While in Dahab we, well I, make a decision to take a camel ride to Ras Ab Galoum, a Bedouin camp along the coast from where we are staying. Camels turn out to not be as uncomfortable as I had imagined, (though a couple of hours is more than enough) and I am really impressed with the way they can negotiate the rocky outcrops along the shoreline. They just keep on plodding on with their massive padded plate sized feet over rocks I could barely see a path through. When we arrive at the camp we are the only three there. Our guide disappears and lunch arrives from nowhere and is delicious – fried fish with rice. On the way back my nephew’s camel decides he’s had enough and takes off at an alarming pace. I am stuck on top of a less energetic animal and can do nothing. I yell at Willy who is a little way ahead of me looking at the rock pools, to “DO something” but he just turns to me and says “Huh? What? What?” totally oblivious to what is happening. Being in loco parentis turns out not for the last time to be nerve fraying, but it all ends well when the camel stops on reaching another group further along the way.
Climbing Mount Sinai a few days later we are offered camels to take the strain off the 4km hike up the mountain. “No thank you” say the three of us in absolute certain unison, each nursing our own individual sores. What a climb though! Doing it alone I can imagine could be a very spiritual experience and I half wished I was doing that, but we had such a lovely group of fellow climbers that I was happy to walk and chat for the three hours it took to reach the top. This is the mountain where God handed Moses the ten commandments and is the highest in Egypt. At the bottom is Saint Catherine’s, the oldest monastery in the world and an incredibly welcome site on the journey back down when the temperature dropped so much that we were hugging each other for warmth and even a camel would have been welcome if he was prepared to cuddle.
Back to every day life in Dahab and we venture a short way along the beach to ‘Happy Village’ where apparently the snorkelling is good. New friends Barry and Tracey come along and we flop down onto the cushions in the beach side café for a spot of lunch before our swim.
I order vegetable rice and so does Barry. When it arrives we discuss what the vegetable might be and agree it must be carrot lying on top of a huge pile of rice lying next to a huge pile of chips. We taste it and find that it is coloured potato. So rice topped with potato and chips on the side. My carb free diet is now firmly postponed til we return to England.
As everyone squeezes and pulls themselves into their wet suits (what a palaver) our host comes to clear the plates away with his lovely big smile. He looks for a compliment and I oblige. “That was lovely – thank you so much” and it was lovely because we are sitting on well used mismatched cushions on a concrete floor covered in assortged rugs, under a bamboo roof on a sheltered Sinai beach, with friends we have just made and sweet sweet Egyptian tea with camels strolling past, the sun shining and the sea sparkling. It is very lovely indeed.
Ah the sea, the sea. I have agreed nine days in to our holiday to go out with everyone else to gaze through a plastic mask at the many and beautiful fish. Up ‘til now I have been perfectly happy to stroll along the shoreline while the others are immersed in the blue and I have met many happy little creatures scuttling, crawling, flitting around the rocks and dead coral. I am so taken by their separate universe and their tiny lives that I resolve not to eat seafood any more. Previously I’ve been sanguine about consuming prawns and the like as I argued, they, having such small brains and therefore awareness, barely know they’re alive anyway. This has been an excellent excuse for eating prawns, whitebait, clams, mussels - basically all the things I like to eat anyway. No more. It seems to me as I watch them that yanking them out of their universe and eating them is doubly selfish and that eating chicken might in fact be a better option. I am slightly annoyed with myself for reaching this conclusion.
Anyhow, I have agreed to join the others in the sea – or at least on the sea and am the only woman in Sinai to be found on a bright blue lilo. I am very aware I am uncool, but at 47 coolness is well on the way out of the question and self-preservation and keeping water out of my ears is way more important. Though it must be said that scuba divers don’t rate much in the cool stakes either – they look as ridiculous as men in jodphurs to me - and more frightening, immerging like black Cybermen out of the shallows where I am quietly paddling. Still whatever floats your boat I suppose. I last roughly twelve minutes in the water and declare “Well that’s all jolly lovely, can I go back now?” Apparently it‘s not that easy. I thought I could just head for the shore but I have to be tugged inelegantly, lilo sagging, back several hundred yards along the reef to a gap where I won’t do any damage to the coral while heaving my bulk to the beach. As I said, what a palaver.
Safely beached I return to my book and my daydreaming and my daydreams turn to my garden. I make the mistake of thinking England might at least be as sunny if not as warm as Egypt when I return and I am filled with excitement at the coming season in our garden. I have some ideas and I scribble them down on the back of a boarding pass and then I fall asleep in the sun in Egypt thinking of my nice little place in the country in England and I feel very lucky.