Unwearying as we were, we got ready to leave the Saint Katherine monastery. It was a destination that offered us a unique experience. I believe that it is worth living it for whoever is visiting Egypt.
We greeted father Paisios and left following western course. We wanted to reach Sarm el Sheikh riding on the western side of Sina peninsula and not eastwards as many proposed to us.
Asking, we were informed for the following: There is a visa that Egypt issues and concerns only the region of Sina. You can visit the monastery and the eastern coast of the peninsula up to Sarm el Sheikh with this one. It appeared a little strange to me as I wasn’t reported something relative at the embassy in Athens, although I asked. Our visa covered the entire Egypt giving us the ability to materialize our plan.
We rode for about 70 km. when we met the crossroad with the national motorway Cairo – Sarm el Sheikh. The road crossed an arid region, with a lot of heat, minimal settlements and a landscape that had the characteristics of a desert.
Little before the village Feiran we found an oasis! It was a relatively small area with big palms. A sign in English that informed us of tea and coffee constituted the reason for a few-minute stop. The enclosed space belonged to Bedouins who didn’t know a word in English!!! However they welcomed us, offered us coffee and made us a little tour in the oasis. Substantially, it was the Garden of Eden… Within an arid area, this little piece of land allocated a paradise of plants: lemon trees, orange trees, pomegranates, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, vegetable marrows, maize, basils and even more plants that I didn’t know their names! And all of these came from a big drilling in the centre of the oasis...
We continued on a desert way. We ran into very few vehicles. As long as we advanced further, the vegetation lessened. At one point, we ran into a police check that also signaled the national road to Cairo and cosmopolitan Sarm el Sheikh (160km.). We headed south.
The way passed –substantially- from a part of the desert. There was a vast valley that led to the sea from one side and to towering mountain volumes from the other. The brown color of the desert and the light blue one of the sea created a marvelous result! There was much heat.
We passed the city of El Tor (75km.) and after a while we ran into the first oil-well with the flame flowing up from its funnel! Advancing, we distinguished floating oil-wells a little further... The road was very comfortable, an immense straight line. There were warning signs if the road crossed a “supposed” turn somewhere!!!
About 30km. before Sarm el Sheikh, we moved between naked mountainous volumes. We could discern the glamorous tourist resort built on a small peninsula far away. We passed the National Natural Park and reached the city borders that were guarded by the police. Once again, there were check of our passports and some typical questions about the aim of our visit and our stay-time in the city. Entering, we passed beside the small marina that was full of yachts that belonged mainly to rich Europeans and Arabs.
Nevertheless, Sarm el Sheikh didn’t impress us... Initially, we made a small stop for water and information. Then we wandered in the centre as well as regionally seeking a beach. However, all of them were enclosed and exploited by enormous hotel groups (see Marriot, Hilton, etc) that didn’t leave you the room even to take a look at the sea because of their buildings! An extremely tourist region that has lost its beauty in my point of view!
There are many people that consider Sarm el Sheikh to be the best tourist destination of Egypt. I believe that each one’s opinion relates to the way that (s)he conceptualizes holidays. So, if you want to come to στο Sarm el Sheikh and have a loose and relaxing time in a block of hotels, without being interested in picturesque ports and ways, then you have come to the right place... For us, though, it was completely inappropriate! It was so inappropriate that I didn’t have the mood to take even one photograph... Of course, we abandoned our initial plan to spend the night there.
Disappointed, we continued our way to the close village Nahaba which was, substantially, a more economic replica of Sarm el Sheikh. We stopped at a gas station near the airport having the chance to start a conversation with a helpful employee. He proposed to us Dahab, while simultaneously we remembered the words of the young couple from Kalamata in Djebel Musa (Moses’ Mountain).
We traced a new course and put a new destination... which wasn’t anyone else from the picturesque Dahab (80km.). The comfortable –in spite of our tiredness – ride passed through a natural park, the Nabq Protectorate. An area which is most famous for activities such as rides on camels and off-road sallies with 4WD vehicles! The road is destined to be a motorway and I guess that one way had recently been given to traffic. The landscape was marvellous! It was always arid, with almost non-existent vegetation and towering mountainous volumes covering the area.
About 10km. outside Dahab, we were stopped again for the typical check. Passports, luggage-check... it was as if we were at an airport!! Maybe, all of these related to the bomber attacks that had taken place a few years ago and the Egyptian authorities took measures.
Entering the village we wandered for a little bit running into the expensive hotels in the beginning. I didn’t want to believe that it was like Sarm el Sheikh! Fortunately, reality was different in the end. On the north side –signs for Police- we found what we were looking for: a small quite picturesque village, with cheap dignified accommodations with many options to spend your time beautifully...
We chose randomly the Hotel Oricana (200E£/double room & breakfast), a very beautiful and well-groomed hotel that provided us with all the amenities. The most important thing, though, was the hotel’s amiable and friendly owner, Hossam, who we “bond” with right from the start.
After we settled down, we enjoyed a beautiful meal by the pool as we didn’t find the strength for a ramble in the village. Furthermore, we decided to attend diving lessons for the next 3 days. An activity for which, Dahab and generally the Red Sea coast were known for.
From the first time I felt that the place would hide beautiful and pleasant surprises...