Vastness all around! Silence, you hear the blood flow in your ears. Spaciousness beyond reach. Stillness. No electricity. No phone reception. No running water. Clean fresh air. It’s very harsh yet welcoming. You disappear like a spec of dust. Horizons ever expanding. A serene calmness engulfs me as I stare at the vast open desert, breathless with awe. Sand dunes. Mountains. Hills. Valleys. White, brown, black, grey, beige and colored rocks. From my sitting spot, it feels like I can touch the next peak. I start walking and it takes hours just to reach the base. Space and time are different here in the Sinai desert. You lose track of day and time. The only markers are sunrise (didn’t wake up early enough to see it), sunset (time to wear warm clothes), water supply is low (ration water), time to get water and the moon phases! The moon turns this open emptiness into a magical show! We arrived before the new moon. The night sky was a giant sparkly dress shimmering with silvery lights. The crescent moon peeked, surrounded by a festival of star lights. As it grew bigger, the night darkness turned into brightness. No flashlights needed anymore. The moonlight reflection on the sand and rocks lit up the vastness, turning it into a beautiful black and white painting. Words fail to describe the magic. Days and nights passed in blissful Nature immersion. Singing, dancing, hiking, sharing from the heart, cooking, eating, laughing.
The simple desert life is anything but simple. In the absence of city life conveniences, we had to improvise, adapt, share and be flexible. The first night we had no fire so we ate raw food. Everytime someone new joins, we debrief them about where and how to poop, how to wash dishes with sand, where to pee, what to do with trash…etc. Most people get into the Rainbow Gathering spirit, some get a quick taste and leave. Every day presents new gifts, new challenges and many surprises. One day I witnessed an avalanche. Luckily I was out of the way. Strong winds almost blew our main tent a couple of times. We all had to hold on and add rocks to the anchors. Sinai gets 8.6 rainy days per year. One of them happened to be our first day in the middle of nowhere. When the truck that brings us water was 2 days late, people walked several hours to the nearest well and walked back up the sand dunes with full water containers. 7 hours round trip. I was planning to join them but my injuries prevented me. The city born and bred body that I inhabit proved not to be tough enough for the desert. After 2 blissful weeks camping in the Sinai desert, I sustained 3 injuries in less than 48 hours which necessitated my return to the city for medical care.
I slipped while climbing rocks in shorts and scraped my left foot. I neglected to clean the wounds so they got infected and my foot started swelling. That same night I burnt 2 fingers tending the camp fire, one seriously. The following night, I accidentally kicked a rock which lacerated my toe. Walking became a challenge.
We were asked to leave the desert because we didn’t secure the needed permits. We evacuated the next morning. The camp moved to another location and I came to Alexandria to tend to my injuries.
Now, as my body recovers slowly and surely in the busy crowded polluted city, I close my eyes and dream of the moonlit vastness of the desert.
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