My best Christmas was when I was 5 years old. I still thought Santa Clause was real and would you believe it, he bought me a shiny new bike. I often wonder how I could have been so foolish as to believe in Santa, but when you go to bed on Christmas Eve, excited about the gifts that await you, and you wake up the next morning to find a new bicycle has magically appeared under the Christmas tree, then it’s quite easy. After all, how else would the bike appear if it wasn’t for Santa?
Cairo is a smoggy hell-hole, where the polluted air sticks constantly in your throat and you spend the last 10 minutes of every day pulling black snot from your nose. If you want proof that CO2 emissions are hurting the planet – the only thing you have to do is go to Cairo and breathe. You’ll taste the Earth’s pain in your mouth, (if your taste buds haven’t burnt away) and you’ll no doubt wonder “how could anybody live here, let alone come here on holiday?” The usual escape would be a hotel room. A little bit of peace and quiet in your own space. But the ever present car horns of Cairo’s streets travel through even the thickest of walls, and for SOME unknown reason your travel partner has booked you into the only hostel in Cairo hosting an all-day, 72 hour Islamic festival.
Now I have nothing against festivals at all. I love them. The music, the dancing, the drugs. These things are all fantastic and I don’t mind people doing them at all… just as long as they’re doing them nowhere near me! Music is noisy, dancing is for people who enjoy looking like tits and the less I say about drugs the better.
But hell, I’m kind. If you want to play a little music and do a little dancing, who am I to object? Have your festival!
In central Kiev it’s cheaper to get a prostitute than it is to get a decent quality meal. With the former it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll “make good times for you”, with the latter you’ll end up crying into a bitter grapefruit juice, while wretching down jellied eels – after your toga wearing waitress takes your order incorrectly.
Why the hell would your waitress be wearing a toga? Because you’re in a Roman themed restaurant. Why the fuck are you in a Roman themed restaurant? Well it was either that or the pirate themed one. In Kiev the cream of the restaurant crop are all themed. If you want good food, be prepared to talk to somebody dressed in a loin-cloth and if you want a bit of variety there’s always the Jewish-themed restaurant.
You arrive in a strange new country with a wad of bank notes and nothing much else. You’re desperate for the toilet and thankfully an airport urinal relieves your pain. After your business is finished you decide to wash your hands – it’s the civilized thing to do after all – and as you look around for a way to dry up you see a kindly Arab man holding out a paper towel. What do you do?
A/ Wipe your hands on your pants – aint nobody handing me a towel.
B/ Thank the kind Arab gentleman before you, take the towel and dry your hands before leaving.
C/ Unroll your pile of new currency – realising you only have large notes – then throw the lowest note in the man’s face, running from the room and losing 10 English pound in the process.
D/ Dry your hands, calmly shake one of your valuable notes into the man’s hand and strut from the room with a wink.
If you answered D then you are well on your way to happiness, the man is satisfied, he got his money and you are content because you managed to leave the bathroom without making a scene.
Our flight is cancelled, rescheduled. We’re stuck in Casablanca for one more day, which is 24 hours more of excruciating pain.
Thirty seconds in Casablanca is long enough to make even the most positive of people depressed – so it’s no surprise that after 3 days I want to strangle my friend. So little is there to see in Casablanca that you search inside yourself for beauty and look to others for stimulus. Unfortunately this analysis forces you to notice that your travel partners once endearing qualities are now actually TOTALLY FUCKING ANNOYING!
Remember the way your friend used to say funny, random things out loud? Remember how you used to laugh? Those funny things no longer amuse you, your friend is now just talking aloud, saying random phrases – babbling like an idiot. Why wont he just shut the fuck up? Tell him to shut the fuck up. Just do it. Go on. Might make the day go by quicker. “Shut the fuck up!” “Fuck you, you twat!” “No. Fuck you!” “Fuck YOU” “FUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCK YOU!” After 10 minutes the words “fuck” and “you” have no more meaning and you both stop speaking and start sulking. The sulking ends when your friend rebuilds his confidence and starts to talk bollocks again. Then the whole cycle restarts.
The only thing preventing Porter and I from strangling each other is the fact that neither of us snore. If I snored I’ve no doubt I’d wake upon being smothered by a pillow. I’d be happy to die though as upon waking up I’d have still been in Casablanca.
Casablanca sucks away your spirit, you dream of home. You think about your warm comfortable bed, a cup of warm tea with milk, hell even a chav telling me to fuck off would be enough. We search for a little slice of home and one night we stumble across a McDonalds. Porter almost cries with happiness, and I admit I have to struggle back the tears myself. The big mac tastes the same, the fries are just as salty. We sit upstairs at the back of the room and pretend we’re back at home. For 10 minutes we feel like we’re miles away from Casablanca and for the first time in days we don’t want to kill each other.
This is what Casablanca does to you. McDonalds is your saviour. That little yellow M is the thing that gets you through the day.
By the time we walk back to the hotel from McDonalds the streets have sucked away the happiness the big mac has provided for us. As a young man whispers “hash?” into my ear for the 10th time in a minute I feel I’m about to break. Porter hearing the young man whisper starts to whisper quickly into my ear himself, his words flow quickly, one long string of sounds. “Hash-hash-hash. Wansome-hash?” I feel it on the tip of my tongue as he continues, singing the words now. “Wansome-hash? Wansome-hash?” I shout with scorn: “SHUT THE FUCK UP, PORTER!” “FUCK YOU, YOU TWAT!” “NO! FUCK YOU!” We retort, back and forth. The cycle is set and that’s how we spend the rest of our night, no doubt the rest of our time in Casablanca, until we find another little yellow M.