The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

Tag Archives: Egypt

RANDOM NOMAD: Liv Gaunt, Accidental Serial Expat and Feeder of Sharks

Place of birth: Luxembourg
Passport: UK
Overseas history: England (Sevenoaks, Kent): 1981–98); Turkey (Fethiye, Ölüdeniz, Fethiye again): 1998–99, 2001–02, 2004; Kenya (Watamu): 1999–2000; Egypt (Dahab): 2000-01, Bahamas (Nassau and Family Islands): 2002–03; Barbados (Bridgetown): 2004–05; England (London): 2006–10; Australia (Cairns, Brisbane, Esperance): 2011 – present. (Gosh, I feel like a serial expat listing so many places!)
Occupation: Journalist and scuba instructor
Cyberspace coordinates: The World is Waiting — Expat humour, travel tips, handy hints, photos and inspiration for travellers (site); @worldswaiting (Twitter handle); The World is Waiting (Facebook); WorldsWaiting (Pinterest); and Liv G (foursquare).

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
Though I am fond of Britain, I left because I was seeking work as a scuba diving instructor and underwater photographer. The jobs available overseas offered a better diving experience and a better lifestyle. Photographing sharks, filming turtles, and teaching people to dive in an island paradise conditions are not things you can do in Britain.

Is anyone else in your immediate family “displaced”?
My parents were expats in Luxembourg, which is where I was born. For a few years my father was based in Barbados for work, so I guess it runs in the family — but nobody other than me is displaced at this moment.

Your chosen profession of diving and underwater photography has led you to settling, at least for a time, in quite a few different countries. Tell me about the moment when you felt the most displaced.
I believe it is the people who make the place. I feel most displaced when I am surrounded by people who do not treat others with what I consider to be the most basic level of respect — basically, as they would wish to be treated. Discovering cultural differences can be fascinating; but living with discrimination day in day out is frustrating and awful. Living in Egypt I found it really frustrating that men would not take me seriously simply because I am female. They completely disregarded the fact that I had more experience and was more qualified than they were. Of course I understand there are significant differences between Arab and Western culture. But being in a male-dominated industry (scuba diving) in a paternal society (Egypt) was simply not for me.

Was there one specific moment during your time in Egypt that catalyzed this feeling for you?
No, I think it was more the growing realization that I would never be taken seriously.

Describe the moment when you felt your least displaced — i.e., when you felt more or less at home in one of your adopted countries.
The first time I lived somewhere other than with my parents, was in Turkey in my late teens. I took on the responsibility of earning enough to pay rent, bills and to feed myself — and it was all in Turkish. It was a classic example of me diving in at the deep end, so to speak. As a result, I quickly gained a working knowledge of the Turkish language as well as an understanding of the country, culture and its people. Initially I thought that my Turkish friends would be horrified by my near constant butchering of their language. But they only ever encouraged me — and even nicknamed me “the Turkish-English girl.” Nowadays, whenever I visit Turkey I feel very at home there. I don’t have the normal visitor’s questioning of things. I still have quite a few Turkish habits like always removing my shoes indoors, being quick to hit the horn whilst driving, and showing hospitality to visitors.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from each of your adopted countries into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
From Turkey: An evil eye. Evil eyes are so-called, rather misleadingly, as they are believed to ward off evil. They are usually made from glass or ceramics and are often seen hanging over entrances to offices and people’s homes.
From Kenya: Some beaded sandals made from leather and old car tyres. They are the most comfortable sandals I ever had.
From Egypt: Egyptian hibiscus tea. They serve it warm with a classy piece of foil over the top of the glass!
From the Bahamas: Pink sand from Harbour Island. All Bahamian sand is silky soft and impressive frankly but on Harbour Island it is even more beautiful for being a dusky pink.
From Barbados: An amazing reggae soundtrack.
From Australia: Can I bring a quokka? They are small marsupials, a bit like a large-bottomed mini-kangaroo. I find them endlessly amusing.

