Travel Map

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Red Sea is Really Blue

At the end of Ramadan there's a 3 day feast called Eid al Fetr.  We were informed by many other students that no one stays in Cairo and everyone takes advantage of the break for a mini-vacay.  Well, realizing that after this break I will really start grad school I desperately wanted to go somewhere.  On the Sinai there's a town called Dahab that was recommended many times as a beautiful place for diving/snorkeling and just general beach time. roommate and another friend decided, "what the heck, let's go with out anyone's help!"  That's not exactly true, we asked people where the bus station was and the best way to get tickets.
So, middle of the night in Cairo and we are in the up-scale neighborhood of Heliopolis, wandering around the mall and just killing time.  The 11 o'clock bus we had intended to get on was booked so we had to get tickets on the 2 am bus.  Did I mention that the bus ride is about 8 hours from Cairo to Dahab?  So at 1am we take a cab to the bus station and attempt to get tickets.
Now, on a side note, cab rides here are always an adventure.  Sometimes the drivers don't know where to go but they'll pick you up for the fare anyway.  Sometimes they don't have a meter and you get to bargain over the price.  This includes,
"How much?"
"So far over the norm that you'll either be a stupid tourist and say yes or we'll bargain," etc.
Always settle on the fare before you get in. They aren't too agreeable about pulling over after a few blocks.
Back at the station, thank god one of the girls speaks passable Arabic and we were able to figure out where our bus was coming and get on the right one.  We were a little nervous because we were the only women waiting in the station. At 2am.  Slightly conspicuous.

We get on the bus and discover that we don't just sit anywhere but there are assigned seats. Oops.  So we end up in the very front seats which affords us no room for our legs or carry-ons.  Slightly uncomfortable ride....And the drivers were creepy and kept staring at us in their rear-view mirrors and trying to find out if we had husbands or not.  Crank up the iPod and pretend to be asleep....
So Dahab is gorgeous and right on the Red Sea.  Our hostel is so close to the water that when the tide comes in it comes part way up the wall.  Our room was cute and just what we needed.
We had a great time shopping along the waterway that first night and dining on the roof.  I enjoyed some shisha as dessert while the other girls fended off the millions of cats that roam the area looking for scraps.  Day two we waded into the water and got to see a ton of starfish and snails while we felt the rush of the warm water on our legs.  It was nice to be on a beach :)  We also went horse back riding along the water and through a lagoon and I was proud of my girls, they did great.  Especially riding english, which is no easy task when you haven't been many times and the guide had us trotting most of the ride.
We dined under the stars again and got to see the crescent moon and accompanying star that makes me think of some nation's flags.
The next morning we only encountered a small hassle which dealt with the bill at our hostel.  Always get a receipt since cash is the majority currency....
The bus back was a lot less crowded, the seats were nicer, and the trip was faster.  We arrived home tired but content.  At least I did.  Something about the beach always refreshes me.  I had a great time and can't wait for the next big Eid which will be before thanksgiving.  We're planning something big for that one.

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