said it was something to do with there being an identity card waiting for me at the bank. As I hadnít requested any sort of bank card, I decided it was probably some sort of advertising rubbish and that Iíd worry about it next time I was over in Luxor. I found the message on my phone and passed it to Abdul R for him to read. Yes, there was a card for me to collect, not to worry weíd sort it out when weíd finished our coffee.

Twenty minutes later, I was told to get myself together and down we went, back out into the main bit of the bank. Abdul R led me to a sullen looking gentleman and told him why we were here. The sullen man didnít seem to grasp it, Abdul R repeated himself, I, being the helpful sort of soul that I am, passed my phone across so he, too, could read the message. This seemed to do the trick; the sullen man cranked up his computer, tapped in loads of numbers and letters, then again, then again, then again. I saw my name flash up on the screen so squawked for him to stop. He peered sullenly and myopically at the screen then reached for a ledger. He went through the ledger line by line, page by page. I could see that every single entry was written in Arabic and presumed it was a list of the names of various customers who, over the years, have been issued with whatever this card was that was supposedly waiting for me. When he closed the first ledger and reached for a second I was starting to get slightly irritated, surely, the computer had given him sufficient information to at least work out which ledger he ought to look in. it also struck me that if all the squiggles in the first column were indeed names then looking through those was hardly going to find me; my name is written in English on all bank documents.

Half way through the fourth ledger I spotted my name, engraved by ballpoint in large, poorly executed block capitals. Hooray. The sullen man then turned and opened a drawer of his desk, he rummaged around in it, closed it then turned to a drawer on the other side of the desk. He rummaged around in it then closed it. He saw what it was he was looking for sitting beside him on his desk. He opened the little blue cashbox and brought out a bundle of bank card. Each and every one had to be checked that it wasnít intended for me, despite the fact that all the names on them were printed in Arabic. Finally, he found mine, printed in English. He then printed a piece of paper which I had to sign here, here and on the back, then another piece of paper which I had to sign here, here and, oh yes, here. Now he wanted two photo copies of my passport. Thankfully Abdul R went to sort that out for me. I was told to park my arse, so sat on the nearest available chair, opposite a very attractive young lady who was busy at her computer. I greeted he politely, she returned the greeting and continued with her work. I tried not to leer too obviously.

Abdul R returned with my passport, passed the copies to the sullen man who untidily bundled my paperwork together and passed me my nice new Master Card and told me to go to see that man there, a couple of desks away from him. Abdul R obviously had far better things to do with his time so issued instructions to this second man and said goodbye to me. I thanked him for his help and sat at the second desk. The man continued fiddling with the paperwork in front of him. Having finished with what he was doing he shouted across to the sullen man to ask what he was supposed to be doing with me. Information was relayed, the second man started printing off a veritable rain forestís worth of paper for me to sign here, here and here. He then rummaged around in the general rubbish and paperwork that was littering his desk until he found a rubber stamp; it wasnít the one he wanted. Having asked the people on either side of him if they had pinched his stamp and had another look on his desk, he found the required stamp. All the pages were marked and initialed then stapled together. He pointed me towards a very angry looking woman sitting in the corner and told me I had to go and see her next.

She did indeed seem to be as bad tempered as she looked. She took my card from me and tapped ferociously at her keyboard. Up came some information which seemed to satisfy her and she told me that was it, I could bugger off. I asked about a PIN but was told I could choose my own one at the ATM when I first used the card. This I approved of, it would save me having to go through this whole performance again whilst trying to have the bank issue me with a PIN.

So, now I have an Egyptian Master Card which Iíd never asked for but at least I can in future withdraw my cash from a hole in the wall instead of wasting half a day standing around in a queue.

Gratefully, I wandered out into the blazing Luxor heat. Hassan was sitting at the wheel of his car, staring doggedly straight ahead, the hotel doorman was standing at his door, glowering at Hassan. I ignored the doorman and clambered into the car. Thatís it, letís hit the supermarket so I can do my shopping then we can go home.

At just before two oíclock I was delivered back home, hot, sweaty and exhausted. It may take forever to do such simple things here but, at least, we got there in the end. I canít work out why but being issued with that bank card has made me almost feel grown up, I have, after all, reached fifty-seven without ever having felt that way before and Iím damned if I want to feel grown up now, it just wonít do.

912913.  Thu May 31, 2012 4:35 am Reply with quote

Wonderful. To read, I mean. Not to live it.
It reminds me of the time when my brother and I went to the GPO in Jerusalem, to make a collect call to Holland. It was very busy, and we were informed that it would take several hours at least before contact would be established (this was the mid-seventees). Bro and I looked at eachother and had the same great idea: go somewhere outside to enjoy coffee/tea and share a newspaper. So we did. We arrived back less than an hour later, and made ourselves uncomfortable on a wooden bench in the post office. About 4 hours later (we were dozing by now) we realised that there no more customers, and that the tills were in the process of being shut. We asked what the situation was with our phone call; they checked, and then showed us a sheet where it was stated that the connection with Holland had been established within 10 minutes of us asking.

912989.  Thu May 31, 2012 9:05 am Reply with quote

Thanks, h el k. I enjoyed reading that.
I tried to pay my credit card from my bank account online yesterday, using the card reader they'd sent me.
I scarcely ever use online banking but had to transfer funds to my current account to pay it and, stupidly, thought this should be quicker than going into the bank.
I had no memory of what my customer no. is so, having tried a few times, accepted their invitation to change it. I declined their invitation to send me another card reader.
I then jumped through all the hoops required to set my credit card co. up as a payee and to set the transfer up, only to be told that I couldn't do it as I needed a card reader.
So I thought I'd try doing it through my credit card website which entailed me registering with them. Did that and filled in all the details to make the payment only to be told I didn't have the authority.
Aaargh again.
So I wrote out a cheque and went to post it. When I got back there was an automated message from the fraud team of my babk, giving a number to ring, which I did.
When the woman started asking for lots of details, it occurred to me that I wasn't sure that it was a genuine message and phone no. I pointed this out to the woman who was rather exasperated but said I could call them using the number on the back of my card. Which I did, only to be asked to key in my telephone banking number. It didn't accept the one I'd just set up online so I had to put the phone down.
Aaargh yet again.
I then double-checked the bank fraud phone number on the computer and rang them. They'd locked my card because of my failed attempts to log in that morning.
At no point did I receive any sort of herbal relaxant to soothe me!
There must be a happy medium somewhere.


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