And now you are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?

Starters: A huge plate of Turkish meze including filled filo pastries, various dips, Turkish bread, olives, cheese and some köfte.
Main: Bahamian conch fritters — the conch will be fresh from the sea and delicately fried — served with lime coconut dip and salad.
Dessert: An Australian pavlova, covered in fresh fruit.
Drinks: To include Caribbean piña coladas and mojitos, and Turkish cherry juice.

It would be a strange meal perhaps, but very tasty!

I wonder if you could also add a word or expression from one of the countries you’ve lived in to The Displaced Nation argot.
Ubuntu, which is an African ethical philosophy. Nelson Mandela explained it thus:

A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?

Your life thus far has been quite an odyssey. You’ve traveled to 42 countries and lived in six. Do you think of yourself as a travel pro?
I don’t consider myself a professional traveler. To me, that term implies that I am paid to travel, which is certainly not the case. I am inspired to continue traveling to new places because I enjoy learning about people’s lives and cultures, and seeing the world through their eyes. I find the different foods interesting as well. Travel also allows you to see where you have come from in a whole new light.

What’s still on your bucket list?
Oh, it’s endlessly growing! Top of the list currently are the Philippines and the Galápagos.

But you are a professional scuba diver. Did you watch the diving events in the London Olympics?
I wasn’t able to watch most of the Olympics because of the time difference between Australia and Britain and a recent spate of overtime at my job. However, to answer your question, no, I have little interest in competition diving. I am not a competitive person generally and rather believe that at the end of the day the only person you ever truly compete with is yourself.

What made you so certain you wanted to be a scuba diver?
I enjoy interacting with the creatures of the deep. Watching as a shark cruises out of the blue towards you, having a curious manta ray investigate you, or sharing a moment with a cheeky turtle is far more fun to me than being faster or more coordinated than someone else. I also enjoy the challenge of capturing the underwater critters on camera.

As it happens, this week marks the 25th anniversary of Shark Week, the Discovery Channel’s longest-running programming event. The purpose is to draw the attention to the shark species, one third of which is at risk for extinction. (We must all stop eating shark fin soup — up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins!) I understand that you love to video and photograph sharks. Is that the riskiest thing you’ve done under water?
Most people would say the riskiest thing I have done underwater is feed sharks. It’s not about thrill-seeking, though, but about providing divers with an up-close encounter, which I think is the best way to educate people about and ultimately protect the sharks.

But while you are a shark lover, you have an aversion for sea urchins. Why is that?
If you ask me that question, I have to assume you have never accidentally brushed past one and received an ankle full of their bloody painful spines?!

But have you ever eaten uni in a Japanese restaurant?
No. I love sushi but haven’t managed any sea urchin yet. Have you, is it good?!

Readers — yay or nay for letting Liv Gaunt into The Displaced Nation? Is she above water or is there something fishy about her application? (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Liv — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s compendium of books on travel to Tuscany.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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img: Liv Gaunt videoing a shark feed in the Bahamas.

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THE DISPLACED Q: What’s the most delicate flavor you’ve sampled on your travels?

In a month where many of our posts have explored La Dolce Vita, I’ve been posing a series of questions to nomadic types on the sensory delights the wider world has to offer.

Week after week, we’ve seen that if there’s such a thing as a formula for The Sweet Life — La Dolce Vita — it lies in learning how to take pleasure in simple things.

And, bless my little cotton socks, I happen to be a very simple sort.

Confession: I’m a bit taste-bud challenged!

As this is our week for taste, I was tempted to make a rather tasteless joke — but then thought better of it. Instead I will quote from displaced Chinese writer Lin Yutang, author of The Importance of Living (aptly titled, given our theme):

What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?

As much as I love travel, I’m one of those who finds it challenging to sample new tastes. It does not help matters that people seem to detect this about me right away and like to take the mickey by tricking me into trying new things.

