Thursday, 27 August 2015

Beware the Egyptian god of the bowel

Courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at
After a wonderful two-weeks holiday in Egypt, I returned home to the UK with a tan and the shits. And I don’t mean any run-of-the-mill shits; this was an erupting-mount-Vesuvius-with-an-explosive-personality-disorder type.

For 8 days I spent my time within a 3-metre safety zone of the nearest lavatory, fearing to tread beyond this imaginary line in case the angry Egyptian god of the large intestine decided to make yet another unwelcome appearance. During this extended period of captivity, I often pondered the source of the bug that had decided to squat in the depths of my gut: I had followed advice, and drank none of the tap water; I’m obsessive about washing my hands thoroughly prior to each meal and after using the loo; and we tourists were repeatedly reassured that bottled water was routinely deployed to wash all the salads and other food stuffs.

Alas, the likely cause of my spectacular rear-end emissions occurred to me: contaminated beer glasses. The 7-day cruise along the Nile River had witnessed several of my fellow tourists succumb to ‘tummy upsets’ and it occurred to me that all those stricken were lager drinkers. On several occasions, late in the evenings, the boat staff had ran out of clean glasses and were forced to rinse the used ones; I’m certain they resorted to tap water on these occasions thereby exposing my inner tubing to over 2000-years’ worth of detritus that had been slopped into the ancient river.

Motivated by her constant fear of being shat on in bed at night, Mrs Jones persuaded me to seek medical assistance and so I ventured out the house to consult my local doctor.

‘I’ll require a stool sample’ he said, while handing me a flimsy plastic pot with a red spoon in it, rather like the ones used for eating ice cream from a tub.

‘Here and now?’ I asked, while disturbing images of me squatting in the corner of his office pushed into my mind.

‘No no’, he said with a tolerant smile, ‘take the pot home with you. When you next feel the urge to open your bowels, place several layers of toilet tissue in the bowl and, once you’ve emptied, scoop out a piece and return it to the reception desk for analysis.’

As I sped home, I suspected the doc had failed to grasp the extent of my looseness. ‘Scoop out a piece?’ Think water-bomb with flecks of sand and you will be getting closer to the essence of my lavatory experience.

Within minutes of arriving home, the irresistible rumble returned. Upon reaching the bathroom, I decided upon my own strategy to capture a sample of dung. I stripped naked, wrapped toilet tissue around my hand and forearm and squatted above the toilet bowl. At the point of detonation, I swung the plastic pot to-and-fro under my arse; it was a bit like wafting a thimble over the nozzle of an over-pressurised hose-pipe.
Courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen at

Having successfully captured a splash of excrement, the next morning I returned to the doctor’s surgery, my specimen bottle hidden deep in my jacket pocket – it may have been my imagination, but passers-by seemed to stare at me, as if they had insider information about my secret cargo; or perhaps I just stank of shit.

At the reception window, the practice nurse casually collected my specimen while munching on a cheese and tomato sandwich – such professionalism! Within 48 hours, the bug had been identified and a 7-day course of antibiotics successfully rid me of the bacterial intruder.  

So if you are contemplating a visit to Egypt, the threat of terrorism is the least of your worries. It is the intestine-grasping revenge of the Nile River that you should fear. Don’t say you’ve not been warned.