Sea Snorkeling Suntans Sinai Sunrises Smoothies

Trip Start Oct 18, 2006
Trip End Oct 19, 2007

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Iam currently on the mini van, half way through my 8 hour bus trip to Dahab, which involves three police checks along the way due to the recent bombings within this seaside resort in that past 2 years. Generally l have felt pretty safe in Egypt as there are tourist police everywhere and right know we have an armed guard with us for our Bus trip. But it is and probably always will be a risk travelling to Egypt- but my theory is where isn't there a risk these days? London Tube, Bali Egypt, USA, yes even Australia is at risk due to our alliance with the US- we all remember the high security for the Commonwealth games. I admit l was and still am nervous about travelling here, and it didn't help arriving at 11pm at night at Cario airport and being put into a shuttle bus with a driver who didn't speak English and l didn't know where l was going! But honestly the Egyptian people are lovely, don't let their appearance and religion scare you off from visiting this amazing country! Being a tourist and a woman here can present its problems and you do get hassled a lot and called all sorts of names- good and bad- bit its all part of the experiences and you`ll look back and smile at how you reacted at the time.

having said that so that so confidently- lam know laying on a deck chair beside the Blue Hole beach in Dahab, on the red sea, where l have spent the day snorkeling, eating lemon sugar pancakes and drinking banana smoothies! However to get to this paradise, l had to endure a 8hr bus ride from Cairo- in which l could not sleep due to being constantly aware that l was entering the most dangerous area l had ever been in my entire life- the Sinai Pennisula. Known for the Bedouin people who live within its beautiful mountains, known for its famous Mt Sinai where Moses received the 10 commandments and also known as the beginning of Asia- with Africa on one side (Egypt) and Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordon on the other. Surrounded by the infamous Suez channel (which we were not even allowed to take photos of) and the beautiful red sea- this should be a place of paradise- but it is not unless your are staying within a 5 star hotel and even then you have the feeling of unsafely. Having to pass through 3 check points to get to Dahab one is very aware it is a potentially dangerous place to be entering and lam constantly aware of my surroundings. Driving along the turquoise red sea you see many abandoned 5 star resorts adorning its edges, it is like a haunted place where nobody seems to live and abide- despite its beautiful surroundings!

Having reached Dahab- lam now having the holiday people dream off! I finally have a room to myself- which l wouldn't usually be pleased with due to the interesting toilet door (which is like a horses stable door) and lam so glad lam not sharing this room with anybody. But this room has a hidden gem- a window that opens up onto the balcony that overlooks the pool and the red sea!!! I awoke this morning and just sat in bed with the balcony windows open watching the sunrise over the ocean! Last night l fell asleep to the sound of the red sea lapping against its pebbly- this is Emily`s Paradise! And for some reason l seem to have gotten the best room in the hotel- so the whole tour group l think will be sitting on bed and balcony tonight with a few drinks watching the sunset! Iam in love with Dahab- it is soooo cheap, great market where l bought a painting by a local artist and where Amber a good friend on this tour bought me an amazing turquoise bracelet to complete my collection- amazing restaurants right on the water scattered with brightly colored cushions where you eat on the floor surrounded by amazing lighting with amazing food being served day and night! You have never seen such seafood platters as they serve here- they even come with a group of clapping men! This place is inspiring me in every sense! They use the outside peel of red onions as candle holders and have small candles wrapped in foil on a toothpick served on bananas. You eat on lounges decorated with thousands of cushions as you sit back and smoke your shesha and look up to the roof which decorated with every sort of candle, lamp shade, silk cloth and fairy light that you can think of! Incredible, magical and romantic- sound like paradise? The only problem is that there are cats everywhere- and lam allergic to them! They walk into the restaurants and around where you are eating all the time- one even stole the food right off the plate of one of the girls on the tour! After two days in Dahab l learnt the trick was to have a bottle of water with a hole in the lid and spray them- it kept them away for a good 5 minutes at least and then at least you could get a couple of bites in without shooing them away. So cat lovers will love Dahab and Egypt- lose like me- will never want to see another cat in their lives!

This morning we took a fun- but rather dangerous- jeep 4WD ride to the Blue Hole passing camels and Bedouin people as we went. We drove right along the red sea and at times l thought we were going to drive in it- think the Great Ocean Road but with crazy Egyptian drivers and only one lane! Snorkeling in the red sea has been one of the highlights of this trip- though the snorkeling and reef is not as good as those back home! At the Blue Hole l also tried smoking my first shesha- dont worry Mum and Dad it was without tobacco in it! It only had incense in which you can smoke such favours as apple, strawberry and the list goes on. A couple on our tour have gotten so addicted to this, everytime l see them they are smoking a shesha and they have already brought two big ones so they can set up a Dahab inspired restaurant style on their balcony at home!

