Have You Experienced Your Own Country?

By: Laila Tamer

Exactly like you, I’m always looking forward to travel somewhere during vacations with friends or family. Every year on winter breaks, summer, and so on, many of us travel to Sahel, Gouna, Hurghada, Ein El Sokhna, etc..

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We casually rent a place, or book a room at a hotel with family members and some of our friends; getting it all – pool, beach, luxury service, you know that kinda thing.
But have you really gone out of that bubble?
In fact, it had been a while since I had too, so I took that trip, just this week.
I will specifically talk about one trip that inspired me to an extreme extent: Sinaï.

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It wasn’t my first time going there but I had seen this place from a completely different perspective.  It all started when my mom suggested we go on a family trip to chill and “ne3’ayyar mood” and of course we were all willing to stay in Cairo to make use of the 10 days-vacation with friends. We went on an extremely long road; I remember sleeping almost all of it. As we got into Sinaï, I saw plenty of little camps, bungalows, and huts – they were very attractive yet very simple. We arrived to Habiba Camp in Noueiba, a tiny old camp with a beach, 2 areas for breakfast & lunch, a little kitchen and 9 rooms? And we were the only people there..

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We had been told the owner wasn’t there yet and that he will be there to accompany us tomorrow and that many people will join. My brother and sister, being young and thus always in the mood for activities and stuff to do, had already asked mom to check somewhere else to go: we clearly thought we had nothing to do here.
Mom was a little down she thought we weren’t happy despite the amazing reviews she saw online. We didn’t do much that day.

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The next day, we woke up had breakfast, then the owner, Youssef, a 26-year-old guy, asked us about what we wanted to do and somehow managed to fill all our 5 days with trips. Youssef, is a young man who wanted to continue his parents’ plans, who, a very long time ago built this place to keep the concept of the “simple life” alive. He accompanied us himself all the way to somewhere in between the mountains and a crystal clear water area called Fiord Bay in Taba, won’t say anything except that it was absolutely beautiful, and all the way through, Youssef was guiding us and telling us stories about his town.

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We then went to Habiba’s Farm, I had 0 intention to watch farmers plant, I was sure I had already seen it a thousand times. As we got in, Youssef clearly said they had bought this piece of land exactly like the desert, dry. They plant very rare plants and vegetables producing 100% organic products; the land even had Chia seeds, Kale, Quinoa, etc. Upon arrival, something really caught my attention, the farmer – Ibrahim – started explaining to us in English all the benefits of the plants and answered all the questions my mom had. Might sound normal to you but I was very happy to see someone educated and dedicated to his work and not simply “growing some plants” and no, he wasn’t talking about carrots or whatever, you’re lucky if you know what “Morenga” is.

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Youssef then took my mom & I and showed us something that truly touched me: in the farm, they built a big room using mud, precisely saying no bullets could pass through it, in which to teach the kids English, music, art and agriculture. He said “instead of them being bored and throwing rocks at cars passing by and having nothing to do, they come here and we we teach them these things for 2-3 hours a day”. He also added that volunteers and teens come on vacations to spend a couple of days teaching, planting, and enjoying the simple life that we are about to completely demolish. On our way back, my mom had asked him why they didn’t let the government take control of this place as it’s very touristic. He clearly answered they know they would add this superficial layer with hotels and luxury to the place and will cover the main purpose of the site.

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We enjoyed the fire and chill music at night but also the very deep conversations with Ibrahim. Ibrahim has his own article sacrificed for him only. So it’s safe to say we had these conversations every night by the fire. The following days, we went to Dahab, snorkeling in the clear water, sunbathing, and so on, we also went hiking up some mountains and simply gazed at the spectacular views from the top. Can i also say the food was beyond amazing?? Like i remember talking to someone who thought being away of the city made bringing “good quality” food harder but in fact, it’s not. Everything is fresh and reaaallyyy tastyyy.
By now, some people might already have gotten the message and others might think, okay and?

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To sum up this long story, the only things we know are beach, speakers, hotels and elements of “luxury vacationing”, but you should really look further, there are so many beautiful places that do not depend on luxury but on people and concepts that truly will inspire you. I, myself, cannot possibly forget the people I’ve met there and the way they managed to make an imprint within me. I am inspired by them, and there are still many places and people in Egypt who started from nothing and amounted to a lot. People with different mindsets and people who work hard, a lot of them are also people who go unnoticed. People who neglect money and materialism. People who stand for their beliefs. People who are determined. People who aren’t valued because they’re considered different.

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Maybe you should get out of your bubble and forget all about your “social status”, and start enriching yourself about these cultures and meeting people, hearing their stories – from when they suffered till they reached – maybe you should go teach some children things that come easy to you. While you’re at it, try standing for a belief of yours that doesn’t necessarily match other peoples’ – much like Youssef and Ibrahim. Change your ideology.

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