It seemed as though I followed the Nile for most of my time in Egypt, and like a young lover I was held in awe of her mystery, her bounty and her beauty. When the time came to finally part ways and I arrived in Sharm El Sheik, there was a certain sadness that tugged at the corners of my mouth and pulled at my shoulders. At the airport, our driver rushed about in a desperate hurry and I could not help but feel mildly annoyed. Perhaps it was true that this town was overrun by tourists, perhaps my love affair with Egypt would be forced to an abrupt, merciless stop. This was not my Egypt. This was not the Egypt that held the magic of the temples, tombs and hidden treasures. This was somewhere else. When the driver turns to me and asks “First time in Sharm?” and then to my confirmation replies enthusiastically “You are welcome to Egypt! Inshallah, you will return” I realise that I may have been far too hasty in my judgement of both the driver and of Sharm El Sheik.
At the hotel, we receive a brusque reception. Two odd-looking goblets are placed before us. At the base of the sweating glass lies a fluid of such insincere green that I am almost scared of it. Floating on top of the green perversion is a clear viscous liquid that seems to be besotted with the unnatural colour beneath it as it reaches down grabbing eddies of green, colouring itself. I am staring unpleasantly at this concoction, thirst and the heat of the beginning of an Egyptian summer rivalling common sense when a man from reception comes by, urging me to relax and take a sip. His coaxing reminds me of the men at the souks who shout “Madam, no hassle here” as you walk past, increasing the urgency and volume almost to a shout when they see that they have not got your attention. It is a reluctant sip and a grateful sigh when we are given the key cards to our room.
As usual, when I am in proximity to the ocean, I am drawn to the water. The sand is white and hot under my feet and I walk to the water’s edge with tentative steps. It is a hop, skip and a graceless dance to dodge the sharp pieces of coral and shells recklessly cast out by the sea. Around me people sun themselves, turning alarming shades of pink and deep red, perhaps it is the stark contrast between their sun bitten bodies and the white sand that brings some sort of harmony to the scene. I wonder if I can hear their skins crisping in the sun. Before my thoughts lead me astray I look to the cool water to remedy the effect that thought has on my mind. The water forms an unbroken line of pale green closest to the water’s edge and a deeper blue where the reef drops off. Watching the water lap over this unbroken line is hypnotic. I am not sure how long I have spent mesmerized by that contrast, time seems to have no meaning. My mind grapples with a thought, but trying to hold onto it is as foolish as holding a handful of the salty water beneath my feet. I open my hands and let it slip away as easily as the water would and it is taken back to the ocean. Small waves break the surface of green and blue with faint, unstructured white lines and snorkelers close to the reef are gently bobbed and swayed with the motion. In that moment, it is as if nothing else exists. Paradise? I am not sure, but this feels close.