The worst instance of that was in an Egyptian bazaar. One of the vendors encouraged me to taste the bright blue powder that was piled up enticingly in bowls identical to the cumin and crushed garlic you see on every spice stall in virtually every Middle Eastern bazaar. He pantomimed that I should wet the tip of my finger and dip it in for a sample…then chortled like mad as my face screwed up and my tongue shot out in disgust. It tasted like soap! Indeed, it was soap — laundry detergent, to be precise, which they sell by weight.  (Well, you’ve got to get your kicks from something! Actually, I think if I had to work all day long in a spice stall, I’d be playing tricks on tourists, too.)

Nothing like a Big Mac fix…

And now let us turn to the words of another wise man, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates:

The best seasoning for food is hunger.

For me this is borne out every time I hit the supermarket whilst hungry. Everything on the shelves sounds so delicious…far more so than when I discover it weeks later mouldering in the back of my cupboard, wondering why on earth I bought it.

It’s taught me never to go shopping on an empty stomach — a luxury that, for millions of people around the world, isn’t an option…

But back to Socrates. Hunger can certainly make anything taste better. After one particularly long (two-month) hike in Australia, where I lived almost exclusively on instant noodles, two-minute pasta packets, bread and water (and okay, a fair bit of chocolate!), I craved nothing so much as the rich, additive-laden satisfaction of a Big Mac. Even my wife agreed! The moment we reached Albany, Western Australia, the town the end of the trail, we didn’t even stop to rest our feet — just hiked straight through into McDonalds, and ordered about a thousand calories of heart-attack in a paper bag for each of us.

You know something? That burger tasted better than anything has ever tasted in any restaurant anywhere, ever. I mean it! I only wish I could have eaten more, but after a thousand kilometers on fairly limited rations, neither of us could finish more than half the meal. (For which I’m sure our arteries are still thanking us!)

…or a simple Thai stir-fry

In Thailand I was always at my hungriest after a full day’s diving. Diving seems like such a relaxing sport, but leading two dives a day gave me the most voracious appetite I’d ever known. I’d blast through the jungle on my little blue scooter with just one thought in mind: get to the market NOW!

Though I’d acquired a taste for quite spicy food, I always made a beeline for the same stall: a friendly old bloke with a wok and burner fastened to the sidecar of his motorbike. He served up thinly-sliced chicken on fried rice, with a small bowl of flavored water that I thought must be soup or tea, but was never quite sure which.

Whatever.

His stir-fries were plain, fresh, and SO delicious — I almost always went back for another serving! After I’d been going there for a couple of weeks, I didn’t even have to ask; the stall holder had a second portion ready for me as soon as I’d finished the first! I dread to think what happened to his takings when I left.

But the most delicate flavor of them all…

But there was something even more simple that attracted my taste buds while I was living in Thailand — so simple that it didn’t even involve cooking! I refer to the fruit salad I used to have for breakfast (on the rare mornings when I wasn’t diving) at the Thai resort where I lived. The resort owner, who was also the chef, was one of those people who whip up anything, and it was all fantastic. Pad Thai with crushed peanuts, various other noodle dishes, and deep-fried dumpling what-nots even the Thais can’t describe — so call them “no-names”!

But this woman’s fruit salad outdid them all — even though I had no idea what most of the fruits were! You can honestly taste the difference when you’re eating something that’s been picked less than fifty meters away. That fruit was so juicy, moist and colorful, it’s ruined me for fruit from anywhere else!

It just doesn’t taste the same when it comes from a supermarket down the road. Or maybe it did, before it was flash-frozen for transport and crossed an ocean or two.

It’s nothing to do with my carbon-footprint conscience, or a decision to support local industries. It Just Tastes Better.

Does that make me a snob?

It certainly makes me borderline malnourished.

Because I don’t get my 5 A Day. Not regularly. I just wait until my next trip to Thailand, where I try and eat my year’s supply of fresh fruit in two weeks.

