I arrived at the Sharm El Sheikh airport at 4 am, and waited close to an hour for my bicycle to be unloaded from the plane. While waiting I befriended the duty-free employee and was invited to enjoy some sweet Egyptian tea. The airport was rather small compared to LAX standards but was still large enough, in Egyptian standards to have two Mosques! I listened to the morning call to prayer while putting Gaby together.
The sun came up and I noticed that I was surrounded by dry, rocking mountains. After figuring out what direction to ride in, I pedaled out on the desert roads to the city. It is hot here, and the sun is fierce! The airport was on the outskirts of the city and I pedaled through sun dunes and mosques for the first 20 km. The climate conditions are very similar to the Mohave desert in California, but just when you think you are in America, a beautiful minaret stands out in the horizon.
Sharm el Sheikh is not my kind of city, tourism has destroyed the natural beauty of the landscape, and now Egyptians from all over the country flock to make a dollar from the sunburned tourists. My best comparison to the city is Tijuana, Mexico, all beach access in Sharm is owned by the frequent 5 star hotels, and it is impossible to go swimming without paying an outrageous sum of Egyptian pounds. There is no place for me or like-minded people in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
The next day, I couldn’t wait to pack my gear and pedaled out of the city. The next destination was a small beach city in north-east Sinai, called Dahab. This city is famous for its kite and wind surfing and only has a few hotels. The road between Sharm and Dahab took me through the mountainous interior and while pedaling I wondered how Moses and his tribe could survive in such an extreme landscape for so long.
I arrived in Dahab and met with my connection, an Arabic language teacher hiding from the problems in Cairo. He lives in a tent on the beach with a small family of Bedouin who own and run a small restaurant. The Bedouin are a minority ethnic group a lot like the early American Indians. They are the earliest inhabitants of the deserts, and are very connected with the earth and nature. They have little desire for money, possessions and business, and spend their day’s fishing, smoking and drinking tea. They are the friendliest and most honest people I have met in Egypt, and wear beautiful traditional clothes. It is not uncommon for a family to have more than 30 members and males in the tribe can have up to 4 wives. There are Bedouin tribes all over the Sinai but Dahab has the largest tribe in Egypt, and they are known as the Mazeena.
Dahab it quite a culture shock, the beach front has a very western Promenade and a few restaurants, but the rest of the city is a large Bedouin village. My guess is that Dahab is a lot like what Kauai (the Hawaiian island) used to be like before tourists. Children playing the in dirt, herds of goats, and women in full Burqa frequent the mud and dirt streets. Toyota pickup trucks roam the narrow alleys and cats and dogs run rampant throughout the city.
There are quite a few expats here, mostly Europeans teaching surfing or driving. Dahab has a large coral reef, and a small anomaly known as the Blue hole, where divers can be pulled into a coastal abyss. Yesterday I dived with a Bedouin friend and he taught me which shell-fish to eat, and I watched him free dive through the reef colorful coral collecting food for lunch.
Alcohol is rather uncommon in the city and is sold mostly to Haweiga’s(foreigners). I visited the bottle shop last night and quickly departed when I noticed it was full of Europeans. The alcohol alternative however is very popular amongst locals and expats. Its concentrated form is also found almost everywhere tobacco is sold! The middle east is like no place I have been before, I am full of extreme excitement and am constantly overwhelmed by this fascinating culture! Tomorrow I will head to the extreme remote interior, and will camp at the Orthodox monastery in St. Catherine. Hope to write again soon, internet is pretty scarce.