The glass in the internet cafe where I am writing this just shook violently and my mouse bounced up off the desk. Suddenly the clicking of keyboards went silent and all of us Westerners looked at the young Arab guy running the place, closely judging his expression. He did not panic, but stood up calmly and opened the door. The inevitable sirens that would follow a blast of that size never came. Feeling the concussion in my chest reminded me of being on the artillery ranges when I was in the army.
He explained in broken English that sometimes the military explodes things that they find in the desert outside of town. Thats not very cool of them, considering that 2 bombs killed 23 people here back in April, about 400M from where I am sitting now. Im sure the locals are still a bit jittery, and they dont need the added excitement to their failing businesses. I have been thinking that the reason this place is running at about 10% capacity is because we are in the low season, but it is not true. Unlike Sharm, where a bomb in the old market where I ate lunch killed 60+ people last year, tourism in this place has not quite recovered yet. Sure, there are loads of restaurants and cozy places with pillows and shishah pipes along the water, but one crucial ingredient for a good time is missing…..people! This place is simply beautiful – The Gulf is a deep blue, the air smells clean and salty, and it is very windy here which helps to control the flies and cool things down a bit. I can see Saudi Arabia just across the water (and it looks very inviting to me for whatever the reason), and there are mountains in the distance all around.
However, on the flip side, this entire place looks like it was bombed out at one time. There are crumbling buildings everywhere! And the ones that are not crumbling, are very nice, but are practically empty save a honeymooner here or there. There is not a vast backpacker population here, as Lonely Planet seemed to describe, and there are really just as many suitcase vacationers. Not that there is anything wrong with that. This morning I listened to an older, English couple angrily explain to the waiter how an “English breakfast” (which is what it is called on the menu) is supposed to be. For goodness sakes, save the eggs and toast for London! The beaches here dont exist, there is no sand (its all in the desert behind me) and so the coast is rocky and covered with rubbish. I have a feeling that the most beautiful part of this place is under the sea, and I am dying to find out, but I have to postpone until this headcold I have goes away, diving with a cold can be a no-go. I learned that lesson by almost damaging my ear in Thailand that would not equalize properly.
I did have another amazing lunch. I sat just meters from the Red Sea, the spray almost in my face, and ate Foul (not birds, made from beans) pronounced “fool” with bread, salads, and vegetables. Once again, the guy kept brining out small bowl after bowl of mysteries and almost all were delicious. I honestly have no idea what I have been eating. It all looks like hummus, or pulverized something, its in a bowl and you scoop it up with bread. I am slowly learning a few useful Arabic words like “La’a shah-kran” which means “No thank you” – Very useful as you walk down the main street here.
I will hang here for a few more days, try a dive or two, go climb up Mt Sinai where Mosses was given the 10 commandments, then head south again to Sharm and probably to the mainland coast away from Sinai.
I am planning a camel riding, butt beating, excursion with my 2 Swiss roomies tomorrow morning, so that should give me something to write about instead of babbling about food. 🙂