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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 (£E15, 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.

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