That ubiquitous red and white keffiyeh seen so often on news reports these days, can for some people, give rise to a host of associations. Warranted or not, they’re there. But pushing through those associations and approaching the South Sinai with an open mind can reveal a host of cultural activities that’ll have you wanting to simultaneously; pack-it-in back home, don your own keffiyeh and move to the desert.
The local Muzzeina Bedouins are friendly and incredibly hospitable
Sitting in the high mountains surrounded by local Bedouins, sipping from a tiny glass of wild-sage-infused tea and gnawing on a hunk of fresh bread, John looks right at home, but it wasn’t always so. In fact, on his first trip to Dahab (he’s now on visit four and planning the fifth) John spoke of exiting his villa for the first time, ”seeing the first guy in a scarf and nearly turning back again”. So cautious that he’d advised the women travelling in his group not to go to the local shop, three hundred metres down the road, without a companion.
Seasoned travellers may scoff at such apparent paranoia but for John, having left Birmingham, England only once before; the initial culture shock was huge. So what changed?
”By day three I figured that nobody was threatening in the slightest”. Bemoaning the wasted days on his first trip, he muses over finding the local Muzzeina Bedouins to be faultlessly friendly and incredibly hospitable. A hark back to the days when every traveller encountered should be offered food, tea and a place to sleep. John estimates he was offered tea by ”at least ten different families” on his first trip alone (a cultural tradition that travellers in Muslim countries will be familiar with), day five even saw him accepting one.
In his travels to the Sinai since, John has trekked, scrambled and slept all over the Southern Sinai deserts and high mountains; always with local Bedouins and often without any fellow travellers.
In this, at first, seemingly barren and mountainous terrain awe-inducing scenery reveals itself. Impossible rock formations, craggy-sided wadis and camel tracks on pinnacles that peek out at the Red Sea below and the Saudi kingdom beyond. All this and lazy nights spent huddled around a camp fire where light pollution doesn’t tarnish the star show, have made many a Sinai addict.
At the close of his most recent desert trip and wandering down from Wadi Connection, close to Dahab, on his way for an underwater foray or two, John offers up the following advice for new travellers to the region; breathe, they’re only Bedouins and that’d be another cup of tea they’re trying to force on you!
Till next blog,
(Photo credits: Merelize & Juergen Donauer)