To get to Dahab from Cairo, we took a one-hour flight to Sharm el-Sheikh in Sinai, and then took a one-hour taxi ride from Sharm to Dahab. (There are also buses that go from Cairo that take about 8 hours.). Sharm el-Sheikh is a luxury resort of five-star hotels; soon-to-be-former President Bush holds regional meetings there, most recently a few months back. Dahab is much less expensive and has a reputation of being more oriented toward European backpackers. It is a former Bedouin port turned overdeveloped hippie tourist town and scuba dive center. Its centerpiece is a large bay with enormous coral reefs that sits about 20 miles across the Gulf of Aqaba from Saudi Arabia.
The vacation was great. We stayed at a spot directly on the gulf. We swam (in the sea and swimming pool), read, snorkeled, ate, practiced yoga, and even had a massage. We did a scuba diving introduction which was a cool experience. It was my first time. I got the breathing part down pretty easily, but the descent was unbearably painful on my ears. I suspect congestion (allergies are a possible culprit). Plus learning how to regulate depth (by controlling the air in the vest) meant that I was going up and down a lot, which increased the pressure. Anyway, I made it down to about 5 meters; fortunately, Jenna was able to go down to about 9 meters. While she did a longer dive, I was able to have a snorkel, which was still a great treat.
Leaving from the Sharm airport, we had to show our passports. The first security guard saw the USA passport, looked at me and said, “American?” I nodded. Then, “Obama?” I nodded again. And he said, “Not Bush,” and gave me the thumb’s up. The exchange repeated itself two more times at the airport. When the third officer asked me, “Obama?” I replied, “Insha’allah,” which may be the most common expression in Arabic. It translates literally as “If it is the will of Allah,” and means, “God willing.” So, for example, when I ask someone at the university about our shipment (still waiting), the reply is, “This week. Insha’allah.” Hopefully. Prayerfully.