Fatwa #397 issued by Sheikha Nadia El-Awady: Married women are not to travel unaccompanied by their husbands in Italy. Italian men are too handsome and their smiles too charming. Single women, on the other hand, should get their butts over to Italy PRONTO.
Yesterday was a very happy day for me.
The day before, shortly after I published my last blog post, I went out for another walk
around Monte Carlo. My afternoon walk made me feel very overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. My evening walk made me feel very uncomfortable with the excessive opulence I was witnessing. There were escalators and elevators to take people from one level of the city to the next. You heard me. The most expensive cars roamed the streets. I walked to the casino. The cars standing in front of it! The people going into it! I watched people sitting on their extravagant yachts sipping champagne. It was the stuff of movies. And it wasn’t for me. I needed out.
I left early the next day and had another wonderful and peaceful cycle along the
Mediterranean. It wasn’t long before I saw it: the sign that indicated I was crossing into Italy. “Oh white day!” I said out loud in Arabic. It sounds silly in English. آنهار أبيض is what I said and kept repeating with a very silly throaty laugh. I then started getting carried away with myself. One of my many personalities started saying, “Who woulda thought? Me, Nadia El-Awady, from the fallaheen in rural Egypt, cycled from Portugal to Italy!” And then one of my other personalities interrupted, “You’re not from rural Egypt! That was your father! YOU were born and raised in the US until the age of 15!” “Oh yeah,” the other one said. “Still. Nadia El-Awady, daughter of Abbas El-Awady who WAS from the fallaheen, cycled from Portugal to Italy!
It was Italy! I was home! The Italians! My beebol (people in Egyptian English)! My most favorite beebol among all beebols. This was something I already knew about Italians. I have been to Italy many times. I know the Italians. I understand them with their loud voices, their belly laughs, their expressive gestures, their hot tempers. They are people who leave nothing on the inside. It’s all out there. And I get that. I relate to that. I understand that.
And the Italians made sure to leave no room for doubt that they were mine and I was theirs. The minute I crossed the border, a cyclist wished me a good journey. And that’s been going on for two days now. The Italians smile and wave. They are helpful when asked for directions and encouraging. And they always smile to me. Anyone I talk to. Wonderful, warm, welcoming, beautiful smiles. No road rage (yet). I’ve actually been very surprised. No angry honks at the cyclist. The cyclists are EVERYWHERE. I haven’t seen this many even in Spain. The motorists seem to be so used to them as part of the road and deal with them accordingly. It’s as if they think “We’re all in this together. You do what you need to do, cyclist. I’ve got your back.” I was cycling yesterday down a narrow, winding road. Going around curves on roads like that can be dangerous if you’re not careful. I was cycling downwards, trying to figure out how fast to go so I could estimate how wide to make my turns. If there were cars passing me I needed to make narrow turns and go slower. But no cars were passing. I thought it strange. Until I reached the bottom and realized that there were lots of cars behind me but they were giving me space to descend safely. No one honked. No one revved their engine behind me. They just descended behind me quietly till we all reached the bottom. Today, two cyclists passed me: a man and a woman – I assume married – in their late 50s probably. A tunnel was ahead. The woman kept going. But the man slowed down, waited for me to pass and enter the tunnel, and cycled behind me till we all exited. He then passed me and rejoined his wife. I am pretty sure he did that to protect my back from the cars in the dark tunnel. I’m telling you, the Italians are my beebol! Someone give me an Italian so I can give him a big, wet, sloppy kiss!
Yesterday I camped in the seaside town of Albenga. Today I’m camping just outside of
Arenzano. I cycled a total of 170km between yesterday and today. It’s all been along the coast, going up and down, through and around the coastal mountains. Having the water beside me most of the way has been so refreshing. It takes my mind off the hills and the effort. Tomorrow I go inland. No more water. It’s been good while it’s lasted. Really good.
My camp today is among the best I’ve been in. I have electricity IN MY TENT. I have Internet. There’s a restaurant so I have no food worries beyond hoping I can get them to make me something for tomorrow’s breakfast tonight; they open at 8am in the morning and I want to be off by 7am. And they have a private beach. I’ll probably spend part of my afternoon with my feet in the water.
I’ve had a good few days. Next, I expect, comes the hard part.