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A Bedouin Embrace In Sinai, Egypt

In the middle of the night we caught a taxi at the border of Egypt with Israel and drove south to our resort in a land that was silenced in its vacancy. Sinai was a mystery to me. I had only heard rumours of its beauty from the Israeli people I knew and still those thoughts held like faint trails of wonder in my mind. A land long inhabited by Bedouins I was told that Sinai was one of the most beautiful places on earth – a harsh desert settled next to the Red Sea; a body of water tunnelled up from the Mediterranean that held aquatic life of profound allurement.

IMG_2546It was dark and the highway was empty of drivers. A few times we stalled the vehicle at the meagre checkpoints set up by Egyptian soldiers. While Asaf conversed freely with our driver Ali in Hebrew I sat in the back seat and felt my fears beginning to surface. Passing our passports over to the soldiers – some dressed heavy in weapons and uniforms and others in regular street clothes – the vulnerability I felt in having to completely trust these strangers with our safety dis-eased me.

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I closed my eyes and focused my attention on our distant arrival. I began to envision how the night sky would be alight with shooting stars, how the stillness of the barren land would sooth me, and how the heat of the day was already slipping away. In being a traveler these types of situation are many – sometimes you trust when it is all you have left to do.

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Long since falling in and out of sleep in the taxi we finally arrived at the gate of the Rock Sea.  The Sudanese gatekeeper lead us by flashlight across the dry red earth to our open-faced Bedouin tent by the sea. I dropped my bags and strode down to the waters edge feeling the quiet and expansiveness emptiness of all around us. Stripping off my clothes I took a few wary steps in the sea whose bottom was lined with sharp coral beds. I lay close to the coral supported by my hands and floated silently in the water. I washed all of the stress off of me.

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We woke to the morning sun that began burning brightly in its infancy. Asaf had woken before me and when he saw me rise from a distant tent where he lay he came over to warm me slightly more. As I looked around the serenity of the place started to settle in further. My perspective and vision expanded to fill the wide landscape stretching out in front of me and blocked only from the distant red mountains of Saudi Arabia across the sea.

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Swimming through the clear and turquoise waters was our bridge to  saviour from the thick and heavy heat. Here I learned what it means to see deep blue. Opening your eyes underwater you could see down clearly for meters of shinning crystal sparkling. Snorkelling was even more splendid as we swam close to the coral reefs and saw an entire world of enlightenment. Fish in all shapes and colours, coming up to greet you, and rock and weeds alive in vibrancy.

IMG_2373The sea, red earth, and mountains became palaces to explore. The stillness allowed you a break from all heavy thought and you just had to surrender to what was in front of you.

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… We lay sunbathing on the wooden raft  buoyed not twenty meters from the rocky shore that we reached through a break in the coral bed. The red mountains of Saudi Arabia lay sheathed in a fog of dust soon to be released by the loss of light as the sun fell behind the pale mountains of Egypt behind us …

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 … Dark slant shadows caused by the steep edges of the mountains angled against the rays of sunlight gave texture and some kind of confusing puzzle to look and to ponder. Swimming back to the seaside restaurant, and finding comfort in the soft pillows on the floor, the wind blew the hairs of the thatched palm leave roof and created a contrasting battle for which sound of the ocean was true – the waves crashing truthfully against the stone store with the tumbling of sea shells, and the rustle of leaves overhead …

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… The mountains then turned a losing blue a few shades dimmer than the light of the colourless sky. Their large forms could easily be confused for the rigid clouds of an approaching storm. As if playing tricks on our eyes the mountains then somehow became red again – their blueness like a transient myth.  … 

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… The hot wind of the desert is something I will never miss as it drenches me in a staleness nothing around me can quench save for the rolling sea. It is an air thick of dryness and alive in its seclusion of all else living -the barren shore of dusty red rock and else what man has created … 

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… Is the history of nature the same as the history of man? Is one stronger? Which lasts the longest? Which leaves the largest traces of past? Has one created the other? …

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The barrenness of deserts has always clutched me. I find I feel myself walking as a fish out of water – dry and scared to be more so. My mason jar of water is never far from my hands, and every opportunity I get I find myself racing to the sea to replenish myself.

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I appreciated this trip because it was like a farewell to the desert life that had been my home for so long. Soon I would be saying goodbye to the Middle East – a nostalgic passing into the beginning of another greater adventure.

 

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