As for what that does to my system…well, it’s not exactly delicate!

So tell me: what is the most delicate (or delicious) flavor(s) you’ve encountered on your travels? You can tell me in the comments, or jump on Twitter and drop a line to me @TonyJamesSlater +/or @DisplacedNation. And if you happen to have a mouthwatering photo to accompany your story, be sure to send it to me at tony@thedisplacednation.com. I’m working on the promised “la dolce vita” slideshow! 🙂

Bon appétit!

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post, an entertaining poll asking you to vote on which celebrities are most in need of a mid-life gap year! (Something fun for the holiday weekend…)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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RANDOM NOMAD: Jeff Jung, American Expat in Colombia & Career Break Travel Guy

Jeff JungPlace of birth: Fredericksburg, Texas USA
Passport: USA*
Overseas history: South Africa (Vanderbijlpark): 1988-1989; Argentina (Buenos Aires): 2007 (on and off between March-December 2007, continuously from September-December); Colombia (Bogotá): 2009 – present.
Occupation: Editor of CareerBreakSecrets.com and producer/host of the soon-to-be-globally-televised “The Career Break Travel Show.”
Cyberspace coordinates: Career Break Secrets Website/blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel; @CareerBrkSecret (Twitter handle).
*It’s filled up again so time to get to the embassy to add pages.

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
Originally, I left to go travel the world when I took a career break from the corporate world in 2007. When I left, I didn’t know that I was going to start as an expat. But, while traveling, I met someone here in Colombia and wound up staying.

Is anyone else in your immediate family “displaced”?
I have many family members who have a bit of wanderlust in their soul. But, I think I am the only one who is living as an expat.

Can you describe the moment when you felt the most displaced?
That would probably be my trip to Egypt in 2008. I normally feel at home on the road. I love to travel. But, in Egypt, I just couldn’t seem to make a connection with the people, the culture or the country. I spent about ten days traveling with a friend. The combination of the heat, the constant sales pitches in the streets, and the culture of backsheesh just wore me out. It wasn’t all bad though. I had a few days on a felucca on the Nile and a few days to hang out in Luxor. But, when we returned for our final two days to Cairo, I didn’t go out. I hid in my room — not my travel style at all. I just wanted to rest and wait until it was time to go to the airport and leave.

Is there any particular moment that stands out as your “least displaced”?
That’s easy. I was an exchange student to South Africa just after high school. I had such an amazing year. Between four host families and a lot of great friends that I made at my host school, I didn’t want to leave. It’s probably why I’ve been back six times since then. On my last trip in 2009, I got to see the country preparing for the World Cup. I was so proud of South Africa. I’ve seen it go from pariah apartheid state to emerging world influencer — with many bumps along the way. It really is a special place. It’s been a few years since I’ve been, so I’m probably due for a visit again. I’m missing a good braai (barbeque) with my friends. My dream is to have a place in or just outside of Cape Town someday, with a view onto the ocean.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your adopted country into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
From Argentina: Breakfast foods — coffee, facturas (sweet Argentinian pastries with various fillings) and medialunas (Argentinian croissants).
From South Africa: Some bottles of wine, probably red. No, definitely red.
From Colombia: My mochila (over-the-shoulder daybag). These are used by everyone in Colombia, men and women, and they are perfect for carrying your stuff while you’re out running around.

You are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?

Oh, this is going to be fun!
Appetizers: A selection of dips and finger foods from Turkey. I love the food there and really miss it.
Main course: A pork barbecue prepared by my dad who is a national award-winning BBQer in the US. Maybe we’ll have some fresh Patagonian lamb with it too. The meat will be served with a Greek salad and lots of veggie dishes — the veggies will have been bought fresh from La Vega Central, the produce market in Santiago, Chile. Finally, there will be plenty of my Dad’s award-winning sauce to go with the meal.
Drinks: Of course there will be plenty of wine from South Africa and we’ll also have sparkling water for a non-alcoholic option.
Dessert: Why select one? It’s a dinner party so there should be a variety! Brigadeiro (chocolate bonbons) from Brazil, ice cream from Argentina (unexpectedly amazing!), fresh fruit from Ecuador and Colombia, and churros from Spain (that can be a dessert, right?).
Nightcap: Amarula (cream liqueur) from South Africa, served with Segafredo coffee from Italy.

