I have just come back from Egypt, and even a brief foray off our luxury cruise ship was enough to see that many Egyptians are living in abject poverty. In a country economically dependent on tourism, money is increasingly scarce as the Arab Spring has scared 85% of the tourists away.
In fact, living conditions were somewhat worse than those we saw in Namibia last year. An uncharacteristically charitable and political blog you may be thinking…
Well, here’s the thing, looking at these Egyptians, you wouldn’t think they were poor. Why not? Not a single one of them was fat, let alone obese. Presumably no-one has bothered to inform them that poor people can’t afford to eat decent, healthy, freshly cooked meals. Don’t get me wrong, there are fast food outlets on the streets, and I don’t mean the largely empty Golden Arches on the Cornish de Nil in Aswan. There are shawarma and kebab sellers, shops seemingly devoted to the sales of non-diet fizzy drinks, and literally dozens of different types of pastry made from filo and sugar syrup. Yet the locals remain as lithe as the depictions inside the Temple of Karnak.
Our government (in the few minutes free between taking calls from the Murdochs and saddling up Rebekah Brooks – sorry – I mean her horse) is seriously considering imposing a fat tax. Now a logical fat tax, imposed as a percentage of BMI might make some sense, but additional taxation on Asda’s pizza and Fry’s Chocolate Delight makes none at all. How would they decide precisely which products would attract this new F.A.T. – Flab Added Tax? Sausages or salami? Camembert or Comté? I wouldn’t want to be the arbiter of that.
Don’t get me wrong, in the eight days we were there I did see fat people, but they were all tourists. Of the 88 temporary residents on the Royal Viking, I would say at least 25 were clinically obese, four morbidly so. Like the dinosaur’s approach in Jurassic Park, the floor of the restaurant deck would vibrate under the stampede of the human Tyrannosauri after the dinner bell was rung. They would return from the buffet with plates piled as high as the Great Pyramid of Cheops. After meals, including breakfast, they would bask like sunburnt albino crocodiles on the banks of the plunge pool, emerging only to sink another bottle of Sakara beer.
To be fair, these Brits weren’t poor, just greedy. Andrew Lansley please take note: no new taxes on food. As Joan Collins once said about her weight maintenance strategy: “It’s simple, eat a little less, move around a bit more, and walk like an Egyptian.”