Five days of relaxing by the Red Sea. Not much to do but snorkel and smoke sheesha (don't worry mom and dad, that's just flavored tobacco!), and of course relax. The people are friendly, everything is dirt cheap, and the sea is clear and teeming with life. If I hadn't just taken a bus from the Israel/Egypt border, I might think I was back in Southeast Asia again.
Actually, while I was relaxing, Gil must have been working hard, because he somehow managed to learn how to swim while we were in Dahab. Like a fish! Nothing like the beautiful reefs and some puffer and lion fish to inspire an aquatic breakthrough.
While the coast is beautiful, we wish the Egyptians would take a cue from the Israeli's and go to greater length protecting the reefs - in the short 30 - 40 years this has been a diving destination, the corals have suffered extensive damage, and it doesn't look to us like much has changed to prevent further harm.
From Dahab we also took a midnight hike up to the top of beautiful and eerie Mount Sinai, where God delivered the 10 commandments to Moses. The stars were spectacular, and the sunrise was even better. At the base of the undulating mountain is St. Katherine's Monastery, the oldest continually functioning monastery in the world. The monastery houses the Burning Bush (well, a decedent of the bush) and the Well of Moses, a natural spring that is supposed to give marital bliss to anyone who drinks from it. Unfortunately, the day we visited, the monastery was closed for a special celebration, so I am not sure if that bodes well for us....
The ride back from Mt. Sinai was hot and sweaty, but we passed the time staring out at the endless burnt desert. Every now and then we would pass a Bedouin tent and wonder about these nomadic people who have chosen to make such a seemingly inhospitable place their home. I am sure they wonder about us as well, and what we mean for their future, since the tourist industry has been slowly encroaching on their land and impacting their livelihood for decades now. Hopefully they will find equilibrium.