May 25, 2007 – Dahab

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Luxor to Dahab!!!

Yes, believe it or not despite the news that we had read when we first visited Egypt about suicide bombings in Dahab and surrounding area over the last 3years we decided to venture into this area seeking some time on the ocean and the opportunity to do some more snorkelling and accorrding to the guidebook a little less touristy than Sharm le Sheik another famous ocean tourist town. Don,t worry Mom and Dad this decision wasn’t made without alot of talking to other travellers and tourist agencies etc. As is the case often in life, you can’t live in fear of what might happen and as far as we could feel and hear, others were claiming it was safe to visit the area.

So yes in the screaming heat of the day, like 44 degrees in the sun, we hopped on another overnight bus with air conditioning, thankfully. We were lucky that the bus was not full and that each of us got to enjoy two seats to ourselves for the whole journey. This meant that I could at least try to curl up and lay down for part of the night.Despite this luxury,hahaha, I did not sleep well and by the time we arrived in Dahab, needless to say I was hungry grumpy and whiny. Ger on the other hand also claimed that he did not sleep but when he asked how come I knew one of the other passengers on the bus, I told him that I had met him one of the stops through the night, the stop that he slept through. So he did get some hard core sleeping in and was in better shape than I when we arrived to our next destination and to taxi drivers literally fighting amongst each other about who should be the one to taxi us into town. I mean almost fist fighting for this small piece of business. After a few attempts to talk some reason with these fellows we simply started walking out of the bus station , much to their shigrin. Unfortunatley we were walking in the wrong direction and fortunately another taxi driver drove up and we were able to negotiate a reasonable price to bring us into town.

After this escapade it was all I could do to walk and find a restaurant for some nourishment and finding a place to stay was left to the boys to hunt down, which by the way they are pretty good at doing. Within the hour we were settled into a quaint hotel, which was also a diving centre, that included breakfast everyday, free billiards and internet and a lounger on the deck that gave us a beautiful ocean view and a peek at the mountains of Arabia.

We were so exhausted from the overnighter that I think for the first two days, we did nothing but sleep and eat. Our first glimpse and feeling of the area was very depressing as most of the restaurants were charging rates that were double or triple to what we had been used to paying. We soon discovered that if we did not eat along the ocean front but went into the town we were able to pay more local and reasonable prices to fill our bellies.

Once our energy was back we negotiated for some snorkelling gear for Ger and I and headed to the local coral reef to do some underwater exploring. Now I have to chuckle every time I think of this scenario, so let me try and describe it for you. Here we are the three of us with are masks and snorkels doing this for the second time only in our lives. I am still wearing a makeshift bathing suit which is a far cry from any of the sexy little bikinis that most of the European tourist were wearing, and because of the rock along the ocean front, I decided to keep my heavy Chaco sandals on to protect my tender little tootsies. When we finally had our masks on properly and got our breathing down pat and had calmed ourselves down to feel comfortable enough to look at all the fish and sea life that existed beneath us, we catch glimpse of this beautiful mermaid swimming around us. It was some young woman doning a very skimpy bikini and a flipper that looked like one fin. As she gracefully dove down into the depths of the water, flailing her fin and waving through the fish and sea life like a beautiful mermaid in a storybook, she was being photographed. Yes, indeed, this took place right beside me who was wearing a shorts and T shirt like bathing suit, kicking my feet, laden with heavy black sandals, wildly and heavily, splashing away to try and get away from any stinging jellyfish.Not very mermaid like at all but more whale like I would say. The comparison made me laugh so much I had to come up for some air! Way too funny!!

For us the snorkelling was amazing as we had never seen such beautiful coral and so many different kinds of fish.Unfortunatley we do not have a waterproof camera and have no record of the magnificent sights we saw, but if you have ever snorkelled, I am sure you can imagine.

Most of Dahab is known for its diving and diving schools and so most people come there with the goal of trying their hand at diving. Our first impression of the diving crowd was not favourable. First off they appear to be very cliquish, and with us only being the lowly snorkellers, they didn’t give us the time of day. The crew that hung out at our hotel , never said a word to us. It also appeared to us that if you wanted to be a diver on this scene you had to have at least one tattoo, you had to be a heavy smoker and had to swear at least once but preferably more times in every sentence.I am positive that all divers do not fit this bill and we do apologize if any of you out there are divers but this was our inital impressions. So needless to say we more or less kept to ourselves, spending time playing pool for Tor and Ger and reading, I was in the midst of a real page turner and could not do too much else until I had finished reading it. Ger enjoyed going for early morning walks and I for jogs along the ocean. When the waters were calm enough we did some more snorkelling and one day ventured out to the Blue Hole. You ask what the Blue Hole is, well it is like a deep well which drops 60 metres down into the ocean and is surrounded by a large coral reef and some of the most incredible sea life. Many tourist make this day trip to explore the waters underneath. Unfortunately the ocean was quite cool and we found ourselves feeling chilly after about half an hour and so we had to hop out into the dry desert heat to warm up. The boys had finished for the day and I decided to go out one more time, while I was snorkelling away there was a fellow snorkeller who was pointing out various fish and encouraged me to come along with him to explore the reef further out into the ocean. At first it seemed like fun and then I got this strange feeling in stomach that this didnt seem quite right and I made the wise decision to turn around and made my way back to shore. Later I found out from fellow travellers that this same fellow , a local Bedouin , does this kind under water guide act for all the women that are floating about. I tell you I just about had it , with Egyptian men. Nonetheless, the coral and fish were brilliant and I was having a hard time leaving the site and just wanting to stay and explore more.

