The radio silence has been due to some travelling through this ancient land with my Scandi friend Simone (say SeeMOnah in Scandi fashion) from London. We had been planning this trip before I left for Alex. It was supposed to be a big adventure, especially for Simone as she’d never done the ‘backpacking experience’ and she’d never been outside Europe (I told her that Tenerife doesn’t count). I’m pretty sure she got her adventure but that’s obviously for her to decided. I had a brilliant time and discovered once again that Egypt is for travelling, not for living. I didn’t make space for my laptop in my suitcase and I find tapping away in an internet cafe a tat unromantic so I haven’t been able to keep cyber space posted on my activities in the desert, on the Nile and along the Red Sea. After being captured by the magic of the Great Sand Sea and some tomb and temple hopping in Luxor, we took a train to Aswan. Now, I really like Aswan. It’s considered the Gateway to (Black) Africa and the mood is very chilled. People are laid back and very friendly, they’ve got a good souq (market), which can rival with the one in Cairo, there is plenty of Nubian culture, so many sights to visit and then, of course, there is the beautiful Nile.
People with dark(er) skin can be find all across Egypt but one of the reasons Aswan is considered the gateway to (Black) Africa is because the skin tone of its population varies between many different shades of brown and black. Many a shopkeeper, horse and caleche rider and felucca owner would shout ‘Hello my colour’ and ‘ Hello my cousin’ in order to draw my attention and sell their wares, which I found a rather peculiar experience. I very much like a multi-coloured environment where there are more of me (and more of anyone else) and no one has to feel the odd one out. When it comes to skin colour I have a lot in common with the people of Aswan but that is also pretty much where the similarity ends. They see me very much as a tourist and get rather confused when I address them in Arabic. It kind of made me think about black people and how they feel they relate to each other. I can get quite excited when I meet a sister dark fairy who is intelligent and focussed and has big plans as I find it an inspiration and mainstream media can make us and the rest of the world believe that all we care about is our hairdo and when we are being portrayed as talented, focussed and hard-working we’re quite likely to be disciplined entertainers or athletes.
I can remember when I was travelling in Nepal quite a few years back how I came across another solo dark fairy traveller. We greeted each other like we were re-united with our twin after being separated at birth. Then at the other hand my experience is that a lot of black folk are not horrible supportive of each other. Everything that’s considered different or weird is white and therefore not cool. And then this ‘my-colour-my-cousin issue’ has not an awful lot to do with affiliation and the more with business. The average Aswanian business man must be thinking that I must be feeling so at home with all these people with different shades of my skin colour that I’m willing to purchase a good or use a service from this ‘cousin’ just because he’s black. I’m not very good at thinking along colour coded lines. I consider that a gift. In Aswan and the rest of Egypt – and in many, many other parts of the world for that matter- culture might not allow this and in Aswan they couldn’t care less. As long as I buy and spend. However chilled, Aswan is still Egypt.