I have been at The Steinberger Gold Resort, El Gouna, Egypt for a Month. All my needs are provided for. My only task is to write, a joy and a tremendous privilege, which I cherished and dare not squander. The staff are all male, Egyptian, most from upper Egypt, the Black Egyptians as were most of the kings and queens from the Valley by the same name.
They are some of the most wonderful men to interact with on a daily basis, which I know has nothing to do with training for the job, but has to do with heart and spirit. I have been luck to experience this generous side of Egypt every time I have been here, and I know this is why I fell in love with Cairo and Egypt in general. The people’s kindness, their open smiles, their attempt at conversation, and their gentle spirit move me.
This is also true for these hotel workers, most of whom are handsome and engage with each other in an easy manner that is transferred to the guests. I know I am not the only one who feels this welcoming spirit and bask in their ready attention.
I know they do not get paid well, as few people in Egypt get paid well, including a dentist friend, so I am mindful of this and tip as generously as I can afford. I felt a bond with two of the men, one, an old man, well maybe he is not that old, with very bad teeth, who sat as a “guard” outside the front of my building in the hot, hot sun for five days. He spoke almost no English, but from the first day, welcomed me and said to my Egyptian friend, we were like his daughters, and he was looking out for us. He was always animated whenever he saw me and I took to giving him fruits and juice daily.
The second man, Mahmoud, tidied my room daily, and usually, when he arrived to clean I would go downstairs in the writers’ room, after exchanging a few pleasantries with him. Sweet, with a soft voice, he would ask me about writing and how many books I have written and if I was married and had children. He told me he loved to read, but did not read English very well. What struck me about him was his attention to details, the small beauty he created for me and other guests. Several days I would enter my room to find a bird on my bed, that he made using the towels and hibiscus and bougainvillea petals, complete with eyes. Once I left my lappa on the bed and when I returned, he had pleated in a flower and lay on the made bed. His creativity was evident, and I wanted to know how else, beside as a house cleaner of this resort, he used it, but my non-existent Arabic and his limited English did not allow us to explore this issue fully.
A few times, I did not leave the room when he came to clean, and two days before leaving I watched and photographed him, step-by-step, creating the swan for me, and then I told him he had to pose with his creation.
I was taught to be mindful of hotel workers, partly I suppose because I grew up in Jamaica where such workers are paid poorly and often treated equally as poorly by the establishment as well as by visitors. Over the years I have traveled extensively, and regardless of where I am, I always leave a tip in the room, for the mostly women who do this sort of work. Too often, far too many of us take these invisible workers for granted; yet, it is their sweat that makes us comfortable. Every time I went into my room- 9203, and saw that it was clean, and that sometimes there was a hibiscus flower in the vase in the bathroom, sometimes a swam decorated with flowers on my bed, I was thankful . I was acutely aware that that someone was picking up after me so I had the freedom to write.
Thank you Mahmoud, and may your creativity find more lucrative outlets.
Causes Opal Adisa Supports
California Poets in the Schools
Homeless Shelter for Pregnant Women