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Michael’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 02 Apr 2006

Location: Dahab, Egypt

MapOkay, so this was actually written yesterday, but I had a problem with the site and lost 2 hours worth of typing. Never mind, today certainly made up for it with the most incredible sites I've seen, sorry Egypt, you ain't got nothing on Petra - it makes the Great Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel look amateurish. But more on that next entry, must fill in the end of the Egypt trip section.

Okay, the last few days were relatively quiet, and most of the action happened in the night. Thursday (March 30th) went snorkling with Katie (the Brit from the Thistlegorm) at the lighthouse for a couple hours. Makes you realise just how much of a poor cousin snorkling is compared to diving.

That night we (Paul, Andy - Fact Man, Katie, Emma, Noelene &
Lesley) all went to dinner at a most unfortunately named place. Ala-Kefak, which when said correctly sounds enough like 'I like a f--k' to get a giggle just about everytime. Good thing tho, their food is great, had a nice chicken pizza.

Everyone else was headed on the camel dive the following day so they headed to bed early, and I wandered over to Tota to see if anything was happening. All that was going was a soccer game between Barcelona and someone else, to this day I don't know who. So, most of you know I hate soccer, and they didn't do any favour in changing that.

The Arabic commentary doesn't help anything, and it was half time before I even figured out which team was Barcelona. Early in the second half I actually fell asleep in the pub (I'd only had 2 beers, so it definitely wasn't passing out, but maybe an hour of soccer put my in a comatose state?) I was that bored. Anyway, woke up about 15 minutes later, and realised at the scores hadn't changed. Still 0-0 in the 80th minute. Man, what an exciting game! Blow that, still 0-0 at the end of the game, what a waste of an hour and a half of my life (at least I got 15 minute shut-eye). And not even a shoot-out, just a "nice game, glad we went thru that for 90 minutes to have a draw... see you next time" ... I was ready for blood!

Next day I took it very slowly, as everyone was out on the camel dive, and me trying to get back into 'backpacker' mode, decided to opt out of the expensive excursion. That night we (just about the whole dive centre staff and clients) went to dinner at Blue Beach, Furry Cup. Most of the travellers were leaving on the Saturday, and it was teh night for Lesley's snorkel test. When you complete a Dive Masters, or any higher dive qualification, the guys at Poseidon hold a special final test.

The newly graduated is required to place a mask and snorkel on, with snorkel mouth piece in position. A 1.5Lt bottle is turned upside down and attached to the snorkel, with the bottom of the bottle cut off, forming a massive funnel. Drink is poured in, and the test involves consuming everything that gets poured in - Think about it, no breathing either. Your nose is in the mask, and mouth over the snorkel... looks tough. Anyway, in this case, 2x500mL beers were poured in, and about 100mL of the nastiest Egyptian Rum imaginable. A sure fire way to mess up your night! Anyway, there was only 1 backfie, and it looked like a whale clearing its blowhole, showering half the patrons in the bar in the alcholic mix.

I left the bar at around 11pm, and headed to climb Mt. Sinai. Quick (real quick) background to Mt. Sinai, as I ain't religious, and you may ask, why climb a mountain at night. Well answering that question is easy, for the sunrise. But what is Mt. Sinai. Well, at the base of the mountain is St. Katherine's, a Christian monestary. Why build a monestary there, and why visit it. Well, you see, there's this little 'story' that a dude named Moses, a long time ago, and prehaps in a galaxy far away, talked to a burning bush, and the bush told him to climb the mountain. Now, he could have been high on something, he was talking to a bush, and secondly, if he saw the mountain he had to climb, he would have told the bush where to go... he didn't even have shoes to climb in. That must be the appeal of doing it at night, you really can't see what you are getting yourself into. Well, good thing he did climb, otherwise we wouldn't have these thing called the 10 commandments that most of us break every day.... Like I said, that is a loose interperation of the 'official' story that appears in some book that I had to buy at high school... can't think of the name off the top of my head.

Anyway, that wasn't so quick now was it? A two hour and a bit bus ride, with my knees embedded so far into the seat in front of me left me numb from the waste down, and if I thought I'd get any feeling back, that was dispelled by the 7 degrees Celcius air that greeted us upon exiting the bus. It's amazing that Egyptians can convert a 9 person mini-van into a 15 seater, just by putting the seats closer together... how clever of them. Every seat had a passenger in it, something is working i guess.