And now you may add a word or expression from the country where you live in to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
Chucha (pronounced choo-chah): This Spanish word has multiple meanings across Latin America. In Chile, Ecuador and Peru, where I picked it up, it’s an interjection meaning “sh**” or “shoot.” In Colombia, it has two entirely different meanings depending on where you say it. In Bogotá, it means armpit odor and in Cartagena, it means vagina. People often look at me funny here when I say it. I’m sure the Displaced Nation has occasions when you could use a confusing swear word…

Put it this way: we like anything that makes people laugh! And this month we are looking at ways of achieving “la dolce vita” — by that we mean, indulging in life with all your senses. Can you describe an instance on your travels when you felt you were living la dolce vita?
In 2008, I traveled through Patagonia and had an amazing six weeks. The first part of the trip was on a Chilean ferry called Navimag, which cruises north to south from central Chile to the southern tip. You are in protected waters (most of the time) and on both sides of the ship is this beautiful, untouched landscape full of snow-capped volcanoes, lush green countrysides, enormous glaciers (some of the biggest in the world), and tiny, remote villages. You can also see marooned ships and the occasional dolphin. The weather can change from clear, sunny skies to blustery snow in a heartbeat. That trip is one of my most special trips ever. I really felt like I was living La Dolce Vita during those four days.

I personally think that the yearning for la dolce vita increases as one grows older. I know you are an expert on adult gap years. What made you decide to take one for yourself?
My catalytic moment was the night I went out with some friends to dinner on the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, on a hot, balmy Friday night. They could tell I was down, and had been for some time. They asked me what it was going to take to make me happy. I didn’t have a good response that night. But, the question haunted me all weekend. I finally had an epiphany that I really wanted to leave my corporate job and get out in the world and travel. I traveled for almost two years mostly through South America, parts of Europe, Turkey and Egypt.

And then you decided to set up a business to encourage others to do the same?
Once I decided to settle in Colombia, I chose the entrepreneurial path and set up CareerBreakSecrets.com. I wanted to help popularize the idea of taking a career break and show other people that they can do it with just a little bit of guidance and inspiration. We’re now in our third year and will be releasing a book and launching our show, The Career Break Travel Show, globally later this year. I love hearing from real people who have decided to take their own break and if they set up a blog, follow them around the world on their travels. The people I’ve encountered have ranged from teachers to social workers to business people who have done some amazing things like volunteer and share their skills, hike Patagonia, bike across New Zealand, or take transcontinental train rides.

Readers — yay or nay for letting Jeff Jung into The Displaced Nation? Tell us your reasons. (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Jeff — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s diary entry from our fictional expat heroine, Libby, who is desperately trying to hang onto her sanity…and her marriage. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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img: Jeff Jung with baby cheetahs near Oudtshoorn, South Africa, September 2009.

6 beauty and fashion lessons for world travelers, by Cleopatra

It’s March, and fashion and beauty have arrived at The Displaced Nation. To help us introduce the new theme, may we present the Queen of the Nile, Isis Personified, Cleopatra VII Philopator, who has agreed to impart some travel-oriented beauty and fashion advice.

Greetings, my subjects — for I cannot help but think of you that way, having lived my entire life as Queen of the Nile.

Meantime, I understand that the descendents of those who were once my subjects are fighting for democracy. How times have changed.

Or have they?

As for me, I’m stretching the limits of my tolerance for democracy by addressing you in a tongue full of Latinate words — Latin of course being the language of many of your, and my own nation’s, conquerors.

