It was a weekend. That’s it, nothing special. But I smelled sand, snorkels and seafood, and for poor students in Egypt, that means Dahab.
It’s not that special of a place, really. Most of the resort towns springing up around the Red Sea are just that: Package tourist hell courtesy of piped-in trees and spray-painted cement. But Dahab, while just a blip on the Eastern edge of the Sinai, tries to be different. It’s hippy-heaven. Or was, anyway. Like most hippies, Dahab has aged and gotten a bit more practical. The days of huts on the beach are long gone – now there is a plethora of rasta-shops, pizza places, and beach-seafood joints with hawkers who’s best English is the type meant to get you to eat at what is (obviously, they say) the best place. Among dozens.
Unlike Cairo, Dahabian English is decidedly Caribbean. Tinny strains of Bob Marley dribble out of inadequate speakers. Want some lemon juice with your fish? “Ya mon,” says the waiter, his carved-shell ganja necklace fighting for hang time with the dreads that sprout from his Muslim head. Ah, Egypt. How thou doth confuse me. I went with a trio of friends – K, D, and M. Oh, what fun. Nothing like mixing friends in the blender of travel and seeing what comes out the other side.
Of course, like any small town, you run into people you know – a gaggle of other AUC students, in my case. Before you know it, we were doing things in bunches; my dream of a vibrant foursome now shot to shreds.
Meet Abdullah. He’s a Jordanian-Palestinian, but more American than I. He’s down with the latest lingo, the current pop culture. Want an obscure (but like, way hilarious, bro) movie reference? Abdullah’s your man. He’s also massive – he played football for a US college team. Three years I think, y0.
Like a cloud, we descended on an “Indian” restaurant for supper that night. We expected quality. After all, the sign out front clearly said “Real Indian Chef.” Ya mon, don’t even try going to the other Indian restaurants on this Egyptian beach – they only have Egyptians steamin’ up THEIR jasmine rice.
Jamaicans, Indians, Egyptians. The multi-ethnic electricity zapped in my head. Especially because most of the tourists hailed from Russia’s Great White North.
I saw one Russian woman, wearing an accent and little else, talking with a man who looked disturbingly like Osama bin Laden. Osama is from Saudi Arabia, has a long beard, wears a turban and a camouflage jacket, and enjoys repression. He likes long walks on the beach. I almost wanted to flash a peace sign at the guy and say, “one love, bro.”
It got late, K and D got happily smashed. K gets un-quiet and D gets boisterous, by the way. They happily chatted about things, and slowly fell over backwards on their bench. The better to see the stars, I guess.
Before you know it, D and M got into deep discussion about, um, things – you know, politics, the environment, religion, values, morality. Nothing that could offend, obviously.
In a short amount of time, daring D insulted M’s man (“He’s a dullard”), convinced her he didn’t feel anyone’s pain (especially poor people or animals), and was going to sell his services to the highest bidding oil company, morality be hanged.
M wasn’t going to let any of that stand unchallenged. Hoo, boy – there’s a good time. For the record, D is not like that. He just was that night.
Then a fellow AUCian strolled into the picture, about the time D and K checked out together – riding the bench into the starlight of sodden dreams.
I missed most of the conversation. Let’s just say, when I came back to get M (she had my room key, mon), she and the AUCian were in a dueling stance ten paces apart. The other girl lifted her pistol . . .
“You just open the Bible, and read it, and you’ll see what is true,” she said.
Such good hippy conversation.
I promised to mention Abdullah’s Unstable Water. The next day he couldn’t get his fins on for snorkeling, his rotund body splashing in the shallow water. “I can’t do it,” he said. “the water’s unstable.” I looked around and didn’t see a pop culture reference coming to his aid, so I did.
Maybe you don’t care, but the best part of the weekend was when I flew through the water, flapping my wings like the large manta ray soaring 10 feet away. It didn’t say anything about Jesus, but I had water in my ears. I might not have caught it.