07/17/2009 88 °F
I went to Sinai, Egypt with friends for the weekend to go snorkeling and scuba diving in the Red Sea. I don't have a scuba license so I had to be accompanied by an experienced diver. It was actually very comforting to know someone was with me who actually knew what they were doing! They are also like tour guides since they know that part of the sea so well and can guide you to the most amazing reefs or point out interesting things along the way. Since talking is impossible under the water I was given a quick scuba sign language course. Just what I needed: more vocabulary words! Buying snorkeling gear was cheep in a shook (out door market) in Sinai. Snorkeling is very simple compared to scuba diving so it is okay to go snorkeling solo. Which I did for hours. I don't know if I have ever experienced anything quite so breathtaking. It made me think of how limited our perspective is on land. Diving opened up the world of the sea.
The water was so clear. In the parts where there weren't any coral reefs the blue just stretches out bright and boundless. It felt like flying. The fish were spectacular. They were all sorts of unique shapes and their colors are so vibrant. My favorite were the Regal Angelfish and the Striped Butterfly fish. I saw an eel and some really interesting sea urchins. I even saw an octopus!
To get to the Red Sea from Petech Tikvah took about 4 hours. We had to drive through the Negev desert which was thrilling to me because I think deserts are mysteriously fascinating. And I could enjoy it all from my comfortably air conditioned seat. While driving along I noticed we passed a sign with a warning in Arabic, Hebrew and English to beware of camels near the road. There were also smaller warning signs with just an image of a camel on it like this:
Eventually we saw a herd of wild camels by the side of the road!
Apart from the camels, though, through most of the desert there was no life to be seen. It was swelteringly hot. We drove past mountains of solid stone. There were also mountains that looked like giant mounds of cinnamon.
We drove past many historically famous areas. We drove past Padan-aram which was the home of Rebekah (Genesis 25:20). We drove past Beersheva. A be'er, in Hebrew is a well. Sheva has two meanings. It means an oath as well as the number 7. In Genesis, it is recorded that Isaac dug 7 wells in this place. We also read that both Abraham (Genesis 21:31) and Isaac (Genesis 26:23–33) made significant oaths here. So the name of the town lives up to its double word meaning. Beersheva was also the location of Jacob's dream of the staircase of angels leading to heaven (Genesis 28:10–15 and 46:1–7).
Outside of Beersheva we drove past a number of Bedouin camps.
Bedouins live in the Negev desert raisng livestock. They are nomadic because of scarcity of water and also tradition.
I learned a few Arabic words while in Egypt. Mahaba means hello. I found this on a wall near the sea: