I was out on a fellucca the other night for a birthday party. I love these boats, tied up along the Corniche they are popular with tourists and locals alike. At this time of year it’s better to go in the evening, you can’t see very much but it’s cooler, and daylight removes the romantic rose tinted glasses that allow you to imagine you are cruising the Nile in style. In the evening you can gloss over the multilayered throws and mats that you sit on, and which you know are inhabited with remnants of the previous occupants food and the little creatures that chomp away on it.
We usually go from the Mubarak dock, but in post revolutionary Egypt this was not an option. The dock is still there but the framed photograph of Mubarak has been removed, as have most of the other photographs and signage that displayed anything with Mubaraks name. Personally I think this is a travesty, and I hope there are some in storage as the photographs would stand as an excellent testament to the skill of air brushers, and the results that can be achieved with Photoshop.
Bearing in mind that Mubarak is 82 he seems not to have aged since 1963. In january a new poster appeared on the way to the airport depicting him standing alone in a vast field of grass up to his thighs. He was wearing his standard double breasted suit and tie, but no amount of gym work could have achieved the svelte waistline or obscenely broad shoulders on display.
He always appeared uniformly tanned and unlined, not a crows foot or a laughter line in sight, but this ultimately final publicity shot had taken it to a whole new level. He looked like Omar Sherriff in his hay day or even a current Bollywood hero, it was so saccharinely staged showing him gently run his fingers through the blades of grass. Just who dreamt this up, or what it was meant to depict, well only the marketing agency spin doctors can answer.
Back to the boat. Now it’s dark out there, you need some light so the car battery and dodgy wiring comes as standard, generally connected to a 25w bulb of the size that fits in your cooker hood. But our battery was having none of it, fortunately one of the birthday gifts was a substantial outdoor candle so we were sorted. Even better following some maneuvering with another boat we had the head fellucca captain jump on board with a new battery.
I don’t really know if that’s his official job title but it should be. He is picture postcard perfect, stands about 5 foot tall, thin as a rake and is always in the same muddy coloured galabaya and white head scarf. I refer to him being picture postcard perfect as he is so tanned and wizened with the sun and wind he looks about 300 years old, he should appear on the front of those tourist postcards never mind the pyramids.
The captains time ravaged face, and hands ( nearly forgot about the hands) combined with the missing teeth stand as a chronicle of his life, you could walk in his wrinkles, whilst his laughter lines and permanently squinting eyes let you know he’s seen a lot , no airbrushing required here….. what you see is what you get, maybe a lesson in there somewhere!