Dahab also had very strange weather, some days it was so windy that you felt like you were going to be blown out to sea and some days there was no wind at all and you felt like you would melt into the sidewalk because it was so hot and some days it was a bit of both and then you felt confused, cause you didnt know what was going to happen to you. Hahahaha!!!

The water was also so salty , which was a good thing for Ger cause he actually was able to float in the water, but was bad because we all felt like salt blocks, being literally covered in the white stuff after every swim. By the end of our stay I felt like a dried shrivelled up piece of fish.

Oh,my goodness , I thought I was almost finished writing and then realized , that I also must tell you about our trip to Mount Sinai that also took place during our stay in Dahab.

Yes, this is the Mount Sinai where Moses stood and received the 10 Commandments from God. Ironically, right during this time, as some of you already know, Ger was offered a new job opportunity and we were in the midst of contemplating whether or not he should take it, so climbing up this religiously significant mountain where strong messages are received seemed quite appropriate. We left our hotel at 11:00 pm., in order to get to the top for the sunrise. In a minivan with about 8 other tourists from around the world we drove to the base of the mountain in about 2 hours. At this ungodly hour, there are hunderds of tourists wishing to do the same thing and many locals touting camel rides, souvenirs, whatever they can to make and extra dollar. It reminded us of our expêrience climbing Mount Fuiji. Nonetheless we were excited to be climbing a mountain and Tor was giddy and silly with excitement as we began our way up. None of us felt sleepy and/or tired so we did our best to keep in front of the crowds and our own group so we could set the pace. We did have a guide, who was supposed to guide us along the way but he really wasn’t necessary as the path was quite well marked and when someone asked him a question about the mountain and how high it was, he had no idea. This is after 10 years of doing the same walk over and over again. I couldn’t believe it that he didn’t know that small statistic. As with most tours that we have been on, the service was less than desirable but by this point in our travels we have given up feeling upset or angry, we just shrug our shoulders and say cynically “whatever”. We easily made it to the top by about 4:00 am and then tried to find an soft rock to sleep on until the sun rise. Up here on the top of the mountain there were young boys trying to sell you a filthy dirty sleeping pad or blanket to sleep on for 10 Egyptian pounds which is about 2 Canadian dollars , I luckily found a blanket just laying around and spread it out on the gravel and tucked myself under a rock for a little bit of shut eye. The boys found a rock to lean against and kinda of dozed on and off for the next hour or so. Unfortunately there was to be no magnificant early sun rise only clouds and actually a bit of rain. Closer to 7 or 8 am the clouds lifted a bit and the sun began to peak through. The surrounding scenery was unlike anything we have ever seen. Just rock and more rock and more rock. No noticeable vegetation. A very rugged desolate and harsh environment, for sure. We tried to imagine what it must have been like for a guy like Moses to have climbed this peak thousands of years ago and figured it would have been quite a challenge to pick his way through the rock. We spent a good part of the morning taking pics and finally made our way back down to wait for the opportunity to view St. Catherines Monastery. Since our guide deserted us we did not have anyone to take us through this historic monastery and thus it was difficult to gleen any crucial information other that what we read in the LP. The monastery is the site of one of early Christiainty’s only surviving churches. It has been a place of pilgrimmage for centuries. The Roman Empress Helena had a small chapel built and dedicated it to St. Katherine, the legendary martyr of Alexandria who was tortured on a spike wheel and then beheaded for her Christianity. (Yikes, thankfully we have religious freedom now) Much of the monastery is closed but we were allowed to enter the Church part which was aweinspiring to say the least. The chandeliers and the paintings had us mesmerized despite our extreme fatigue. By 10am we more than ready to be leaving. Our van ride back was miserably hot and dry and dusty as the air conditioning was not working and we had run out of H20 so we were thirsty and hungry to boot.

Needless to say we were ecstatic when we got back to our hotel for a scrumptious breakfast and a shower and a comfy bed in an air conditioned room.

By the way, Mount Sinai is 2285 metres high, betcha you thought I didn’t know that little fact as I forgot to mention it in my story above and no Ger did not get a direct answer up on top of the mountain but after a few more days of discussion, he agreed to take a new position as Chief Privacy and Security Officer for the Rural Shared Health Informarion Program (RSHIP) in Alberta. He is pretty excited about this new opportunity!!!! He starts on August 1 and will be commuting back and forth every month so that Torin and I can stay in Salmon Arm. He’ll be able to work from Salmon Arm for 1 -2 weeks every month so it should be managable.

Our last night in Dahab was so much fun as we were able to hook up with friends from Australia, Ombi and Alex and their friends from Switzerland for a local seafood dinner.

It is always, always so great to connect with others to share travelling stories both frustrating and exciting. A good time was had by all!!!

The next day we left for Cairo to begin the end of our stay in Eygpt.