Dahab, a town of sand dunes and salty air. Flanked by Bedouin towns and dusty mountains, everyone who comes extends their stay. But the original hippies look lost as they trail tired yoga mats and diving gear down the promenade of same same but different restaurants that hug the Red Sea. Abercrombie & Fitch friends lounge on faded cushions and smoke shisha as Jack Johnson and Bob Marley play on repeat.
I have never been so restless.
I book a ten dollar jeep tour through the desert to Sinai‘s White Canyon and Colour Canyon. There’s about six of us strangers on the trip, they’re all older. We abseil into an underground valley of chalk and limestone. Against white cliffs, the sky has never looked such a dark blue. I take off my Converses, enjoy the Seychelle soft sand and ignore the snake tracks darting through the canyon. The life story of a Dutch woman echoes against the walls behind us, until our Bedouin guide Mustafa turns and pleads,
You will miss the beauty of this place if you keep talking. So please be quiet.
I fall in love with this silent soul. Mustafa could be Hollywood handsome if he was not missing so many teeth. He points out rocks that look like fish, elephants, monkeys. He shows me how to take the white sand and sprinkle pictures into the dusty pink sand. He makes palm trees. I make a heart. He does not get the hint.
We clamber up some rocks to see Ein Khudra oasis. This clutch of palm trees and fresh water at the end of the canyon was a vital pilgrims stopover from St Catherines to Jerusalem. It is now serviced by hosepipes and is the location for our lunch.
Lunch over, we climb back in the battered white jeep and head for the Colour Canyon that lies half an hour further into the desert.
I smash my head off the window as the jeep jumps over sand dunes to the Colour Canyon. The walls of this underground world are naturally striped in brilliant oranges, blues, yellows and purples. An outdoor pastel studio, the canyon’s ledges are covered in natural crayons that have broken off from the wall. Mustafa draws on my face. The relationship is over.