Still, at least I conquered two of their warlords, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, with my not inconsiderable charms. The former restored me to my throne, while the latter joined me in fighting off the Romans.

The details of my affair with Antony are well known thanks to the efforts of your foremost literary genius, William Shakespeare. (In more recent times, there was that film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton — verbose, muddled, lumbering, lacking in style and, worst of all, not even entertaining! Still, I get some consolation from knowing that it nearly bankrupted the film studio that tried so hard to undermine my reputation.)

But enough about me. I am here today to focus on the needs of my supplicants. The powers-that-be at The Displaced Nation have informed me that you’re all world travelers, just as I was — having traveled twice to Rome during my reign. But, unlike me, you don’t take the matter of your appearance seriously enough.

Well, never fear, Mother Isis is here, friend of slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden — which, as I can see from a quick glance around, is how some of you have chosen to present yourselves to the world. I will now impart six key lessons on beauty, clothing and comportment, which have stood the test of millennia…

1) Outward appearances count, especially when visiting other cultures.

Can it be true that some of you would venture into other countries unshaven, unkempt and unwashed? I can only assume that this is not by choice but rather the lack of a servant/travel companion to look after you. (For what would I have done without my Iras?)

To be welcomed with open arms, allow ample time for grooming. Your initial appearance will inspire wonder and awe rather than revulsion.

This lesson also applies, by the way, to you men out there: do you think I, a goddess personified, would have taken Mark Anthony into my bed had he arrived in Alexandria looking like a homeless person?

2) Become an ambassador for your home nation’s styles.

Though it has taken more than a millennium for their fashions to evolve, Italy is now a fashion leader. Well, how do you think that came about? When summoned to Rome in 46 BC, I dazzled everyone with the latest Egyptian designs, both clothing and accessories. Alexandria was at that time the fashion center of the world, and I saw myself as a conduit. (Even when the time came to take my own life, I made sure the asps on my breast were artfully arranged, in my belief that it’s important to die as one has lived — with style.)

3) Study the women of other nations for their beauty and fashion secrets.

Imagine the excitement of female travelers to Egypt upon discovering that with the help of a bit of pigment, they could enhance their eyes — for I knew about smokey eyes long before most, and had taken them to another level. As for me, though I benefited very little from studying Roman ladies — togas aren’t exactly seductive (Fulvia looked particularly dumpy in hers!) — the experience was useful in that it taught me a lesson in what not wear.

4) Beauty on its own is never enough; cultivate a little something extra.

My own “little something” was wit, charm, multiple languages and a musical voice. What’s yours — telling cross-cultural jokes, spinning travel yarns, holding forth on issues of the importance to our planet? Glamming up is fine, but hardly sufficient.

5) On that same note, never be afraid to project an aura of mystery.

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women cloy
The appetites they feed: but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies; for vilest things
Become themselves in her: that the holy priests
Bless her when she is riggish.

— Antony and Cleopatra, by William Shakespeare (1606)

I’ve watched for two thousand years as artists and writers have tried to capture my allure — watched, and laughed, because they never quite grasped it. The latest to try is Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff. She had a good go, but even she, with her formidable intellect, didn’t fully get what you today might call my “attitude problem.” Why do we always have to tell others what we think? Why do we have to be consistent? In my — rather wide-ranging — experience, a little artifice never hurt anyone, and the plea for straightforward cross-cultural communications is vastly overdone.

6) Pearls are a girl’s best friend.

I once possessed the most valuable pearls in the world, worth a villa each — and ended up swallowing one of them in order to win a bet, after first dissolving it in a glass of vinegar. What a hoot that was! I’ve been told that one of your more famous sex goddesses had the same to say but about diamonds. That was a woman after Isis’s own heart: smarter than she looks! As a global nomad, you never know what kind of predicament you might be in, and jewels have the advantage of being edible as well as portable.

* * *

Thank you, Cleopatra. Readers, any questions or comments for the Egyptian queen before she turns back into a golden statue?

 

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