The heat of the Sinai bears down from the cloudless sky all around me while the Red Sea glitters. I drop my bag on the ground and sink into the low cushions underneath a palm frond canopy. “Would you like some tea?” a man in a white jelabaya offers me. Normally, the heat would put me off from a hot drink, however I take him up on his offer. It’s the first of many cups I will drink over the coming days.
I had the opportunity to take advantage of some extraordinary experiences and participate in some wonderful cultural exchange this past year. It was truly wonderful and I cherish these memories, and as this is the time of year to look back and plan ahead I want to share some of those memories and cultural experiences from around the world.
“So what are your plans for while you’re here?”
“I don’t know. I really want to do some diving, that’s for sure.”
“Oh man, go to Dahab.”
“Dahab is my favorite place in Egypt.”
And so went the conversation that set me off on a two-week stay in Dahab on the Sinai peninsula, where there was little more than sun, surf, sand and relaxation.
Yesterday was the first day of Ramadan, and as a non-Muslim in a majority Muslim country I prepared myself and set out to try and get a sense of what this religious fasting looked like here in Egypt.
I ate leftovers and fruit in my cousin’s apartment, filling up before I left as I knew finding food outside would be difficult. I pulled up a walking tour on my iPod that visited eight mosques and Islamic structures and ended near Al Azhar Park, where I intended to watch the sunset, listen to the call to prayer and possibly people watch families picnicking the breaking of their fast.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit all of the sites and I never made it to the park to watch sunset. Fortunately, I got to experience Egyptian hospitality and broke fast with a family in the back streets of Cairo, truly giving me an experience of what iftar, the evening meal during Ramadan, is like.