Dahab has totally changed my perspective on Egypt. I guess you can never really qualify an entire country based on one city, but the Sinai was such a different experience than the one I had in Cairo.
My friend Steve and I took the 'night' bus from Jerusalem to Eilat which is the Israeli border between Israel and Egypt. The bus was certainly not meant for sleeping though, as Israelis were singing, talking, and yelling all through the 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. tip. When we arrived before daybreak, completely unrested, it was at least a releif that the Eilat border crossing was much less time consuming than the Allenby Bridge. Although my Israeli student visa seems to cause more skepticism and concern than traveling without an Israeli Visa. Apparently they're skeptical of anyone from the U.S. who wants to study there. Well, that bodes well for my academic future.
Leaving Eilat and crossing the border put us in Taba, Egypt where we able to grab a shared taxi to drive the hour south to Dahab. Steve and I just randomly selected a Hotel I'd written down, and I really think we lucked out. For $13 a piece at '
' we managed to get our own room with our own bathroom (WOW!!), with airconditiong (I'd nearly forgotten what that was!), linen, towels, T.V. (for practicing my Arabic), swimming pool, free shisha, coffee, and tea, and continental breakfast at a reastaurant nearby! I fell in love with Dahab right then.
Dahab is like the West Coast of Egypt if Cairo is like the East (don't get me wrong, I actually love the East, obviously). While the economy is still made on tourism, they are much more laid back about everything. Hustling is not as important as enjoying the day. Sure, 'business is business,' as they say in the Middle East, but in Dahab there is more to life than just business. I think there's something to be said for living and working on the water. I saw several waiters end their wait shifts with a jump in the ocean! How refreshing.
The couple of days spent there went by so fast considering Steve and I hardly did anything! Which for two fast-paced people like us, slowing down is usually a very difficult thing. A lot of the day revolved around lounging in the restaurants and cafes that literally sat on top of the water. We enjoyed the best fruit smoothies and drinks I've ever tasted, wonderful sea food that was scooped right up from the water next to us. We even smoked shisha under a canopy of stars.
We went snorkeling as well, which was one of the most amazing experiences ever. Definitely the best snorkeling I've done - which is not to say I've done a lot, but I have done it in a few places. This blew them all out of the water, pardon the H2O pun. You can literally snorkel anywhere. In between sips on a coffee, you can don your gear, walk down the steps of the restaruant, float on your stomach and bear witness to amazing sights of coral and fish.
Steve and I walked down the boardwalk a ways and found a beduin camp that did snorkeling at a place called the 'three islands.' It was intimidating at first, where the water is waste deep and your floating over sea enenomeas with long black spikes threatening to stab you in the stomach. But as you swim further you come to a coral reef and a drop off where you are free to dive down and examine the depths of the sea. It was wonderful, until we spotted two poisonous lion fish! But actually that was quite wonderful too! From a distance.
Steve and I also took a jeep ride to a snorkeling spot called the 'Blue Hole.' It is almost an immediate drop off here, surrounded coral and caverns and teeming with sea life. The fish are unperturbed by any human prescence and swim within inches of you. I saw more colors there than I've seen in one place before. It was really an incredible experience. Full of mystery too. The caves and caverns of the Blue Hole stretch down for meters and meters. In fact, no one knows how far. The deepest depth to be recorded thus far is 400 meters! It's an interesting experience to be offered a view at this whole new unerwater world and know that it is literally, just the surface view of the life that exists below you!
It was a sad day when Steve and I grabbed the noon bus to head from Dahab back to Cairo. We both could've easily spent weeks more there. In fact we both looked into changing our tickets. But alas, we could not stay in paradise forever, at least not in this lifetime, so we donned are packs and boarded the bus. It was a 10 hour drive to Cairo, where, my parents generously offered to pay for a hotel room outside of the city. I took them up on the offer even though it'd been rumored that the protests in Tahrir square would be dissolving due to the start of Ramadan.
However, watching the news that night, I was glad to be holed up in the confines of a hotel. Images of Tahrir square showed hundreds of soldiers and tanks rolling through dispelling the last of the protestors. Perhaps it was not as dramatic as seen on T.V., but it wasn't really something I wanted to be involved in. It was an interesting experience, however, to watch the Mubarak trial on T.V. in the airport cafe with Egyptians surrounding me. As Mubarak's trial commences, I bring my time in Egypt to a close. Good bye Egypt, it's certainly been an experience!