Nuweiba, Egypt, World.

14 March, 2010

(Finally, I know! Enjoy!)

Exactly one night after we finished our first (and exhausting) term at Amideast, we left for a maximum relaxation vacation in Nuweiba, a small town on the Sinai peninsula . We had been hearing about Nuweiba’s glories since the first day we moved in with Stevie, our British/Swiss/Irish/worldly roommate. He described it as a place where you could go to explore the many glories of the Middle East, the nature, the history, the geography, the Bedouin culture, the food, the weather and oh yes, the beach. Stevie told us time and time again about how he always comes back so relaxed (and tan!) from Nuweiba. “you go there, come back and realize how loud and hectic Alex is.” He has been traveling in and out of the Sinai for the past 30 years of his life, yet he still finds himself in Nuweiba every few months. “After 30 years, I can’t be wrong, right?” “Right.”

Stevie left for Nuweiba the morning after our last class. Kenny, Christian , Maria and I left later that night. We finished all of our grades by the early afternoon and packed all of our necessary belongings into backpacks (or a large duffel bag in Maria’s case) and stuffed ourselves into a small taxi with bags of snacks and water and went on our merry way.

We decided to take a night bus from Alexandria to Sharm el Sheikh, from where we had a driver pick us up and drive us to the place we were going to stay. I haven’t been to Sharm, but from everything I hear, it sounds like Las Vegas with a beach. If you’re into that, I’d recommend it, but after hearing stories about how my female friends got tickled by strangers, harangued by men and ripped off by merchants wherever they went, Sharm has been relegated (at least temporarily) to the bottom of the list of places I would ever want to go.

The ride was fairly uneventful, we slept most of the way. For some reason the air conditioning was running at full capacity, perhaps to keep the driver awake for the 8 hour nocturnal journey. I was wearing long pants, long socks, a hoodie, a jacket and still found myself needing to use my towel as a blanket for several hours in an attempt to stay warm. Recently, one of our friends came back from Sharm and was wearing flip flops, which was appropriate for the warm weather in Sharm but totally unsuitable for the semi-arctic chill of the bus. I suppose what I’m trying to say is: if you’re going on a long bus ride in Egypt, bring lots of layers. Lots of layers. Maybe even a heating pad and a thermos.

We arrived in Sharm, at around half past six in the morning. Groggy and frozen, we stumbled our way to our prearranged minivan plopped our luggage and our weary bodies into the minivan for a slumber-filled 2.3 hour ride to Nuweiba. On the way we stopped for a quick pit stop so we could stretch a bit and get some fresh air. All of a sudden (or so it seemed in our soporific state) we were surrounded by long stretches of desert, the horizon framed by jagged rock hills reaching towards the cloudless azure sky. The colors of the hills ranged from a deep brownish red to a dusty gray with some hills a dusty pink which reminded me of a sunbathing manatee.

“These mountains are beautiful, no?” Remarked the driver. I’m not sure if I nodded, or even responded, since I was half asleep, half astounded and entirely exhausted from the journey. We managed to take a few pictures during our quick stop, especially when Christian started wandering off towards the mountain. The pictures we took gave the illusion that he was on his way to make a forty day long journey into the desert to ponder the meaning of existence, when in reality he was just wandering around, several hundred meters from the road, with a minivan waiting for his return so we could go to our lodgings, drink bottled water and perhaps take a nap.

Stevie met us right when we got to Soft Beach, the beachside bungalow village / chill-out area that we were going to call home for the next few nights. Maria and Christian got their own little bungalows, and Kenny and I got our own larger bungalow. These bungalows were sweet and simple. An octagonal little shed with a mattress on the floor, a light in the middle of the ceiling, and a few shelves and hooks to organize our stuff. We quickly unpacked and joined Stevie to enjoy some lemon juice and a delicious breakfast of eggs, potatoes, yogurt salad and some wheat pita bread. Mmm food.

Always the gracious host, Stevie showed us around Nuweiba, or what’s left of it. In a previous blog I mentioned that Nuweiba is a fairly undeveloped beach resort area. This wasn’t always the case. The several kilometer long coast line is littered with resorts and bungalows for tourists, but they had been practically abandoned and most development had ceased since the recent bombings. It also probably didn’t help that we came during a bit of an off season, but Stevie told us from his experience of showing up in Nuweiba for the past several decades, that it definitely hasn’t been the same in recent years.

We came across a modest one-story building with a sign that read “The Baked Shop.” The shop has been operated by a couple of Stevie’s friends for many years. Stevie, along with telling us about how awesome Nuweiba was, would always tell us about his American friend’s bakery where he made cheesecake and olive bread. Every day. Literally. We had to check this place out, like woah.

Here is the short list of the things that we tried from there:

Frozen strawberry juice with cream: awesome
Bedouin tea – black tea mixed with sage brought to the table in a large pot and served in mini tumblers with lots of sugar. It’s delicious and perfect for sleep deprived travelers in need of a pick-me-up.
Chocolate cheese cake: drool worthy.
Vanilla cheesecake: also drool worthy.
Olive bread: Stevie brought organic olives and organic olive oil from Alex for his friend to use in his recipe. I don’t know what was better, the bread or watching Stevie absolutely freak out over the bread. I think they complimented each other well, like a fine wine and a nice cheese.

Also, Jack (one of the owners) had a slim, snow white dog named Ts-Ts (like the sound someone makes at a horse) which Kenny took an immediate liking to and befriended in a matter of minutes.

