Arriving alone for a second visit to Dahab on Egypt’s Sinai peninsula I had a solitary dinner of hummus and baba ganoush washed down with Egyptian red wine in the big tented open-sided cafe by the sea and listened to the waves.
After the journey there, the intention had been to do a bit of unpacking before an early night. However I had met a friend, Hemaid on my first visit and found myself sending him a text message from the soporific cushions of the cafe. ‘I will be there in one hour’ was his swift reply.
He waited for me, parked in a dusty side street a few minutes walk from the hotel. ‘Marhaba habibi, I have dinner with my brother at eleven.’ And serenaded by a local music station we proceeded to drive past the men smoking in the roadside cafes and the people walking home until there were no more low white buildings.
We drove and we drove and ahead of us the rocks gleamed white in the jeeps headlights. The road became bumpier and we closed our windows against the dust and I wondered how he was going to return me safely to the hotel before his late dinner with his brother. When the road could not be described as a road anymore and all round was pitch black I dared to venture ‘we’ve come a long way..’. ‘You think I kidnap you?’ he laughed.
Eventually after manoeuvering up a steep incline with an startling drop down to the sea
on one side and alarmingly after our kidnap talk we saw the lights of a stationary car. We parked close by.
‘This my brother Abduallah and this his friend Zayed, I have fifteen brothers’. Two smiling and friendly men squatted in their grey djellabas on the shingle beach by a large shallow pan over a fire. Although I had eaten (and eschew flesh) the aroma was delicious.
As is the Bedouin way there were cushions and blankets and tea and the utmost comfort to be had in this deserted remote area. All was quiet apart from the sound of the sea and the soft Arabic chatter of the men as they ate their meal of crabs caught in the cove with tomatoes and onions. I looked behind me at the stark moonlit white mountains all around and then lay down on the blankets and cushions and watched the black sea shimmer and ripple with the luminescence of the moon and the stars. Any given part of the black black sky gave up its stars after a few moments of focused attention.