Monday, August 25, 2008

To and from Dahab

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.


Heather said...

The Obama exchange cracked me up, Ira! Do you think your bags would have been searched if you denounced Barack?

irad said...

Thanks for your comment, Heather--it will be interesting to follow the election from this side of the world (where its outcome is just as important as in the US).

A US passport is incredibly powerful in many places, including, and perhaps especially, Egypt. Sadly, I think how we define our American-ness rarely comes into play in such matters. Egyptians are subject to much more intense searches here. Of course, the US passport works best as a "carte blanche" here, as in the US, if you are white rather than, say, Arab-American.