It is my final night in Dahab- and we go out for a huge dinner and a last minute shop. Tonight we are not getting any sleep as we are departing from the hotel at 11am to drive two hours to St Katherines- the base of Mt Sinai. Tonight l climb Mt Sinai- where the Old Testament meets the New, where the rising of the sun meets a new day! So lam sitting in bed, gazing out across my balcony, over the swimming pool and toward the moonlit sea. The sky is cloudless and black and peppered with stars. Stars, planets and presumable comets. I fancy, as l tend to most nights that l gaze up at the stars that l will see one. A shooting star, shooting to wherever stars shoot. This is a land of dreams, sunrises, sunsets, blue coral reefs and red seas. This is the land of my dreams- perhaps the star l wished upon brought my dreams to life!

But dreams are quickly shattered when you awake from your sun bed, when you look past the natural beauty surrounding you and begin to really see- see around you poverty, starving children and animals that would melt your heart- conditions that you and your loved ones would never want to live within, rubbish as far as the eye can see, lack of cleanliness and sanitary. Why these conditions? Why? Thats my question too- that has yet to be answered and perhaps never will be....

Iam now sitting in Cairo airport- it is 5am and lam watching the sunrise over the smog- reflecting on l think the most amazing holiday l have ever been on. I cant believe lam still awake- having not slept for 48hrs- and when l have tried the Cairo traffic and police checks soon wake me up. Yesterday morning l was climbing Mt Sinai! We got to the base at 1am- quickly rugged up as it was so cold and turned on our flashlights and started following half asleep our Bedouin guide up the mountain. Armed with my mega hiking shoes l thought l would be prepared for the three hour hike ahead of me- boy was l wrong! We could have caught a camel half way up the mountain but we all decided we wanted to say we had actually climbed the mountain and thought we would all be fine- halfway up however- a couple of our tour piked out and caught the camel. In fact l was almost considering it- as the constant smell of hiking behind the camel and what l was stepping in as a result of the approx 200 camels on the mountain was getting to me! I thanked the Lord that l had a cold and my nose was blocked! The terrain was steep- stones and slate would crumble beneath our feet as we walked a narrow steep path with the cliff and sometimes a camel to our left and a huge drop to our right that we were trying to avoid falling down though what the camels were leaving behind was making it even more difficult to not slip and fall off the mountain! Thankfully it was so dark none of us realized how high the drop was and also how high the Mt we were climbing was! Having three boys in front of me and one stage- all with the Egpytian flu is also a smell and experience l wish to forget! Hiking up this mountain was proving to be no easy task! With no sleep we were all tired and being sick l was also starting to get very dizzy. As soon as you felt as if you couldn't take another step further and would surcume to riding a camel- whose positions were strategically placed along the mountain (ie. at the top of alot of stairs!) a little light ahead would give you the faith to press on- as you knew there would be waiting snickers bars, hot chocolate and numerous other overpriced treats that we devoured along the way. These huts would appear every 1-2 hour and were a sight for sore thighs! Our guide told us we were halfway at the time we were thinking why on earth are we doing this? And Moses never had to hike the Mt in 3 hours!! Though he didn't have a path l presume, or snickers bars to help him up! Our guide then told us that we were nearly there but had the 742 steps to go---- what the!! I didn't realize that we would be climbing at 180 degree angle either! Somehow we all made it up- all grumbling and complaining along the way- thats the team spirit! We reached our Bedouin hut where exhausted, tired, hot and sweaty we began to cool down and realize how cold it actually was on the top of this mountain! I had brought my sleeping bag much to the disgust of the rest of the group who had not brought theirs, and l climbed inside and layed down on the bench for a quick 20 minute power nap. The rest of the group hired overpriced camel hair blankets and mattress to try and warm up. Our guide then quitely led us before the other 150 tourists made it up the hill to a ledge where he told us we would get the best view of the sunrise and mountains. So we all lay down on the freezing rock with our backpacks as our pillows and me, Chris and Amber all snuggled up under my sleeping bag with me in the middle- because that was the warmest position of course! With our noses freezing and running constantly from the cold, we laughed and giggled and thought this was one of the most craziest things we had ever done to just watch the sunrise! Freezing, none of us could sleep so we made up stories about the shapes the amazing stars above us made- this seemed to occupy us between the giggling for about an hour and finally at 4.30am we began to see the first sign of light...

Never, ever, never will l forget that morning, watching the sunrise on the top of Mt Sinai- it was so breathtaking l cant describe it to you! Lets just say that it was worth every single step up and down the 3,300 steps l climbed that morning! Watching the sun break through the clouds, watching a new day begin, listening to people read scripture out all around me- indescribable and unforgettable, and going in my top 10 all time experiences! We spent only three hours on top of the mountain- but those three hours l will never forget! We then climbed back down, viewing old monasteries within the hills as we went and arriving at the bottom only to find Saint Catherines monastery closed for the day (the site of the burning bush). So what did we all do with our tired selves- go eat falafalls, smoke sheshas and shoo away cats instead of course!! And then it was a long 6 hour bus ride along the Tourquoise red sea- back to Cairo. We spent our final night having dinner in a lovely restaurant in Giza- overlooking the Pyramids. And guess what- there were no cats!! Hooray! A perfect end to an amazing holiday!

I will never forget this holiday- l urge you- if you have a desire and an interest in Egypt- make sure you visit- it will not disappoint- rather it will leave you satisfied yet still wanting more! It is now onto Europe- and Switzerland for me! From hot to cold- sea to alps!

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