This story should end here, a group of friends reflecting on an amazing trip as night falls over the city. . . but it does not.
Because our flight does not leave until very late, Romani has arranged for us to end our trip at one of the ubiquitous dinner and entertainment barges anchored on the Nile.
The whole thing sounds tacky, but I am hoping for the best.
Inside, the river barge reminds me of the fake luxury paddlewheelers that ply the Mississippi back at home. The whole boat is taken up be a large, glass-walled room with long tables set up around a makeshift stage.
Most of us are seated together at one of these very long tables. It is impossible to talk to anyone except those seated immediately at hand.
It also turns out to be nearly impossible to get a bottle of wine. Not that they don’t serve wine – indeed, the other end of the table has wine – we just can’t get the wait staff to serve my end of the table. I finally make enough of a scene that Romani intervenes and, eventually, we are able to order wine.
And, believe me, I need the wine.
The food is the bland international fare of tourist class hotels worldwide. While not horrible, it is about the most uninspired food we have had on the entire trip.
The less-than-stellar food is accompanied by entertainment so bad it is almost humorous. (If only I had a little better sense of humor.) It begins with a couple of young women (probably Russian). Neither has any discernible talent, but one is clearly out of her element, unable to sing or slither around the stage without looking clumsy. She seems particularly pathetic. They attempt to sing a mix of bad American and European pop songs (John Denver’s Country Roads is among them. I’m sure Muskrat Love is coming) in a variety of languages – none of which they seem proficient in.
While I am appalled and embarrassed for these young women, the large group of Russians seated across the room are clearly delighted. They shout and cheer (and make salacious gestures) between draws on their strong cigarettes. Ugh.
We are also treated to a little interlude of traditional music. I find it delightful. However, I don’t think all of my traveling companions are as fond of the unfamiliar sounds.
The next entertainer is a male dancer who performs a showy whirling dervish type of dance, with over-the-top costuming. While it lacks authenticity, he is a flashy performer and an absolutely amazing athlete.
The highlight of the night is, of course, the belly dancer. Let’s just say she is not very good. Ok, so she is really, really bad – and that is before a “wardrobe malfunction” early in the performance sends her running from the stage, her confidence clearly shattered when she later reappears and soldiers on. (A paycheck is good incentive for completing a job no matter how distasteful.) I really want her to be good. I love watching Cassandra perform at home, but now I realize how rare her artistry may be.
We are not allowed outside on the narrow deck that surrounds the dinning area, but I can’t take it any longer and I flee the bad music, worse dancing, and impenetrable cigarette smoke. At the open entrance to the boat, I gulp in both the cool night air and the glorious view of the city slowly passing by.