Dahab, Underwater Paradise

It has been a while since my last post and I am now in a new country, Egypt, Mitzraim.  I crossed the border on Shabbat, making it difficult to get an early ride from Eilat to the border crossing…such that I missed the 9am bus from Taba to Dahab, and the next one wouldn’t leave until 3pm…it was 10:15 when I entered Egypt.

I paid 100 shekels to leave Israel, 65 dollars for a full Egyptian visa, and another 75 Egyptian pounds to actually enter Egypt. My taxi ride from Taba to Dahab was 40 dollars. If he hadn’t afforded me a unique cultural experience by stopping at his home in Nuweiba for tea on our way, I would have felt that I was surely being taken advantage of by the entire Egyptian system. As his father slowly and noisily propped himself up to a sitting position, Sammy (the taxi driver), brought out some delicious warm tea supplied by his mom; a woman who as I tried to photograph her, covered up the remaining 5 sq inches of visible skin (her eyes) with her scarf. Our next stop I thought would be Dahab, but we instead headed over to a friend of Sammy’s…a man he called ‘The Donkey’ and heartily laughed about. After following the donkey into the tourist part of Nuweiba, he got in our car and left his somewhere in town.

After a few more (free) pickup and dropoffs, it was just the donkey, Sammy and myself in the minibus taxi on our way to Dahab, Egypt. The road is mostly straight with gentle curves and breathtaking views of the Red Sea and surrounding mountains smack you across the face every second. Somehow, the heat and vibrations of the car put me to sleep momentarily (twice). At one point Sammy grabbed an empty tissue box (full size) and tossed it out of the window as we were traveling 140km/h! I couldn’t stand the disregard for natural beauty, the same disregard that I am now witnessing here in Dahab.

Everywhere, you will read that Dahab is not only one of the greatest diving places in the world, but also an incredibly relaxing atmosphere for any traveler; and it is. However, I am horrified at the manner in which Egypt treats its natural wonder that is the Red Sea. The so-called ‘protected parks’ are jumped all over by local children and dogs all day and fished at night! We are instructed not to touch or disturb the wildlife in any way, while I watch an Egyptian try to sell me fresh clams which I believe were picked right from the reef here in Dahab. Either Egypt needs to take a 180 in their perception of conservation, or they need to give Sinai back to Israel. Speaking of which…

There is quite a bit going on around the coast of Israel these days. The flotilla, which arrived at just about the same time I did, has now been causing quite the ruckus and I am prepared (how prepared can one be?) to be confronted (hopefully not be too closely involved) with renewed Jewish/Israeli hatred in Egypt. More on that in the near future…

I am currently halfway through my Open Water SCUBA certification course and will probably continue with my Advanced Open Water cert next. Following the completion of those courses, I plan to take a night bus to Cairo, spend a day or two around there and Giza, then take a night train to Luxor for another ancient history lesson, and make my way back to Sinai for some more diving experiences. I have less than 2 weeks left of my trip at this point and the night transportation should help to maximize my ‘tourist’ time.

More on Dahab itself in the next installment.

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