Have I mentioned in any of the earlier blogs about how I sometimes think that Egypt is trying to kill me? Thus far, I’ve fallen in a hole, sliced my wrist on a whiteboard marker eraser holder, been dropped on my head when trying to do some swing dance acrobatics with Mr. Nisbet… and did I mention THAT I FELL IN A HOLE? Egypt,why? Why do you want to destroy me? Well, even if you break my bones, you can’t break my spirit, because I’m from New Jersey, and I’m tough like that, yo.

This leads me to the next grand event in Nuweiba, which was both hilarious and terrifying, but more hilarious than terrifying. Jack has a motorbike that he rents out to people on occasion. Stevie has rented the bike on more than one occasion to zip around and feel the wind running its gentle fingers through his luxurious Swiss locks. Oh yeah. Christian has some experience riding around on motorcycles so he took the bike for a test drive, thinking he’d rent it later and go on a sunset ride into the horizon, or something just as magical as that. Kenny decided to take it for a quick spin too, he just took the bike up and down the street, humming the theme song from “Sons of Anarchy” as he put-putted down the street.

Being the girl that can never let all the boys have the fun, I decided to give the bike a try. I straddled the bike and realized that perhaps my legs were a bit too short for the bike, but whatever, it’s not like I’m gonna be peddling, right? Christian and Jack showed me how to accelerate, brake and off I went. The feeling of being on the motorbike was similar to being on a bicycle in the sense that I was so connected to the road, yet slightly surreal and detached, like I was sitting at a desk playing a videogame instead of actually going anywhere. It was really cool, I really liked it, but I realized that I should probably return back to the dudes before they get too scared. I decided to turn around in a large (but empty) intersection, making an awkwardly wide turn with my awkwardly wide bike. As I was finishing the turn, I realized that I wasn’t going to make it full circle. And in slow motion, and in the most anticlimactic way possible, the bike, with its overwhelming weight, slowly teetered to the ground. I was fine, I was probably going about .00004 miles per hour at the point, but now the problem was that the bike was on its side and since it weighed probably 10 times more than me, I couldn’t lift it up. I was trying in vain, slightly inching the bike to nowhere, when two pickup trucks with guys wearing kaffiyas and galabeyyas stopped and yelled “Hey, how are you?” Really? I know that Egypt is a country of making niceties and all but I thought that this kind of awkward display of Asian feminine feebleness warranted an immediate “are you okay?” rather than a greeting which could have easily been responded to by a mention of the weather or the stock market. No, I’m not okay, I’m afraid I broke someone’s expensive bike. Moreover, the weather is okay, yes I’m wearing sunscreen, thanks for asking. How ‘bout that Manchester game?

The guys eventually got out of the cars and helped me with the bike. Yes it was hilarious, yes it was funny but I couldn’t help but be completely terrified that I had just broken someone’s diesel powered puppy. I saw Kenny running for me in the distance, there was some gasoline on my foot, the bike was up and ready. Commence ride of shame.

The bike was fine, I didn’t explode and I decided that if I was ever going to ride a motorbike again, it’d be something more manageable like… a Vespa or a mini Honda. Maybe I’ll just stick to bicycles, it’s much more environmentally friendly anyway.

Later on in the day I discovered a fresh bruise on my shin from where the bike tried to nuzzle up on me. The bruise wasn’t so bad, but it was coincidentally placed right on top of my old bruise that I got from when I fell into a construction hole a few weeks prior. Did I mention that Egypt and I have a semi-violent relationship? Perhaps we should seek counseling.

What else happened? Here’s a short list

We played with a herd of puppies that were living in a small resort called the Pelican Hotel. We have pictures of the puppies wearing sunglasses. Squeal!

At said hotel, there was also a large pink pelican. The pelican was kept in a feces infested tool shed in the back of the hotel grounds. This was kind of depressing.

We climbed some mountains. Yup. My phone started getting signal from Saudi Arabia when we reached a higher altitude.

We played the most contentious game of scrabble ever. We also sat around and did nothing (Thanksgiving style) for about 8 hours in a row. It was glorious.

We witnessed the demise and the rescue of a baby goat by the hands of Charlie Farlie, the one eyed chocolate lab with no self control.

We were almost stampeded by a herd of goats chased by Charlie, and his girlfriend Charlene.

This blog took way too long to write. So long that in 2 hours we’re actually departing Alex to go BACK to Nuweiba.

I need to pack. I’m going to leave the rest of the Nuweiba trip as a mystery for now. This will leave us more stories to tell everyone in person. The goat story is definitely a classic. Ask us about it when you see either one of us next.

Kenny will post some of his awesome pictures from Nuweiba soon and we’ll probably have even more pictures from our upcoming journey as we frolic through the desert with Stevie and our two new favorite people, Sara and Jake.

Until next time… ma’salema!

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3 Responses to “Nuweiba, Egypt, World.”

  1. nuweiba said

    hello, when you are in Nuweiba do not hesitate to come over to visit our place Ghannah Lodge. It is a project for sustainable development in the old Bedouin village of El Mezzein. just have a look on ghannahlodge.wordpress.com.
    We also have a daily school programme for the local Bedouin children.
    You are most welcome.
    Greta

  2. laura nisbet said

    Set!!! Be careful!!! We would really like you to survive your egyptian experience! Great entry! We enjoy reading the blog soooo much! Can’t wait to see the photos and to read more!

  3. kat said

    set! i love reading you! this shit is sooooo funny! please don’t break yourself before i get to see you again, and maybe wear your glasses, i hear they help you see holes in the ground!

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