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I always wanted to explore. That took me on adventures through my school's old library that was locked up and restricted, but I couldn’t resist the adrenaline rush. Sure, I got caught, but that doesn't mean I didn't go back, or even get a team along with me to cover my back. Going through the old dusty aisles between old rusty racks packed with books makes me smile, even now as I recall this. I was never fond of spending my recesses in the library, but this bound me there for at least a week.

Back then, I had no idea that my curiosity would grow with me. Years later I was on a bus to Dahab, back in 2016 before Dahab was cool. Actually, a friend insisted on this trip to the extent that he booked the bus tickets, made a WhatsApp group, and sent us a picture of the tickets telling us we're leaving in 2 days. I was actually chilling in Sokhna with the family, so it wasn’t really 2 days. We only had 4 days there, so I was determined to do everything possible during this short time.

 

As soon as we reached our camp, I told them to leave their bags, go bibi, and hop into their swimsuits so we can take off. The original plan (not put together by me, of course) was that we're having breakfast, finding a place where we can rent bikes, and spending a peaceful day on the sand at the Lagouna. After all, we had a long 14-hour bus ride where the bus started making beeping noises so we had to stop or else it was going to go up in flames in the middle of the desert road right before Sharm before the crack of dawn. Yes, that meant darkness and no reception. As we sat there on the side of the road in the middle of the night waiting for two hours for other buses to come pick us up, we watched as the coming headlights got bigger and brighter and waited to see which set was going to be the one to hit us. Little did we know this was only the beginning of our adventure… Anyway, back to our peaceful day in Dahab. The bike shop wasn’t open yet, but the tour agency was, and every poster hanging there was so mesmerizing despite the poor quality, so my sister and I drowned the man with questions and started arranging the program. Our poor friend who was the reason behind the trip stood there astonished, not believing that his peaceful, chillaxing, trying new restaurants experience was about to be shattered. But, despite the invasive changes, he tried his best to enjoy the ride.We packed our coming days with everything you can imagine before leaving the agency, including the Mt. Moses trip. We left to the Blue Hole where I met my new friends whose names I unfortunately can't remember but they were selling us their handmade string hair wraps. They couldn’t resist the fuzzy curly afro I had back then, and gave me at least 10. After snorkeling with high hopes of finding Nemo and Dori, we were introduced to our new love: Bedouin tea. After the magical cup, I was sleeping on the ground for I don't know how long, but they woke me up to leave. The rest of the day went smoothly; we met another group of friends and spent the night around Dahab, and gave the tour shop a visit to try to blend their program with ours so we could be a huge pack of 12 people. We failed to do this for the Colored Canyon and Wadi el Weshwash, so we split for the next day and luckily got the mesmerizing experience of the Three Pools. Along this adventure we got lost for at least two hours on the way to Wadi el Weshwash. It all started when we were following a group of excited teenagers who, once they stepped out of the car, were running literally everywhere – on top of rocks or behind you to start a race. They were like monkeys in the desert. The guide asked if they knew the route and suggested we follow them until he gets water and catches up with us. Apparently it should’ve taken maximum 45 minutes for us to be jumping off the cliff into the water. We ended up walking in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains, running out of water and having no reception. Our journey started at 12 PM, which made us lose some of our clothes along the way and end up in our swimming suits.

After about two hours of aimlessly walking in the desert, a man dressed all in white appeared between some rocks, so we started waving at him and when we were sure he was real we started running back to him. Turns out it was our Bedouin guide who was looking for us because we’d walked an extra 10 miles or so. When we finally reached the water at Wadi el Weshwash, we met a group of people who were leaving and were surprised at how we looked. Apparently they arrived at the starting point before us and when we reached the water they were leaving; the walking distance had taken them around 20 minutes.

How did our little adventure movie escalate to this?

Let me take you back to two days before, when we were having a fancy Italian dinner – pizza, pasta, and wine, though wine wasn’t the best addition to this night. Anyway, after we were done we headed to the meeting point where we got on a microbus heading to Mount Moses. That was when my dreams of being a flight attendant decided to pop out of my subconscious, and I started giving a welcoming introduction speech as if I knew anything. The rest of the group, other than my friend, believed me – especially when we had to stop for the passes and security stuff, I was dealing with the officer like I was an expert. Then, at 1:30 AM, the truth hit me hard that I was supposed to spend the night climbing this huge giant in the darkness with the goal to reach the top before sunrise. I barely walk around Cairo, so I am not that fit to be the person you expect will put this idea on the table and fight for it. For sure I was the one holding the group back because after the first ramp, that wasn't even the base of the mountain, I was tired and started asking every five minutes when we’d be done.

Is this peak the top? Are we there yet?

I managed to make some extra friends along the way – the cameleers who kept pointing to everything as the midpoint and it seemed that I’m never getting near the top. Of course socializing wasn’t enough to distract me from how tired I was and that I still have such a long distance to go, so at some point most of the group, the guide, and my cameleer friends begged me to ride a camel. Eventually I listened. So here I am on top of a camel on the mountain, clinging to the camel in every possible way to the point that it gave me cramps. I was terrified I might fall off the mountain so I kept shouting to the cameleer to move carefully, move away from the edge. Not to mention that the camel was stumbling over small stones he couldn’t see, and whenever I would yell the cameleer would tell me me it’s okay the camel just slipped. So here I am sitting crying on the camel, but whenever I’d pass by anyone from my group I’d wave to them as if I was Queen Elizabeth herself and tell them that I’m speeding up to prepare the peak for welcoming them.

 

This horrifying ride came to an end and I had to climb 750 steps that I thought were actual steps, but they were just rocks piled over each other by the act of nature. By now I’m sure you can imagine how I dealt with that. We reached the top around 5:30 AM, just in time for the sunrise. I’m not quite sure if the view was worth the night, but it has changed a thing or two in me – and I mean the whole thing, not just the view. An extra tip: don’t stay at the top for too long, it ruins the whole experience when boredom starts to get to you.

We took amazing photos and started descending, and that wasn’t as difficult as the climb but the August sun was up and shiny, so the highlight of this story was only exhaustion. At the base and the finish line we reached the Saint Catherine monastery where just slept and missed the entire tour around the holy place. Luckily a guide with some tourists stopped near me so I heard the full story while sleeping. We reached Dahab at 12 PM and for the rest of the day all we managed to do was eat and sleep before our Wadi el Weshwash adventure bright and early the next morning.

It wouldn’t have made sense to end this trip with any of that rest and relaxation my friend had wanted when he first bought those tickets. So instead of heading back to Dahab, showering, changing, eating, and being on time for our bus back to Cairo, it ended with us changing, rushing to a fish restaurant for an hour, then getting on the bus loaded with salt, sweat, sea water, memories, and the spell that Dahab casts on every heart and soul that visits it.