Bathroom Award

The prettiest bathroom I encountered on our travels was certainly this one at the temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, Upper Egypt, We arrived after several hours on the road, early in the morning, just as other buses in the convoy were pulling in. It was peak traffice time at all the loos. The building is a lovely modern facitility but with the usual design problem of the architect not addressing the different time needs of male and female loo users – there was chaos in the narrow corridor from which both loos opened off. There seemed to be a male and female attandant adding to this general clogup, or backup. Our guide, noting the lineup at the ladies’ managed to arrange for myself and some other waiting women to go into the near empty men’s. We politely ignored the backs of urinating males as we hurriedly washed hands and headed out, but not before I noticed that it was clean, functional and did not pong. At the end of our time there before our return journey of several hours, so like the good traveller I am, I went again, this time into the now less chaotic ladies’. Clean, fully functinonal, and even a couple of containers of room deodoriser to hand, this one showed the touch of someone dedicated to her work. Being a loo attendant is probably mostly thankless and often unpleasant I imagine. This lady shares with an attendant in the Mercado del Puerto a cheerful dispositon and pride in a well maintained facility.

During our journey we came across the full spectrum of toilets, ranging from clean, shiny, modern, spacious and ventilated to cramped, dirty, smelly, seatless, doorless, ancient, and all possible combinations of the above. On our camping trip of course, we went perched behind a rock with breathtaking views all round, but requiring balancing and digging skills. There were plenty of stones around to make a little cairn above my copralite.

We in first world countries have been spoiled by ablution arrangements, and when we encounter what we feel are appalling bathroom standards we don’t understand that the differences are more than just about cost or unavailability of toilet cleaners and brushes. From the train between Luxor and Cairo, as the dawn rose we saw several people squatting within metres of the canal and defaecating in plain public view. It’s a matter-of-factness about bodily functions which we have been raised to hide and cover up with spray-pak deodorisers. If travel doesn’t actually broaden the mind, it certainly reminds us of how unequal Life is.

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One Response to “Bathroom Award”

  1. TALL GIRL says:

    what a great post!!! I have been vicariously traveling with you since meeting at the SAQA conference in May.

    One of my strongest recollections of travel to Asia was my endless searching for the “Western toilet” signs!!!

    And yes, I often think of the worst occupations. How blessed we are!

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