Back in the days before the Arab Spring I went to Egypt. On this trip I saw some amazing sites, I touched noses with more sphinxes than I ever imagined possible, I climbed inside one of the Pyramids of Giza and saw the tomb of Tutankhamun*. For all the history and landscapes the thing I remember most about the trip? Running round a damn scarab beetle.
I can’t even remember what temple it was at (it was for sure one of the ones that is old and covered in sand) I just remember the tour leader suddenly stopping in front of a lump of rock and looking at us all expectantly. Peering closer I realised it wasn’t just a strange lump of rock at all, it was actually a giant carving of a scarab beetle. With great pomposity our tour leader told us of a ‘legend’ (for all I know he could have made this up for shits and giggles), the legend states that luck will be granted to anyone who runs around the scarab beetle seven times.
I have thrown pennies into the Trevi Fountain, rubbed the Black Madonna on her lady parts and floated a candle down a river in Vietnam; who am I to judge how the gods give out luck? So shrugging shyly and side-eyeing my companions I started off on a slow loping jog.
Just picture this if you will: a hungover Rebecca (we were staying on a boat on the river Nile and happy hour started at 9am), so pale that locals wanted photos as proof, running round a lump of carved rock in jandals – oh and this is Egypt on the cusp of summer so it was 38 degrees and I was sweating so much I was practically doing doggy paddle. The first circle round the scarab beetle I was giggling so hard I could barely power walk, the second was slightly more credible and by the third I was starting to question my life choices. What on earth was I doing running in this heat on the off chance an ancient Egyptian god was still hanging around and like watching girls run enough to throw some good luck my way?
But I did it, I completed my seven turns around my scarab friend and waited for luck to rain down upon me. I mean asking for anything to rain down in Egypt has it dangers, we all remember the plague of frogs. But nothing much seemed to happen. Who knows maybe I was meant to break my jandal that day and by running around the scarab beetle seven times I avoided that horrific fate.
My point for telling you this isn’t that running is good, or that ancient Egyptian gods still pack a punch – it’s that sometimes the thing you remember about a trip is not the grand or the historic; it’s the silly. No, the silly won’t make it on to Facebook and you won’t boast about it in the pub but it will be the thing you remember. The memory of the sun beating down on the crown of your head, your jandals flicking sand over the backs of your legs and how hard it is to run when you are laughing will stay with you forever.
*Side story: I have this amazing ability to fall asleep when I am on a bus (makes London commuting rather awkward). On our way to the Valley of the Kings I fell asleep on the bus and missed the announcement that we were travelling through some terrorist hot spots so would have armed guards on the bus, and following us around for the next few days. I woke up at the Valley of the Kings (refreshed after my bus nap) and walked off the bus with a spring in my step to go and look at some dead guys. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a guy following me, and this guy had a machine gun. Doing my best James Bond evasive manoeuvres (including dodging in and out of gift shops and buying a hat as a disguise) I spent about half an hour trying to lose him while at the same time trying to find anyone, anyone, from my tour group. Seeing our leader in the distance I practically ran up to him and was about to tell him about my weirdo stalker, when he waved at the machine gun man and asked if he had seen anything suspicious. And this was the point in my life I learned that if you see someone casually walking round with a machine gun they are probably there for your protection, bad guys don’t normally look so chilled out.