Last weekend, Eihab Boraie decided to abandon the city in exchange for the seaside, making his way up to Dahab's Abu Galum with adventuring crew Destination 31, to explore the gems the area had to offer, from the Blue Hole's kaleidoscopic corals to the breathtaking scenic mountains...
Cairo routinely sucks the life out of able bodies. It can be a soul drainer, be it waiting in traffic or giving in to the couch; ultimately wasting hours deciding what to order; wasting days binging on TV series, devouring seasons that become one of the few ways you track the passing of years. Trying to connect to nature is a futile endeavour in a city that continues to choose to fill its streets with garbage, while incompetent minions recklessly kill what few trees remain. In an attempt to maintain sanity, the course of action required is to flee. I needed to get as far away as I could from Cairo’s lethal doses of stress, even if only for a weekend, I wanted to explore the country in search of adventure, nature, but most importantly, to find serenity. Taking me on an affordable trip that would ensure I found all three, I joined a Destination 31 trek to the beautifully isolated Ras Abu Galum.
On a Thursday night, I find myself rushing to finish work, pick up my wife, drop off my dog with her friend, make sure my cats are taken care of, and ensure someone will water our plants. Running late in the city of errands we caught a rare break, as Ahly were playing Zamalek and for 90 minutes the roads of Cairo were traffic-less. We arrive to our meeting place in front the beautiful Baron palace in the nick of time. We set out for what turned out to be the most difficult part of the trip; a bus ride to Dahab. With every checkpoint comes delays and further stress, but after 8 hours we finally arrived to Magic and Beauty checkpoint of Dahab. After a short hold up we arrived at the hotel to get some much needed sleep to prepare for the day ahead. Upon waking, we were treated to hotel breakfast to fuel up for our adventurous excursion.
The real trip began when we arrived at the famous Blue Hole in Dahab. Almost instantly the weight of city stress was removed, and replaced with snorkelling gear as we prepared to explore one of the finest snorkeling and diving spots on the Red Sea; the Blue Hole. Living up to its reputation, the Blue Hole didn't disappoint; the second I passed through it crevices and reached its drop off I found myself being engulfed in colourful fish that put Pixar’s Finding Nemo cast to shame.
Surveying the untouched and sometime alien looking coral, surprises emerged from the deep. At first I thought this large creature of the deep heading towards me was a dolphin - at least it seemed to move like one - but the closer it got the more it took on human characteristics. Upon further investigation, I learnt that the Blue Hole is a popular destination for free divers. With no oxygen tank, they use a massive tail fin to help increase speed under water and a rope to guide the divers on their descent into the Blue Hole. Free diving is a death defying adrenaline rush as divers attempt to reach to the bottom in a race against time and lung capacity.
Once our bodies had adequately wrinkled from the salty sea water, we set out on a hike through the mountains to find the secluded and beautiful Ras Abu Galum; mountains covered in sand and eroded rocks to the left of us, mesmerising shades of blue to the right of us as we zigzagged our way through the picturesque setting adventuring the breathtaking terrain. The mostly flat trek covered roughly 7 km, and was perfect for any beginner looking to ignite a passion for hiking.
Upon arriving at Ras Abu Galum, we were treated to a uniquely traditional and tasty lunch prepared by the locals of the area. The camp site itself was stripped to its bare bones, as it was not built with luxury in mind, but rather allows its visitors the opportunity to take in the surrounding in all its natural beauty, while getting to know one another. Friendships were easily formed, and with the sunset and the weather remaining comfortably warm, the Destination 31 tribe decided to set up our sleeping bags right on the beach to catch the majesty of the stars.
The night was filled with shooting stars as the universe released itself in high definition, thanks to a lack of city light pollution. It left us feeling small and insignificant in a vastly infinite universe. Despite being outdoors and even with the winds picking up, we slept very well. Rising with the sun, we began the day with a hearty breakfast and set out for another round of snorkelling in Ras Abu Galum.
Once again we were treated to a stunning untouched coral landscape teeming with life. It’s hard to decide which snorkelling site was better, as each had their unique features that made them memorable in their own way. With an abundance of coral, it is hard to swim freely without being mindful of the razor sharp edges of these sea dwellers. After cutting my foot on some coral, I was pleased to find Omar and Lina of the Destination 31 team had prepared for this eventuality and rapidly took care of the wound.
After a quick fix, we headed out by trucks to equally gorgeous Blue Lagoon, another beautiful isolated location, whereby we could go swimming without worrying about coral. After a refreshing dip, and a fine sip of tea, we returned to our campsite to pack up, and proceeded to return to the Blue Hole. Instead of hiking back, the Destination 31 team organised a couple of boats to take us back, enjoying the scenery from a different perspective.
Upon docking, the Destination 31 team escorted us to Dahab’s bustling boardwalk to take the opportunity to visit its colourful bazaar and find a place to eat. After a hearty meal, it was time to endure the painful bus ride returning to Cairo. Part of me wanted to stay there forever, living stress free under the sea, but sadly there was no Disney genie or evil witch to grant me the gift of gills. Surrendering to the call home, we returned to Cairo, with new friends and memories that will remain cherished.
Upon reflecting on the trip I was very pleased with the way Destination 31 handled the excursion. At no point of time did I feel unsafe, even when camping outside with all my gear. Moving from location to location, it was clear that Destination 31 had developed a strong relationship with the locals, and whatever was needed was provide even in the most isolated terrains. The adventure itself was very affordable, and instead of wasting thousands on a resort, we were able to explore and do more, taking in Egypt’s hidden beauty #BeyondCairo. Providing almost all the meals, there was little money that needed to be spent outside of the package provided. Talking with my wife, we agreed that we would have to do another trip real soon, and unsurprisingly we weren’t the only ones, as many of our fellow Destination 31 tribe members began coordinating together which trip they would take next. If I could only change one thing about the trip to Ras Abu Galum, it would definitely be to extend the trip longer. Considering that this is my only complaint, one can deduce that Destination 31 is a wonderful adventure travel company that will help you safely reconnect with nature, but more importantly provide an escape from the nightmarish stress that is living in Cairo even if you only have a weekend to getaway.
CairoScene photography by Shehab Muhamd.