A scary hairy naked man stood over above my porky semi-naked body, he was pointing to a table. Before I could say anything the man let out a growl and pushed me down onto it, I felt a hard slap on my back, followed by another on my ass. Nizam stands giggling and filming the bizarre scene.
Moments before we’d entered the Hamam, an Arabic hot-bath, It was like symbolically stepping inside this wonderful culture, I was undressed by a man handing me a selection of towels to cover parts of my body and lead into a hot steam room. Wow, I thought I had a pot-belly until I got naked with these guys. A portly guy smiled at me. At such close proximity I couldn’t resist rubbing his tummy. He smiled. Everyone smiled. How lovely it felt. A kind of peaceful tranquillity came over me.
“Do you want to have your arm pits shaved?”, a burly fearsome looking guy asked. “No” I replied, slightly shocked, “Only women do that surely?”, A look of amazement came back from some of the hardest men in town, they all raised their arms to show they had been shaved. It is hygienic they say, Really? So what about down there? I ask, pointing to their groins, did you get shaved there as well? No, no, they replied, now they are all looking very shocked. But surely that is more hygienic I said, at which point Nizam steps in, this conversation is getting out hand. He lead’s me away to another room for my massage.
The bruiser towering above me suddenly flips my body over to face him, soap is poured all over my body, his hands rub up and down me, it tickles and I can’t keep still, I am wobbling and giggling like a kid. The man joins in my laughter but he is far more sinister, his manic laugh is broken with a stern serious stare as the might of his body comes down on me… A myriad of strange sounds erupt from the room and my body, the noises bemuse and amuse the locals, until at last, a slap a squeeze and an elbow, followed by a bucket of cold water, signals the end of my torment.
A wipe-down followed by some flower tea relaxes my body as I chat with Nizam about this great city – he dreams of bringing his family here. He talks about Norway and how this could never happen there. “I don’t connect with Norway” he says, “It is important that my daughter knows something of her Arabic side as well as speaking the language”.
Later we catch up with our emails in a cafe in the Christian quarter which sells real beer, both of us Skyping our families back home. Suddenly the wireless system is cut and we are asked to leave, the cafe has closed, Nizam is looking disturbed. “What is wrong?” I ask, “I was talking to my wife. She’s been reading your blogs on the net and asked who the ‘several females’ were I’d been talking to on the phone. She asked me if something happened in Bulgaria and I couldn’t lie but we were cut off before I could explain properly”.
“Shit I’m sorry, I feel terrible, I am so sorry”, I wonder aloud if I have overstepped the mark with my blog, “No, no it must be the truth, we cannot lie”. We have no time to discuss it further as Nizam leads me to Abu George’s bar and promptly orders Arak, a couple of hours pass and we hit the sack unsure of what this road has in store for us tomorrow.