Where is the Most Relaxing Place in Egypt?

May is just around the corner. It is never too early to think about the beaches. When people think Egypt, they think about the pyramids, mummies, and the various temples. At the end of the day, my most visited destination had to be the beaches.

Red Sea

I have mentioned the Sinai Peninsula in a previous post. Needless to say, it was one of my favourite vacation place while in Egypt.

Sharm el Sheikh – The most famous destination that has its own international airport. I don’t recommend staying in Sharm el Sheikh unless you are there for the clubs. Unless your hotel is at the central area. It would take some taxi rides to get around. I don’t like it for how touristic it is. Though if you are there, make your way down to Ras Mohammad for snorkelling.

Dahab – I cannot count how many times I went to Dahab. It has a little bit of everything. Everything you need is within walking distance (hence no haggling with taxi drivers).

I like choosing accommodations that has a balcony, because you can buy and drink your own liquor, and play your own music. Just note that all tap water is salted and cannot be consumed. Always buy bottled water.

There are so many restaurants. My favourite restaurant/bar is “Yalla Bar”, which I stumbled upon randomly by chance. They have tables for eating, sun beds for sunbathing, or you can rent some goggles and snorkel for a bit while waiting for the server to make your drink.

Blue hole, one of the most famous scuba diving and snorkelling spots in the world, is only a few kilometers away from Dahab.

Mount Sinai is a must go because it is where Moses received the Ten Commandments. In addition, seeing the sunrise/sunset is beautiful there. I ended up going on January 7, a cold winter today. It was snowing at night (which is very rare, it hasn’t snowed for a few years). The early morning of next day, I saw the beautiful view of Mount Sinai covered by snow.

Nuweiba – You stay at a camp – they have huts along the coastline of red sea. Sunbath, snorkelling, drinking tea are some of the activities to do during the day. When the night comes, don’t put away your beach towel yet. Lie down on the beach and stare at the sky: you won’t believe how many stars you can see.

It is nice to go with some friends or you can make friends while there. It is so calm and relaxing. This is the perfect getaway if you are tired of all the noise in Cairo (or any major metropolitan cities around the world).

My personal recommendation would be Dahab for all purpose, Nuweiba for some isolated time with mother Earth, and  Sharm el Sheikh for nightlife.

What Can We Do?

I recalled when I was on a trip to Siwa desert with friends. It was past dinner time. There was an Egyptian sweeping the floor. He worked at the restaurant. He then said something in Arabic, which our Egyptian friend translate for us that he said (roughly) “Where there is Egyptian, there is garbage.” At that point, I had been in Egypt for about 3 months. The longer I had stayed in Egypt, the stronger I feel about this statement.

Aside from Cairo, where you can find garbage piling up on every other street, what I saw wasn’t much better. On one of many trips that I went from Cairo to Sinai peninsula, I have seen first hand that a mother teaching her kid to throwing waste on the bus instead of waiting for a trash can. It was disturbing for a foreigner like me to see.

In Fethiye, Turkey, I went on a day cruise to see the twelve islands. I was happily dancing with hospitable Turkish travellers on the cruise, until I saw the staff dump leftover food into the water, the same water in which everyone was swimming earlier. I was appalled. Maybe they don’t care about mother Earth, but don’t they care about the sustainability of their business? No one would want to go on a cruise of a polluted sea, if they and other operators “keep up the effort”.

In Canada, we are taught not to litter. Dog owners pick up after their dogs. I was so used to putting that banana peel in my backpack till I can find somewhere I can dispose it properly. On the other hand, citizens in different parts of the world are not so conscious about the environment is not getting better if mothers are teaching their kids to litter.

As I travel around the world and see more things, there were many times that the beautiful scenery before my eyes is taking my breath away. Other times I am just in the moment, seeing wildlife freely running across the forest. It makes me appreciate nature, our beautiful planet, and the life that I am living. It breaks my heart to see the locals not caring about the environment. They had been given a great gift from mother nature. And as a “foreigner”, I cared more than they did.

What can we do? How can we make a change?

Love Them Fresh Fruit Juices

If you know me for a while, you know how I feel about eating vegetables. There are so many that I dread. I feel challenged eating raw vegetables, which means salads and I do not get along.

In the fertile land by the Nile, agriculture is abundant. Most who have ever lived in Egypt will tell you about the fresh fruit juice bars in the streets of Cairo. You can find anything from sugar cane to carrots at convenient prices. My favourite has to be the strawberry juice, which taste the best in winter time.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Skene

The “bars” are not ideal places for catching up with a friend you haven’t seen for a long time. There’s no sitting area or ambience that you normally expect. You go there for the juices and Khalas (that’s it).

Any juice bars in Canada is no match. Admittedly, I haven’t been to many back home. However, can you imagine someone who dislike salad so much that she would leave it completely untouched started eating salad in Egypt? It is an attestation to the taste and quality. Salad is still not my favourite dish, but it is not bad.

Back to my homeland, everything is good. But strawberries will never be the same. So are mangoes (in summer). They will live in my heart till the next time I visit.

Fact: Just when I thought I had the best fresh fruit juices in my life, I learnt that in the late 1980s, the government imported the seeds from foreign countries and tossed the domestic ones for unknown reasons. Ever since then, the produce are not as good as before.

A Little Bit on Polygamy (Polygyny) in Islam…

At one of those going away parties before departing for Egypt, I remember friends joking about that I will meet an Egyptian guy while in Egypt and become the fourth wife. Polygyny — perhaps the most notorious part about Islam and very misunderstood. Before we begin, only 2% of Muslim marriages are of this nature. (citation)

There are 2 aspects that many don’t know. The first one being about fairness. Note that Qur’an permits but does not command a man to have four wives. Should he have more than 1 wife, he must treat them the same, including providing separate accommodation for all of them. He bears the responsibility to be fair to all his wives. If he wants to have a car, he should buy 4 — one with each wife. He has to make sure his time is equally divided among the women. Perhaps a rotating schedule? I don’t know how one would keep up with such a schedule realistically.

The second aspect has to do with circumstances. This is even more misunderstood in Western media. If you only understand the fairness part, what about a rich muslim guy? He can certainly afford the lifestyle. As I stated in a previous post, Egypt (or Middle East) is still a men’s country. It is hard for a woman to survive by herself. An Egyptian friend told me one of his friend has 2 wives, which is very rare in Egypt. The second wife was a widow. The couple see this as helping the widow and help raising her kids.

This bring up another very sensitive topic – gender inequality. Why can’t a woman raise kids without a husband, like in the west? This is a complex issue. The lack of father figure would be harmful for the kids in a society like Egypt. Since the father is the man of the household and makes decisions, the lack of it means there’s nothing to stop the kids from going wild and unruly.

I’m not defending polygyny or Islam. It is unfortunate that especially in those societies, it is harder for women to live and raise children by themselves. While it isn’t exactly how it was described by Western media, what they are doing makes sense for their circumstances. It makes stating whether it is right or wrong that much more complicated. One thing is for sure — men and women do not have equal rights in Egypt. The same can be said anywhere in the world. I remember reading an article a few years ago that women were paid 30% less for the same job (an article written in US or Canada).There is still work to be done.