I’ve always loved the water, but we took it to a whole new level this weekend. We traveled to Dahab on the eastern coast of the Sinai Peninsula to celebrate our 5-day weekend for the Eid Feast, and spent three full days in the water from morning till night.
The seven hour journey to Dahab was extended by a few hours due to the security checkpoints. In the few days leading up to the feast, multiple vans had been pulled over and robbed by some Bedouins on the Sinai Peninsula, which increased the number of checkpoints required. We stopped three times, for a minimum of an hour each, in order to wait for our police escort to arrive. It was a fairly uneventful drive, save for the pick-up truck that off-roaded it into the literal BFE within minutes of starting with our first police escort. The escorts pulled over, jumped out, and aimed their AK-47s at the dust cloud left in the wake of the white truck as it cut across the reddish sand and successfully disappeared from view.
Near the end of our journey, we entered the mountains. The same mountains that saw nearly the beginning of civilization, that hold stories of persecution and survival, that looked down upon the area of the Red Sea that Moses parted. A contemplative quiet descended upon our van. We watched the sun dance off corners of the mountains and attempted to translate the Arabic graffiti on the side rails. Thank goodness we had with us Nicole, our resident Arabic reader.
We entered the city of Taba and stopped for gas (which we did at every opportunity, as there was a diesel shortage in the Sinai). We were literally five miles from Israel, looking at this ancient area first through the security wall and layers of barbed wire and then later across the Red Sea. We also peeped Jordan and Saudi Arabia as the sun fell behind the mountains. The final hour and a half drive along the sea and through the mountains was accompanied by old school songs via iPods and twenty- and thirty-something year olds belting it out to Backstreet Boys, Mace, and Aladdin.
We finally arrived in Dahab, exhausted and hungry, and ready for some relaxation. We ate dinner at the hotel restaurant, sitting on pillows on the floor, listening to the waves crash right next to us, enjoying food, company, and shisha.
We started scuba training Thursday morning, and our dreams of beach bumming were instantly dashed. Instead, we squeezed all five confined dives and all four open water dives into three days. Our group of five did extremely well learning the skills and moving through quickly, but it was a large team of new divers, and we could only move so fast. After the first day, I confess that I didn’t love it. I felt uncomfortable with my regulator and just the idea of breathing under water was bizarre. By the time day 3 was done, and we’d spent nearly twelve hours breathing under water, I loved it.
Twice we dove to 18m (about 60 feet), and let me tell you – hovering in front of purple, green and pink coral watching the lion fish swim, pipe fish travel in and out of the coral, and Nemo poop was absolutely worth losing any of the beach bumming time we had planned. I don’t yet know the names of most fish, but I did see Nemo, Dory, Shark Bait Ooh-Ah-Ah (who remembers his name?), and Rainbow Fish.
Our camera is only good to ten meters, so we got just a few shots during one of the confined skills dives. We sent the camera with another crew of our friends/co-workers as they went snorkeling in the Blue Hole. Check out the beauty of the Red Sea.
Our last day of diving, Sunday, was at a different site than our first two days. It was the same location that our farewell beach dinner was planned, and we spent 14 glorious hours at the Moray Gardens. We dove until sunset (a night dive will be coming soon, I promise!), and then debriefed our dives while waiting for the rest of our Hayah group to join us on the pillows. After a delicious meal, people slowly drifted away to do their own things. About a dozen of us remained on the beach, nestled in between mountains and sea, with guitar adding to the ambiance. Some of our friends likened the scene to a movie set, others to a dream; it felt like perfection to me.
Ben fell asleep post-dinner, so he missed much of the conversation and music. However, he provided the entertainment for the remainder of the evening. He began muttering unintelligibly and did not react to me when I touched his arm and asked if he was okay. Soon, I began to understand some of his mumblings:
“They’re called fins, not flippers.”
“Take off your mask. Take it off.”
“Bangkok women…really are funny.”
“You okay, buddy?”
“Kick like a ballerina. Kick you idiots.”
He was diving in his sleep! He went through the entire dive – from gear check to climbing out of the water (at which point he declared that he was tired and I finally shook him awake). Nine people hovered over him, listening intently for his next utterance or waiting for my translation, trying not to wake him up with our gut-busting laughter. On and on he went for nearly twenty minutes. He was blowing bubbles, kicking his feet, breathing through his “regulator” like Darth Vader, and even saying “Ah” as if he was going through a CESA. There were waaaaaay too many hilarious moments, but some of the best include:
“You babies, it’s not cold.” (Clearly directed at Nicole and Rebecca who needed to swim around to stay warm during the skills)
“I float like sh**.”
“Look – a clown fish.” Then a dog on the beach barked. “Stupid dog.”
“Dory, you’re a silly fish.”
He even thanked our dive instructor and asked for a high five. At one point, Lance asked him how deep he was, and he threw his left arm up to look at his dive computer and responded, “12 meters.” It was one of the most hilarious things I have ever witnessed. When I finally woke him up, he was a great sport, though he thought we were making it all up.
Finally, this morning, Ben and I woke up after getting about 3 ½ hours of sleep to watch the moon set behind the mountains and the sun rise over the sea. The rhythmic crashing of the waves on the rocks was interrupted occasionally by the late-night stumblings of the revelers returning to their hotel rooms, the techno music emanating from the headphones of the garbage collector, and the release of air from the sunrise divers. The ketchup wrappers, Styrofoam containers, and discarded Cleopatra cigarettes marred the beauty of the beach, but it could not touch what we saw on the horizon. The first flames of pink kissed the mountains in Saudi Arabia, over took the stars, and finally burst into brilliant orange. The beauty was fleeting, like so much of life, and I almost did not take pictures because they can never capture it completely.
Dahab may be my new favorite place in the world. I still have many places to experience, it’s true, but this one is stunning. A return trip is already planned for our next long weekend…which is in 15 days.
Thanks, as always, for your readership, especially for this extremely long post. More to come soon of our earlier October adventures. Wishing you well.
*Fun fact: The Sinai Peninsula is a part of an African country, but it’s technically considered Asia. Five continents down – only two to go!
**Double fun fact: These Dahab candles are likely already on some fancy DIY Pinterest board, but just in case they are not, here are the directions: 1. Drink water, preferably Hayak because they have the most intricately decorated plastic. 2. Cut off the top of the water bottle. 3. Fill the bottom with sand from the Red Sea. 4. Insert candle. 5. Light, and enjoy a little Dahab at home.