Mummified by Beer

Years ago I went on holiday to Egypt with a friend. It wasn’t the usual kind of holiday because we didn’t stay in a hotel, but at the house of my friend’s cousin Moira who worked in the Cairo American College, in a suburb of the city. Since we were both pretty skint at that time we got an incredibly cheap flight to Cairo from London via Bucharest with the Romanian airline Tarom. The less said about the flight the better, especially the food on it, because it made Ryanair look positively luxurious, but at least we got there alive.

The first evening there we were both very tired and a bit overwhelmed by the surroundings, but we decided to go into one of the local bars for a quick drink before going to bed. Only two kinds of beer were available, both called Stella. (I should point out for legal reasons that this is not Stella Artois that we’re talking about!) The Egyptian Stella came in two varieties: Stella National (which was one Egyptian pound for a pint bottle; about 20p in British money then) and Stella Export (5 Egyptian pounds). Being impoverished, I ordered a pint of the National version. It tasted slightly odd, but basically OK. I drank up and went back to the house.

The next morning I had the worst hangover I’ve ever had in my life. I couldn’t understand it. I saw Moira at breakfast and she told me I looked dreadful. I explained that I had only had one pint the night before. She looked at me in horror.

“You didn’t drink the Stella National, did you?”

I said yes, I did, but I only had a pint.

She explained that the reason the “National” version was so cheap was that it contained something to stop it going off in the hot climate. The “Export” version didn’t have this ingredient because they couldn’t possibly export it if it did. The preserving agent turned out to be formaldehyde, which is used in embalming corpses.

6 Responses to “Mummified by Beer”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Do you now regard yourself as well preserved?

    • telescoper Says:

      I am confident that it has made me entirely immortal.

      (And before anyone suggests otherwise, the “t” is meant to be there.)

  2. Good lord! I lived on Stella National for a week back in 2002. That and chips with goldfish crackers. We went to Sharm el Sheikh without having our jabs and couldn’t drink the water or eat fresh fruit and veg. Oh no it’s all flooding back now. Like a National flashback or something. Cripes.

    • telescoper Says:

      They may have changed the formula since I tried it (around 1991)…

      ..but if they haven’t then you’re probably (technically speaking) a zombie.

  3. telescoper Says:

    ps. I also remember that one day I promised to cook , and said I’d go to the local market and buy some fish for the meal. When I got there all the fish was completely covered in great big flies, so I just bought vegetables and made a sort of vegetable curry type thing. When I explained why I hadn’t bought fish, Moira gave me some advice.

    If you want to buy fish in Cairo, only do so if it’s covered with flies. If it isn’t covered with flies then it will be covered with insecticide…

  4. Anton Garrett Says:

    So this is how to get really pickled.

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