Met a guy named Mike, a Brit living in NZ for last 12 months, who must have a had a story for everything. I can't figure out for the life of me how old he is, maybe 30? This guy made 70 year old Stan from the Egyptian tour seem like a new born. This guy must be recalling stories from his past 3 lives. We started wandering up, and was thinking about putting in the MP3 player, and powering on alone, till 3 minutes into the climb, my torch died.

Mike kind of looked at me and said he had one, but was slow to actually produce it. Instead, he gave a 20 minute story about how his dad, in the Brittish Navy, had done tests on eyes adjusting to the dark, and we should go without the torch, just need 12 minutes to adjust. Yeah, great idea, except we're practically mountain climbing, and everyone around has a torch... You can't go three minutes without being blinded by someone elses light. He wasn't buying it, dunno why.

I knew I couldn't march on, without torch, as I'd eventually get to a point when I wouldn't be able to continue. We had to stop on several occassions, as Mike legs, destroyed in an accident, car I think, were hurting. The screws were digging into the muscle... That is bound to happen when you keep falling over cos you can't see where you're going genius...

Made it to the top of the mountain at 4:05am, after 2 hours and 20 minutes. Not bad for a couple rest stops, and a 'got lost' detour at the start (no, not torch related). At that point, the area at the top, no bigger than a basketball court (a very rockey, uneven one) had about 30-40 people huddling down behind boulders trying to stay warm. Remember, we had hiked up the mountain for over 2 hours, and were much higher than we were at the bottom. The peak is around the 2500m mark, and at 4am, the wind was whipping past, and it was only going to get colder before the sun rose.

We got a mattress, to sit on, and a blanket, and I jumped into my sleeping bag. Still freezing, and I generally tend not to get too cold. The problem was that the sweat that formed during the walk was now being chilled by the cold rocks and wind. Most unpleasant. To offset that tho, the stars were absolutely incredible. As I continued to look up, more and more stars showed as my eyes adjusted to the darkness (NOW is a good time to turn the torch off...) I saw a shooting star almost immediately (my first and last for the night) and settled in, trying to stay warm.

For a couple minutes, I actually maneuvred myself so that I was in an, almost lying position, as the wall that my back was on, was giving me chills, cold on my sweaty back. I figured if my back was on the mattress, it would provide a little relief. In this position, my head was of course close to the ground, and a friendly rat decided to come up and stand on my hood. Well, it wasn't there for long, as I jumped and sent it flying, never to return, and I never returned to lay in that position again either. What was a rat doing there? Well there are a couple old rock buildings, one of which we were bunkered up against, and it must have come out of that...

By 5am, the summit was holding about 300 people and the atmosphere was quickly changing. A scerene, peaceful area was now turning into a crazy sceen. Most of the visitors were Japanese (I think) and Africans (heaps of Nigerians) and all were praying out loudly, and there were heaps of loud rhythmic chanting coming from the Africans.

By 530, there were probably 500 people, maybe more, and the noise was just amazing. By this stage, the sky was changing colors, first to a dark purple, dark blue, light blue, then reds, oranges and yellows. It was quite beautiful. At about 540, the sun finally broke over the mountains, and the was cheering and clapping. Unfortunately my lips were frozen shut, and I had to pry my fingers apart to grip my camera. But it was a pretty incredible site. More incredible though, was actually looking around at the area we had climbed into, the 2nd highest mountain in Sinai, the highest only marginally higher and just over the next pass, 6km away.

Buy about 610 we were headed down, in the biggest traffic jam I'd seen since leaving Cairo. As we go lower, we found the problem, a woman in cork platform sandals, about 5 inch of platform on them. Nice work silly ho. As we walked down the hill, it became clear just how far we had come, and how lucky we were not to have a serious injury in the climb, flash light or not.

We were down by 740, an hour and a half, and had to wait till 9 for the monestary to open. Bit of a painful wait, knowing that all I wanted to do was go inside, see the damn bush, and get on the bus to try and sleep - cramped knees or not. During the wait, I ran into the American that was in our mini-van and found out first hand the definition of the 'Ugly American' that is used sometimes to refer to American tourists. All he did was bitch about it. "Why would anyone ever knowingly do that?", "Most stupid thing I have ever put myself thru". Okay, maybe fair comments, but no need to vent your spleen so loudly around so many passionate religious people. Then the icing on the cake "Shit, at least in America we'd have put in a cable car by now". That was the last thing I heard him say as I laughed, turned and walked away, not justifying it with a response.

