Monday, July 07, 2003

Peace Through Disco

It's been a long time since I posted. I've been working too hard to reflect on life; I guess that in itself is a reasonably important observation. But now I'm in Sharm el Sheikh skipping school and hiding out from phone calls. Sharm is quite an extraordinary place. The Sinai Peninsula was returned by the Israelis with the Camp David accords, and the first people other than the Bedouins to live in Sharm were divers. The reefs here are extraordinary, even now after way too much building and development.

I first came here with my children and some friends from Alexandria in about 1991. At that time the facililties were still a bit rugged, although there were about 4 or 5 hotels. Now Naama Bay is almost a small town. The good points are that there are doctors and dentists and grocery stores, but the bad points are quite a few thousand too many visitors for my taste. I have the luxury of a house on a hill in an Italian time share compound with a lovely garden and a view of the island of Tiran in the middle of the Gulf of Aqaba. My late husband bought the villa from the plans of the compound and we had it built to specification with enough bathrooms that half the Egyptian army could take showers at once, very useful when you have a houseful of salty teenagers who have to make themselves beautiful before heading off to Naama Bay's disco's.

When we first had the house, I used to have to carry most of my food down from Cairo. Now I come down with the minimum and can pick up reasonable fruits and vegetables, fresh bread and even the sorts of non-necessities such as halloumi cheese that are so nice while on holiday. Usually, I stock up on my way into Sharm and head for the house, where I install myself on the lawn to watch the colours of the island change all day long. The sea may be still as oil or choppy with the wind off of the Saudi desert. The island is pale beige in the morning and grows darker through the day reaching a rose pink in the evening. I can see the water just off the beach below where sometimes dolphins and manta rays play just off the reef.

There is a strange trans-national aspect to Sharm. Although it is nominally Egyptian, our European tourists outnumber the locals, and the topless tourists afford endless entertainment for the waiters and beach boys from the villages in upper Egypt. It's extraordinary how quickly they learn Italian and German! One of the most amazing things to see is Sharm el Sheikh on the October 6 weekend, however. This is the same weekend of Yom Kippur in Israel, and the Egyptians are celebrating the October 6/Yom Kippur War in which they came the closest to actually winning a conflict with the Israelis. So what do you find on this holiday but Sharm absolutely full to the brim with the less religious Israelis and holidaying Egyptians. Maybe the UN could learn something here. Peace through restaurants and discos.