My trek through Egypt was finally coming to a close. I’d delayed my return flight to the US twice, and couldn’t push it back any further – I’d be flying directly from Tel Aviv to New York for a friend’s wedding on my way back home to LA. It was time to start working my way back to Israel.
Mike and I decided to catch a bus from Sharm El’Sheikh to Dahab so we could finish a few diving trips we’d postponed last time in hopes of getting my camera fixed in Cairo. As soon as we arrived, one of the hotel touts from last time remembered us. He gave us a lift into town and we set up camp.
You know what? The vibe in Dahab really is nice. Sharm is more fun, no doubt, but Dahab is just so…chill. Relaxing. Sure, the restaurant touts do bother you a bit when walking on the promenade, but after experiencing the rest of Egypt I realized that this is nothing.
We checked into the Jasmine hotel and relaxed for a bit in the temperate sea breeze, catching up on e-mails and blog notes (of course). Then, while walking through one of the town’s commercial promenades, a young man working in a Sheesha store with whom we’d chatted briefly on our previous visit noticed us. He invited us in to smoke with him, “just as friends.” We sat in that shop chatting and smoking for nearly an hour, and he never asked us for a thing.
Man, so different from non-Sinai Egypt.
I really liked that kid. But at the same time, I felt really bad for him. He was only 22 years old, living in a little room in the back of the shop with 3 other guys. He works 15 hrs a day 7 days a week.
When closing time came around Mike and I dropped by Tree Bar for a couple beers and then called it a night. In typical Dahab style, the vibe was “chill.”
The next morning we rented a pair of bikes and rode North from town to a couple of the more distant dive spots. Unfortunately, Mike was still feeling sick from Sharm, and after an hour or so the pace started to plummet. The super-strong desert wind didn’t help. And the meat in the bolognaise sauce we ordered at a restaurant near the dive spot was definitely rotten 😆
Good thing the diving was fantastic – we even saw an Eagle Ray!
At the end of the day we returned to our hotel for a nice, refreshing shower…in saltwater. Did I mention that none of the budget lodgings in Dahab have freshwater showers? Hah! 😆
The next morning, finally, after a long great trip together, it was time for Mike and I to say goodbye. His flight back to New York was several days after mine, so he decided to stay in Dahab and get a few more dives in before returning to Israel. I was running out of time and had a few things in Israel I still wanted to do.
He was a fantastic travel partner, one of the most compatible I’ve ever met – both in terms of interests and pace. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to travel together again some day.
Soon I was back across the border. Man, what an overwhelming change. Like driving 30 minutes from Tijuana, Mexico to La Jolla, CA. Just minutes away, but two completely different worlds.
The first thing I did on the Israel side of the border was to chug about a gallon of water from a nearby fountain. Hurrah for drinkable tap water! 😀
The next thing I did was pass my bag to the numbingly attractive female customs inspector.
Now that I think about it, I don’t think I said even one single word to a female – who wasn’t a tourist – for the two entire weeks in Egypt. Everyone – from taxi drivers to store clerks to restaurant waiters – was male. I did see plenty of females, although the bulk of them were entirely covered up, and in a country where I was being approached and solicited about once every five minutes, not once was I approached by a female.
Strange that I didn’t even notice. Maybe it didn’t feel quite as unnatural because I was still meeting people of both genders at the hotels and hostels where I was staying.
Once I got across the border I took a seat at the bus station to wait for a ride into Eilat. My plan was to spend one day there (I’d now passed through it twice but seen virtually nothing at all), then head back North to Tel Aviv.
Two minutes later:
“Hey man, you need a ride into town?”
“I’ve got a car and am heading that way. We’d have to wait a minute for my wife, but if you want I’d be happy to give you a lift.”
They just turned out to be a really friendly Israeli couple, who despite the increasingly dangerous and crime-filled world believe that being kind and helping others should not become a lost practice. We got to chatting, and they mentioned they were heading to Tel Aviv and I was welcome to hitch a ride all the way back if I wanted.
Sure, why not. Four hours in a car with two nice people sounds better than six in an uncomfortable bus any day – even if it did mean I had to miss out on Eilat. I got my fill of Red Sea resorts in Sinai 🙂
The whole way home we chatted about life, travel, and world political issues. Then when I realized we were passing through Jerusalem, I asked to be dropped off. They obliged happily, asking for nothing more than a handshake and my e-mail address.
Ahh, so nice** 🙂
(Note: This entry was originally posted on Aug 4; I later changed the date to fit the chronology of events.)