Traveller Home Egypt


25th October 1992, Dahab, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt -

We didn't motivate much today, we sat under the shade of the palm trees along the beach reading our books and playing backgammon. Each of these lounging areas is directly in front of one of the restaurants, so each of the merchants has a monopoly on the folk lounging in front of their restaurant. The waiter would come down to the beach, Rich and I would order a few Spanish omelets then a short while later he'd return with our light snack. Rich made a statement that the buildings and cafes, with the palm trees and their surreal buildings, all looked like a movie set. I said to him that in the movies they build things to make it look real, whereas we were sitting where everything really did look exactly like what we were seeing; this is what reality for these people really is. The buildings they've put together all look like they were constructed by Disneyland architects - palm trees growing out of the roofs of buildings, with a piece of wood wrapped around the tree's trunk to serve as a table for the restaurant below; lean-to's constructed of tree trunks and dried palm fronds - I was truly amazed by the inventiveness of the locals in their construction.

We sat there all afternoon, and when I got bored with my book I'd watch the camel jockeys next to me. Our reclining area that afternoon just happened to be next to the open sandy area which doubled as the camel parking lot when the tourists weren't going for rides through the desert. It was amusing watching the jockeys calling out to the tourists trying to coax them atop one of the [SCIENTIFIC NAME FOR CAMELS].

In the late afternoon Sarah came over to us and in talking to her I could tell that she was getting testy that the jay fay hadn't visited us in Egypt. She went off to sit in the sun, and to thwart any more complaining on her part I went on a walk to see if I could do anything about her wants. I walked over to the far side of the cove where I saw a 10 year old Bedouin boy sitting on the porch of this building. I'd heard it's the boys who are the ones who can hook you up, so I walked over to him and told him I was looking for the jay fay. He told me to follow him, so we went down this narrow alley which opened up into the wasteland of the inner Sinai. There was desert sand everywhere, a few buildings, and a couple of burnt out cars, one with a goat standing on top of it. He led me over to this one spot behind one of the destroyed cars and began furiously digging into the sand. About eight inches down he pulled out a torn section of a green trash bag and opened it up to show me his stash. He divided it up into two piles then told me to choose one. I picked one, paid him a negligible amount of Egyptian currency (ŁE15, I think) and gave him a lighter to boot. Now I'd heard the authorities were quite hard on the tourists when it came to drugs, so I went back out the street and started walking away. Who would be coming towards me on the road as I came out of the alley? The Dahab police. I didn't know if they'd seen me enter the street so I quickly went down to the water and changed my appearance by taking off my shirt, putting on the sunglasses and reclining under the palms as though I'd been there all afternoon. They cruised past and didn't give me a second look. Good. I headed back to where Rich was lounging and then the two of us grabbed Sarah and headed back to the room. We sat in the room and smoked for a few hours then emerged at dusk to go find something to eat.

When we went out that night they'd put the candles out again, transforming the feel of the entire village. I mentioned to Sarah that I thought that Dahab was actually like two cities, one by day and another by night, because the feeling you get is SO distinguishably different during the different parts of the day. We headed out and lounged at a restaurant playing backgammon, talking and eating. That's the way we passed most evenings in Dahab.

26th October 1992, Dahab, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt -

We went over to Dahab City today with the intention of snorkeling in the "Blue Hole", but it was too windy so Sarah went to the bank and changed some money instead. We walked back to our Bedouin village and went and lounged among the palms again. That afternoon Sarah and I rented a mask and fins and decided to do a bit of snorkeling in the cove just offshore. We got in the water and were trying to get our fins on when a wave bowled Sarah over and forced her to accidentally sit on a sea urchin. It wasn't a regular sea urchin either - it was one of those ones that have the big long red spines coming out of it. Sarah had four small welts on her leg, but managed to continue to dive with me. We swam around the cove for a while then climbed out and vegged out in the sun some more.

Time had no meaning in Dahab - it's a very slow, relaxed place. We had dinner then went back to the room to change our clothes to go out that evening. Rich was tired, yet again, so Sarah and I had a visit from the jay fay and went out again. What did we do? Sat by candle light under the palms and played backgammon for a few hours. Dahab was so peaceful, and we didn't really want to leave, but Sarah's flight out London was leaving from Cairo the next evening so we needed to head across the Sinai the next morning.

27th October 1992, Dahab to Cairo, Egypt -

We were up at 6:15 this morning to pack our stuff in preparation for the eight hour hell bus ride across the Sinai to Cairo. We walked out into the main intersection of the village and as we were looking for a cab to the bus station we found a cabby who said he's take us all the way to Cairo for the same price as the bus, but in five hours instead of eight. We agreed and after finding three more people (two Canadian guys and a Danish girl) we piled into his mini-wagon and headed off towards Cairo. We had a laugh about the fact that we were able to find a taxi willing to drive us over 300 miles for five hours. I don't know what that's called, but I don't think it's a taxi! Our driver borrowed one of the Danish girl's cassettes and once he'd heard the song "Rhythm is a Dancer" he rewound the song and turned on his amplifier so the car would really thump. There we were racing through the desert with this European music thumping out the windows like we were a group of deaf rappers or something.

The Sinai is completely devoid of all life, and as we were getting closer to the Suez canal I saw the wreckage of what appeared to be tanks which had been destroyed by either war games or the Egyptian Israeli war in 1967. {CHECK DATE} Just before the tunnel going under the Suez we were stopped at a police checkpoint. They asked us for our passports, which they took and spread out across the hood of the car and began looking at them. They flipped through the pages, reading the entry and exit stamps for interest's sakes. After a while our cab driver joined the cops in flipping through the travel documents. When they got to Rich's passport the cop walked over to the car with Rich's passport, looked at Rich, then pointed to the passport picture with a questioning look on his face. He then asked Rich if this was his passport - I guess the two week old beard Rich had been growing really confused him. Rich gave an affirmative answer and the police moved back to the hood of the car to check out some more passports. It seemed the entire purpose of the check point was to entertain the cops who sit there all day long. They stopped us, had a giggle at our passport photos and then sent us on our way.

We finally made it to Cairo where Rich and I tried to book a flight out of Egypt that evening, but there weren't any flights to Nairobi for two days. We checked into the Hotel des Roses (which was definitely nothing special for the price) and dumped our bags. Sarah had a few hours in Cairo before she had to fly out to London. We got a cab out to the bazaar again where Sarah bought two large copper pots for US$80. She figured she could ship them back in her tea chests. We made it back to Tahir Square where Sarah used the rest of her Egyptian money to but us a bottle of rum to keep us busy in Cairo for the next couple of days.

The time finally came and we walked Sarah down and hailed her a cab to the airport. I bid her farewell and told her I'd look forward to seeing her in New Zealand. She and I had a brilliant time in London and an even better time in Egypt - we always seem to have the most fun when we're together. As I've said before there are a few images which stands out in my mind more than others, and as I sit here writing this on November 11, 1993 I will never forget the image of Sarah getting into her cab and looking over her shoulder to smile good-bye to me as she climbed in.

After Sarah had headed off to the airport Rich and I sat out on our balcony looking across downtown Cairo, drinking cocktails and relaxing.

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