Sharm el Sheik, Egypt
OK…put this city on your “must visit” list – a beautiful, pollution-free metro area, located on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, between the Red Sea & Mount Sinai. Jerusalem to our right, Jordan to our left. Magnificent beaches & waterways, several beautiful resorts, modern shopping, very nice, wonderful people – and extremely proud of their heritage. The area is only 16 square miles, accessible by cruise ship or a short flight from Cairo. We were dead tired from our long day in Luxor but were looking forward to our first (& probably last) camel ride. Our group today consisted of 3 busses – about 120 ship passengers - we left the port at 7:30am. Weather forecast was 100 degrees, hotter in the desert. With so many people signed up for this tour into the desert to ride camels, we didn’t know quite what to expect. Surely NOT 120 camels? Probably two each on a camel, and probably several different trips for each camel. We were excited about this particular tour for several reasons but one in particular, we were to travel across the very same terrain once traversed by Jesus, Mary & Joseph – how awesome!! We traveled approximately 30 minutes out of Sharm el-Sheikh on a very nice roadway and once in the Sinai desert, our busses began a short journey toward a mountain range on a dirt road – quite a dust trail we were raising! Off in the distance at the base of the mountain, you could see what appeared to be a crowd of several dozen people but the closer we drew, it was clear there were only a very few people and DOZENS OF CAMELS waiting for us. First, it’s important for you know we were being hosted by a religious group known as Bedouins. Most of Bedouins’ ancestors came from the Arabian Peninsula, so Bedouin laws, customs and religion blend both Islamic & pagan beliefs. The resilience and amazing hospitality of the Bedouins are a product of their lifestyle in the Sinai – a crushing location, a harsh climate, and the need to keep searching for water. Even today, as we learned, the wealth of a Bedouin is measure in camels & children, but Western technology is very slowly making its presence felt. They still tell us, however, never go into the desert without a Bedouin because you’ll never find your way out – the Sinai is not like the Sonoran back home – the wind constantly blows out here and the visibility can deteriorate in a matter of minutes. So…as I was saying…we drive up to the Bedouins and they have nearly 100 camels waiting for us, all down on their knees (the camels, that is) and ready for a trip through the desert up to their mountain camp. Now…you can just imagine…these are folks just off a cruise ship – they’ve been eating buffets for 3 months – the camels look at us like “there’s no way I can carry that much weight” – so we start mounting our private camels, one-by-one. Some folks hop right on, and the camel stands up. Some folks are so big they can’t raise their leg over the saddle to begin with! Some folks are only half on when the camel stands – not good – it took 6 men in one instance to help a guy “right himself” after the camel stood prematurely. It was quite comical watching everyone trying to mount these beasts – we all had several good laughs. Cheryl didn’t have any problems – I was able to mount pretty easy as well, though another week at the buffet and I might have had a problem too! One gal (about 300 lbs.) was able to mount, but the camel just sat there on his knees…you KNEW what he was thinking…”you’ve got to be kidding” – he was pretty adamant…he wasn’t going to get up – he was spitting, growling, shaking his head from side-to-side…finally the owner got him up and we all began our journey together! It was about a 25 minute camel ride to the base of the mountain – we all dismounted and were led on foot through a narrow, sandy passageway and we came upon the Bedouin camp – they had a large tent setup for us as well as cushions on the sandy floor where the family served hot tea & coffee. Although the temp was very high in the desert, the area under the tent was quite cool with a gentle breeze. Then the Bedouins performed various dance routines for us – it lasted about 90 minutes and was VERY enjoyable. Check out the photos! Once back on the busses, we took a different route back and briefly toured the city – a truly beautiful place. We were only scheduled for a short day as the ship was scheduled to leave at 1pm for the Suez Canal. Hard to believe – we rode camels over the same area where, according to biblical records, Jesus traversed the land – and only a few miles from here, Moses was given the 10 commandments! How awesome…how inspiring! Oh…and the jellyfish I mentioned yesterday – they are here in Sharm also by the thousands but do NOT sting, and we learned they are here all the time. We were also told that the last measurable rainfall in this area was back in 1994 – 17 years ago! Definitely safe to plan a BBQ or outdoor function! Tomorrow…the Suez Canal full transit and then on to Athens, Greece.