January 1998

We (my daughter and I) arrive at Dahab after a crazy taxi ride through the night across the Sinai under a bright moon. The road is pitted with potholes and the driver turns off his lights as he careens around corners on the wrong side of the road. There is a vociferous argument somewhere in the middle of nowhere and a passenger is unceremoniously dumped.

We survive, and set off to walk to Abu Gelum: we collect a lift from a man R knows, lonely after the departure of his Swedish wife (but not for long: that night we see him entwined with a leggy blond.) Walking, we don’t notice great rocks, deep sand, or very narrow gaps between boulders: in the truck, they are the stuff of nightmares.

At the Blue Hole, we set off on foot again into parched hills, up a rock slide and finally round a bluff looking down to the sea. Now we’re confined between bare mountains and coral reef, trudging over pink rocks with black seams, towards a Bedouin camp. The rocky outcrops could almost be the worn statues of Egyptian god-kings. 

We finally reach a cove with a rocky beach. The sea is lapis lazuli ripples reflecting the gold of the sunshined rocks – the blue and gold of Tutankhamen. A man on a camel sways past, the music of his transistor the only sound, a tall silhouette against the sky as he disappears around the corner.

The way back seems shorter, but even so I slowly collapse into the semi-foetal walk of total fatigue. We sit cross- legged on a carpet and eat Berber potatoes: my daughter indulges in a session of fruitless bargaining for a scarf: and finally I haul myself up and  stagger to bed.