It’s the end of Eid Il-Fitr, and I am sitting in a Cairo Starbucks. Mind you, I do not frequent Starbucks, here or in the States. But, you know, it’s the final day of Ramadan-type festivities and it feels like a good afternoon to sit somewhere quiet and study Arabic vocabulary. I don’t actually drink coffee; every year or so I attempt to choke down a few sips, and I already met my quota for this ritual last month.
The great thing about foreign Starbucks locations is that they typically have more non-coffee options (at least from the Starbucks local to me). In Asia this past summer, for instance, I discovered Blackberry Current smoothies. Since I drink tea here in Egypt frequently, today I thought I’d buy my second chocolate chip frappuccino ever (without coffee). I take a sip.
And BAM! Coffee.
I taste coffee. I don’t like coffee.
It’s only a little bit. But it’s coffee.
I thought about going to the counter and saying, “Excuse me, I believe my drink has been tainted with coffee.” Then I considered that I was in a Starbucks, and such behavior would be absurd. Besides, it it’s only a little bit of coffee.
Perhaps my delight in cold frou-frou drinks can be traced back to this past weekend, which I spent near the Red Sea in Dohab. Froufrou drinks galore!
Hydration is important, folks. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
The Red Sea contains a high concentration of salt. Consider the following details while reading them in an ironic tone inside your head:
1. I go snorkeling in the Red Sea.
2. I get sea water in my mouth.
3. The water makes me thirsty.
4. I look at fishies in the sea.
5. I leave the sea and order cold hibiscus.
6. I eat some fish for supper (And also mousaka, which has no relevance to this sequence, but which I’ve decided I like very, very much).
This weekend in Dohab was rather wonderful, actually. On the one hand, it’s everything I’m inclined and trained to dislike. Western tourists in search of tans and expensive thrills, over-zealous shop owners, aviator sunglasses and bathing suits-that-ought-not-be-worn-in-public, the like. Haha, Don’t laugh at me too hard for writing this in a posh Starbucks while propagating my western-ness. There are two sides to every card, and a time for everything.
What I discover in Dohab is something I get little of. Nothingness.
Nowhere to be, nobody to keep track of, no need to access anything outside of that constructed little world. I spent hours over meals talking with friends in sunshine or by candlelight, afternoons sitting on cushions under woven roofs as the Red Sea lapped hungrily at the shore a few feet away. Cats wandering around or lazing one cushions nearby, just to demonstrate the unconcerned life. Traversing desert areas in jeeps with no gauges but a speedometer to get closer to the reef at “Blue Hole” while bypassing packs of plodding camels. In short, I came to appreciate the beauty beyond the droves of would-be divers in the solace of the sea, and the comfort of conversation.
And the evening and the morning were the second full day. And at the ending of the third day (around midnight), I make a mad dash with Zachariah and Kyle to help them find balloon or “harem” pants at a local store whose owner had cut me a decent deal earlier on a fabulous army-green pair. I am quite convinced that they will be an important part of my wardrobe forever.
I then did sit on a bus to make my way to Mt. Sinai.
At 2am, I trudge off the bus and made my way to a small shop next to the parking lot and made an impressive transaction in Arabic. “Maya?” I inquire, knowing I don’t have enough water with me for the trek ahead. He replies in English—“big or small?” “Kabir.” I get my 1.5 liters, pay the heinous fee of five Egyptian pounds, say shukran, and depart.
I am awed by the sheer number and vibrancy of the stars in the sky. It is like a planetarium! For the first time, I think I have an idea of how the Greeks were so stricken with them.
The climb up Mount Sinai is no trifle, particularly in the dark. It takes about two and half hours. Picture Mordor and Mt. Doom without the ring of power. It really felt and looked like that, at times. The final portion of the “path” are the Stairs of Penance, which mostly make me feel as though my calves will be paying penance for a couple days [Editor’s note: they did].
At the summit I watch the sunrise and curled up on a rock for some ten minutes. At this point I realize I still have one of those paper umbrellas made for froufrou drinks in my hair, which makes me happy.
I really enjoy going back down the mountain, for some sick reason. I am tired and my tennis shoes have questionable traction, so in many cases I am sliding and skidding about. The path is extremely rocky, so in some ways it is a fun game to avoid rocks and weave around camels. For about a minute, I consider becoming a professional in par-cor, then think better of it. I am the first one to the base near St. Catherine’s monastery, which is great, ‘cause then I get to sit on a rock for a few minutes and people watch.
After seeing the burning bush within the monastery. . . with a fire extinguisher next to it . . . I declare in my mind that this is to be one of the better weekends of my life.
I begin to notice color in my skin after the sun has greeting me so often and so warmly. Maybe it’ll finally melt some of the ice.