We have decided to introduce a gallery of short stories about Dahab and Sinai. People who have stayed or lived here for a while have written some brief "travelogues" about their time here, about the nature and the people... Enjoy reading them and if you yourself have a story to tell, please feel free to send it to us.
The Attraction of the Empty Wilderness
by Donna Harris
What are the usual triggers that can lead one to choose a few days in the desert over other, more mainstream holiday options? After all, all would-be trekkers must be aware that for the duration of the programme, “normal” conditions are not going to prevail. No comfortable beds or “power showers” with a choice of water temperatures from pleasantly warm to refreshingly cool on tap, no flush toilets or air conditioning units for a few days...
Various typical profiles can be used to describe the would-be desert / mountain* explorers who visit the Sinai peninsula . Certainly, most would be united by a desire to get as far away as possible from the familiar trappings of their everyday lives – fax machines, e-mails, temperamental modem connections, and the daily commute to and from work. Whilst modern, western lifestyles now guarantee a modicum of comfort, personal security and varying degrees of luxury – certainly for those who can afford to leave their home countries for a vacation, they tend to over-stimulate already busy minds and do not easily offer the type of surroundings conducive to finding inner peace or genuine relaxation.
The power of these desert and mountain* landscapes is awesome for those receptive to its magical influence. Mentally traumatized or disturbed individuals can find healing in these open wastes and tentatively find their way back to something approaching happiness. The slow pace of transportation by camel or foot, the vastness of the empty space and the lack of external stimuli mean that the desert traveller is obliged to focus on the workings of his/her mind rather than be distracted and allow mentally disturbed thought patterns to continue uninterrupted or unchallenged. The key here is that one learns to quieten the mind and just BE. In this way those who allow the tranquility of the desert to infiltrate their souls can really feel the unity of the world, forgetting their perceived separation from what lies outside them. Isn’t this search for wholeness at the root of all the major religions and belief systems of the world? And doesn’t it describe the spiritual unease of modern life?
Of course, you don’t have to be mentally unbalanced or traumatized to discover great joy and contentment from a few days’ escape from “civilization”, but to quote a very relevant Arabic proverb:
“Whoever walks in the desert is no longer the person he was.”
*By “mountain area” I refer to the distinctive landscapes of the St Catherine region, which while they do not reach the altitude of many European or American mountain ranges, lie at a much higher altitude than the lower lying “desert” areas.