February 19, 2003:
Beautiful day. Mark got a massage (an odd one, he
says -- the music was loud and not relaxing, so the
massage was not as relaxing as he would have hoped.
It was by a large man named Freddy. Still, he smelled
nice when he got back. I'm STILL feeling crappish, but we sat out in the
sun for awhile and stared at all the leggy and sleekly
handsome Italian tourists.
A land-locked cruise ship
The hotel where we're staying is unusual. The entire hillside is covered with row after row of whitewashed, red-tiled rooms. Hundreds of them. It looks like all the world like the side of a huge cruise ship. We were somewhere on D-deck, I think. There are a couple of pools on the lido deck. Four clubs, two
We went in search of an internet connections. Tons
of "Internet Cafes" have either no working
connection or no computers at all. ONe hotel was,
"so sorry" down. But we could go to Na'ama
Bay. Na'ama Bay has some of the best scuba-diving in the world, in the crystal waters of the Red Sea. A number of interesting wrecks, and an enormous string of coral reefs -- including the underwater Ras Mohammad Nature Preserve on the tip of the Sinai peninsula. Water-sports -- snorkeling, scuba, glass bottomed boats, even some surfing -- are the allure here. In summer, the beaches are so crowded it is hard to find a space to sit. Now, it's still crowded, but not too bad.
We weren't in Sharm long enough to really do anything (you cannot fly within 24 hours of diving)
and we have reservations for a Bedouin dinner out in the desert at 3:30,
so the day is very short.
Mr. Sharif (remember him from our drive to Tanis?)
and his family and in-laws are going to the Bedouin
dinner with us. Their daughter, Caroline, is very
cute. And she knows it. The drive out to the desert
is startling -- suddenly stark and orange and mountainous.
The road is new (hell, most of Sharm is new) and the
"extra" piles of asphalt aren't quite covered
with blowing sand yet.
Dinner with the Bedouins
We opted out of the camel ride to the camp, since
no one else was riding out (and we've done it three
times now). So we drive straight to the valley. There
are five or six groups, each with a bedouin tent (of
sorts) and a guide. Our guide, Osama -- and he was
jokingly assuring us it was not 'Bin Laden' -- is
just starting as a guide. He's "usually"
an accountant, he says. Very nice, though. We stopped
to climb one of the small rocky hills to see the wadi.
It really is beautiful.
The bed of the wadi is pea gravel -- tons of it broken
off from the granite cliffs and roiled by the wind.
In some areas, the gravel is 150 meters deep and
serves as a water reservoir and drainage.The "flow" of the gravel and sand can be easily seen, like a huge river bed moving in a glacially slow time. It doesn't
rain often, but when it does, floods are common and
dangerous in this region. The ground is granite, there is nothing
to soak up the rain and it runs through the narrow
canyons with lethal results.
We were all assured that there
are no snakes or scorpions when the ground was gravel. .
In sand, there are both and you have to be careful. You know, we never saw any snakes or scorpions while in Egypt. Bugs, yes. Bugs the size of small pets, but no snakes.
The Chief of the bedouin tribe we are visiting has
three wives. The government has tried to provide aid
to these people who pretty much live as they have
for thousands for years -- providing schools and health
care, etc. It's not working well, although some
of the Bedouins have settled into permanent camps
like this one. The traditions are still very strong.
For example, once a girl reaches puberty, she stays
at home, isolated, until she is to be married. Girls
rarely go to school past 14 or 16. Boys also leave
early and are married young.
The dinner is surprisingly good, for all that it is
served in a tent in the middle of the desert. Sweet
tea, bread (a kind of corn tortilla-ish flat bread,
quite different than the soft wheat aish in the city),
potatoes, rice, chicken and GOAT. My stomach stayed
settled, even with goat.
Back at the hotel, we walked down to the beach and
I waded a bit in the surf we had a drink on the Horizon
Bar -- a gazebo on the cliff overlooking the beaches
that surround the entire town. It was pretty chilly
-- the air was cooler than the water. There something really odd about standing in the ocean and having your feet be warmer than the rest of you.
So many stars out in the desert. It's too bright here
on the resort to see many. THe resorts are lit like
the Vegas strip. Only a few years until they start using far too much neon, I'm sure.