Well, at 9am, apparently there were people more devoted than me, and the masses rushed inside, I decided to play it slow and wait till the line had subsided. When I got inside, I headed straight for the 'most uninspring' of tourist attractions I had seen to date. Maybe if I had been allowed to actually light the 'burning bush' it could have found something to actually find interest. Then you find out that it isn't even 'the' burning bush, but a bush that is believed to be the off-spring of said burning bush. The 'original' is behind a wall to be protected by the monks. So ripped off. I headed into the St. Katherine's Church and looked aorund quickly, trying to get out of the cattle line lighting candles, crossing their chest, kissing statues, writing something (confessions?) and other wierd religious stuff. I would have ended kissing a candle and lighting a statue, so figured it wise to leave, and headed to the bus happy to get off my feet.

Anyone get the feeling I ain't that religious? Remember, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and this is just mine. And I hope you understand that I too am entitled to my opinion. I will think no different of you no matter what religion you follow, as long as you don't preach to me....

Finally got back to Dahab at a lil after noon, and organised to stay another night. I was in no condition to leave that day. I headed to grab some grub and met Paul, Andy, Katie, Noelene and Lesley (looking decidedly worse for ware after last night snorkel test) purely by coincidence and sat and had lunch with them. Barely able to keep my eyes open, I headed back to get some much needed shut-eye for a couple hours.

Had another supercheap half-chicken meal, then headed to Tota for a look at the big screen around 930pm. They were searching for more soccer, and actually came to rest for about 15 minutes on the Great Outdoor Games IV, which such classic events as wood chopping, log running, dog time trials, frisbee throwing with dog catching, and ATV racing. After 10 minutes of log running, there were boos when they switched to soccer, and I was happy to see that I wasn't the only one feeling the soccer pain. I actually tried to get the NCAA semi-final games on, but alas, they didn't have college ball, only NBA. Finally they came to rest on Lord of The Rings.

I sat there watching that for a little while, still pretty tired. On the table behind me were 3, well, pretty hot girls, and three Egyptian guys, all dressed up pretty well. It kinda of looked quite out of place, and the girls had caught my attention when they came in. They were all speaking pretty poor English. Seeing Crispin from the Dive Centre, I got up to leave my table and offered my popsorn (the bar gives out free popcorn during movies) to them to get a closer look. Yeah, they were hot, and all had wedding rings, but a common ploy in Egypt to avoid the critisism/harrassment of Egyptian men.

I talked with Crispin for a while, and, being the tight arse that he is (he openly admits being a penny pincher) he disapeared pretty early, after about an hour. I wandered back to my seat from earlier and resumed watching the movie. Soon the group behind me were all getting up, and headed for the dance floor. Somewhere, popcorn go thrown and hit me in the head, two of the girls in particular were very appologetic.

As the movie ended, and I made one final surge through the 700 channels looking for NCAA ball, to no avail, I headed to the 'dance floor' and started trying to keep myself awake. The black haired girl from the group caught my eye, and within a minute, I was chatting to her and the Red head, the two that appologised for the popcorn incident. I told them I was from Australia, and for the first time on the trip, someone actually seemed interested in meeting an Aussie. Guess we have flooded the market a bit too much. It turns out the 3 girls were all from Russia. It wasn't more than 30 second later that the balck haired girl said, in pretty average English, that she'd noticed me, and wanted to know If I'd like to leave with her.

Okay, so you can imagine me sitting there, thinking all my Christmas' had come at once, and trying to sputter out a couple words. Finally, Sharm had come to Dahab I thought, the Russian model types made the journey up, and I didn't have to go to Sharm. Before I could even manage to mutter a 'huh, wha, uh, hell yeah' one of the Egyptian guys comes up, and politely, not at all violently, grabs the two girls sitting there, and starts walking away. The third girl was already with the other two men, standing at the front door. As they walked away, he turned to the black haired girl and said pretty angrily 'you must remember, you are my wife now!' So... you tell me, mail-order bride? Just some hussy? Your guess is as good as mine, but she didn't put up a fight walking away, and I wasn't willing to chase down a group of 3 Egyptian men in Egypt over a pretty odd proposition.

