Dahab and Cairo, Egypt: From Paradise to the City

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Until this past June, the first thoughts to come to mind when I thought about Egypt were delicious food, uncomfortable camels, mosquitos, plenty of sun and paradise.

These were all based on my experience in June of 2012, when I visited a friend who had moved out there to study Arabic. Most of my time was spent in Dahab, a laid-back town on the Sinai Peninsula, along the Red Sea.

Being the SoCal girl that I am, I absolutely loved being by the water, and enjoyed Dahab and the people so much that I decided to cut out the rest of my itinerary just so I could stay. This was paradise for me.

Little did I know I was visiting when election results would be revealed, announcing the successor to then-President Hosni Mubarak. This was a big deal, and a major turning point in Egypt’s history.

It was intriguing listening to the different perspectives locals had on the candidates. One thing that I heard numerous times was hope that tourism would return to where it once was. It had been declining for the past two years, and many shop owners were struggling. During the hour before the results were to be announced, the whole town fell silent in anticipation.

Fast forward to exactly one year later. I found myself back in Cairo, right where I left off, but with a slight twist — in over a week, it was going to be the one-year anniversary of Mohamed Morsi’s inauguration as president.

It was also the day millions of people would protest in an attempt to oust him from office, because they were not happy with many of his decisions and actions.

It was exciting knowing locals and to have my friend Aprille give me insight into the events of the past year, although it was one-sided, because they were all supporting the protests. Everyone I met shared the same viewpoint and planned to go to Tahrir Square for the big day; nobody really knew if this would be the start of a revolution.

Unwittingly, I had booked my flight out of Egypt on the day before the big protest, so I would not be around to see what happened.

We would occasionally pass by organized protests throughout the week, see posters on the streets being put up, only to be taken down later, and on occasion, drive by checkpoints and corners guarded by military tanks.

Despite the political mayhem, I still enjoyed my stay and never really felt unsafe. When we weren’t sleeping in, waiting for the temperatures to drop in the afternoon (it was hot!), we spent our time exploring the many districts of Cairo, hanging out at outdoor coffee shops, visiting hidden rooftop bars and attending free concerts.

I got my Advanced PADI scuba diving ertification in Hurgada, and of course, finally visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza.

I had hoped to make my way back to paradise, Dahab, but there were so many other things to see and do that I felt I had to give my attention to Cairo this time around.  I hope the country finds a way to stabilize, so the rest of the world won’t fear visiting.