Friday, March 07, 2008
A little touch of Egypt in the night...
But open that door out to the balcony, and you step into the madness again. Down below are the statues, the palm trees, the fountain, the cinema, the food hall, the Tomb of Tutankhamun, some shops - and under that, the casino floor. And on the casino floor there are hundreds upon hundreds of slot machines, all playing insistent and manic tunes which suddenly resolve triumphantly if someone scores a win. The effect is that of all the pipers playing together at the end of Cowal Games - a sort of unified bedlam. And because everyone smokes on the Casino floor, there is, despite ultra-efficient air con, the smell of cigarette smoke.
On our first, jet-lagged night, it was this which haunted me. I became convinced that the air vents were pumping the smoke into our room - I'm sure that the sense of smell is sharpened when it's dark and I was well away. We've become so used to never smelling smoke indoors that we found it almost intolerable, though I'm happy to say that I wasn't aware of it in the room after that first night.
Another thing we quickly noticed was that it doesn't matter what time day or night it is - nothing changes in the atrium below the balcony. You can get a cuppa from Starbucks at the foot of the lift (I"ll say more of that in a mo) at 3am, and there are always gamblers on the slots and at the tables. The lighting and temperature are constant. I was tempted to look outside at night only once - because I found it strangely disturbing to be in a sleepless world.
The lifts are called Inclinators - we take inclinator 4 to our room - because they run up the corners of the pyramid, and they slope. This is unsettling, particularly after a frozen margarita or two. New arrivals look worried as they tilt gently into one another; the rest of us are only worried when the lifts misbehave and scoot up and down in a random fashion. You use your door key - a card with well-endowed girls on it - to activate the lift. No keys appear to have any well-endowed chaps on them.
Despite the extreme oddity of all this, we were saying "shall we go home now?" by the end of our time there, and realised it had become home. But as I opened my suitcase in snowy Dunoon and smelled the smoky air wafting from everything I'd worn, I was glad to be back in a country where fresh air came through an open window and smoking was no longer considered normal. My washing machine has worked overtime since then.
And, for those who care, Mr B and Master B (senior) both won at the slots and cashed it in. I, on the other hand, played my winnings away ...