Anyway, found myself at the pub contemplating what just happened, and pretty quickly it was 3am, and they were shutting up. Right at the end of the night I met a bunch of other Russian (2 guys and 2 girls) who had no relation to the 3 girls earlier. AS we wandered out the front, they were headed to Rush bar, a couple doors up, and asked if I'd join. Why not i figured. As we get to the front door, I see 'Ugly American 2' both in the matter of 24 hours. An American was beating up an Egyptian guy, because he apparently hit his Egyptian wife. Now, I didn't see any of the wife hitting part, so wont comment, be the American was a tosser, screaming all sorts of crap. Then when the cops come over, and the American has been laying on for 10 punches, he starts yelling to throw the Egyptian in jail. Now the Egyptian guy just took an ass whoopin, and the yank was lucky he didn't get dragged off for the beatinghe gave. And then he, and the girl he was with have the nerve to yell at the cops for not locking up the Egyptian, and telling the cops that the bloke needs 24 hours in a cell to cool off. Then came the "In America..." lines. I actually stepped to the guy and just said, "give it a rest, you're not in America, it's not your place to hand out punnishment, let them, sort it out the way they do. You don't have to agree, and if it bothers you that much, you can always go back to America". He turned his attention back to the cops, and kept on with the verbal barrage... I tried.

Headed to Rush, and it was closed. There were about 8 of us, and we ventured up to the front anyway, and wandered in - it's an open air place. Curiousity got the better of us, and we headed behind the bar, only to find all of the fridges, full of beer, and unlocked. On top of that, the DJ gear was all sitting there in a dark room, still plugged in, and with a few intuitive button pushes by myself, we had power on, and were listening to tunes quickly. A couple of beers later (don't worry, it was that cheap that we left money in the fridge where the beer was) and drunken Russians falling into the pool, I headed off to bed, happy to call it a night at 430am.

Woke up at 830, a small hang-over in tow (seems to happen with Egyptian beer, no matter how much or little you drink) and started packing for my journey to Jordan. By 10am, I'd had breakfast, said goodbyes to the guys at the dive centre, and jumped into the tray of a ute with my bag headed to the bus station. By 11am, the 1030 bus was leaving and I was on my way to Jordan.... Next time (but is safe to say I made it safely, even if late and overpriced).

So the final words on Dahab, in the form of the Hit Magazine in Melbourne's Herald Sun every Thursday.

What's Hot & What's Not of Dahab.

1. The wether. Great weather. Sun is beaming during the day, but there is almost always a breeze, keeping the perceived temperature low. At night, the temperature drops dramatically, and simply opening the windows in your room draws a breeze thru, cooling everything down.

2. Diving, and in particular the Poseidon Dive Centre. Without these guys I would have been out of Dahab in a flash. There may be 64 other dive centres in Dahab, but these guys are uber-friendly, and willing to welcome you into their 'family' of divers. Oh yeah, and the diving in the area ain't bad either!

3. Food, huge meals, cheap prices. Had one of the greatest steaks ever for $12 Aussie. For $12, I'd usually think twice before ordering that steak back home. And a 1/2 chicken and heaps of sides for under $4 Aussie... thank-you

Close, but not quite.... New Life Village, great cheap accommodation, but didn't make Dahab, Dahab.... get my drift.


Close, but not quite.... Dahab night-life. Hmm, as I have said earlier, not really the place to head for a night-life. Unless you come in a group, it's going to be hard to keep it interesting.

3. Chinese Shop in Dahab. Sorry, but the food here was crap. I paid a bit o money expecting a huge meal, and while it was sizeable, not huge, it was so below average. My chicken & vegetable noodles were not like Wok in a box, but 2 minute noodles with some frozen veggies thawed and dumped on top.... Crap.

2. Dahab during the day, if you're not diving. There ain't a whole lot to do.

3. Bedouin Village.... Scam artists, and avoid their accomodation at all costs. (Hey I was tired, and just wanted a room to sleep, and should have argued a better price... but they shouldn't have charged what they did.)

That closes the book (a very long one) on Dahab, and my accounts of Jordan will begin soon. If only my words and pcitures could actually do Petra justice....

Till next time, go Carlton, and I hope you are all well.