Escaping the global pandemic, a small community finds shelter in a Beduin town in Sinai, Egypt.
Dahab. A small village by the Gulf of Aqaba. Cairo is seven hours and 550 kilometres away. The rest of the world is even further. Once there, at the bus station, you may feel like you are in the right place, the one you were supposed to be.
Behind, there are only desert mountains, basalt, limestones and dunes. But there, on the other side of the road, the sea is still warm and calls you magnetically. Even if it is winter and from where you came the world is turning crazy, with a pandemic still raging.
After months of face masks, restrictions and paranoia, the place looks like another universe. On the corniche, people hug and shake hands. They draw closer. “I only came for a few days, but I could stay more”, some may say when they first arrive in Dahab. At least, this is what I did.
While living in the small village, during the last months of a hexed 2020, I mingled with a small, singular community of young folks. They were coming from around the world, weary of the pandemic and its consequences.
Tired of passively accepting immobility and uncertainty, these people decided to spend some time in this confined piece of land. So far, inexplicably spared by the contagion and only slightly touched by the complexities and incongruences of Egypt.
Victoria, 24 years old from Norway, was one of the last I met. After her graduation in 2019, she wanted to travel, to explore herself and the world. She was in Vietnam when things started to shut down. In March, she decided to go back home.
Her plans were halted brusquely and life was put on hold for nine months. Then, a friend met in Asia told her about Dahab. “I knew I had to go… I could not stay home waiting for things to get better,” she recalled, her voice smiling.
One week later, she arrived in Egypt. Camping in the desert for New Year’s Eve, she was laughing and sharing stories with strangers, coming back to the journey she stopped almost one year ago.
In that small singular community, many like Victoria shared an implacable need and will to restart or simply continue their lives with renewed inspiration and trust.
Camilla, 23 years old from Italy, was studying and working online in Milan. At home, alone, time was passing in a loop. The circumstances made her grow anxious and, despite less strict measures, she locked herself home for almost one month.
Coming to Dahab to join her family was the best decision, she told me. It brought her back to a healthier and balanced lifestyle, to a daily routine in which you are not afraid of being with and among people.
For us, living by Red Sea corals and date-palm trees, life took an unexpected turn. People oozed enthusiasm and everyone’s story proved that, despite the circumstances, you can still decide and change. You can find potential everywhere.
Many stayed in the village for some months, taking advantage of remote work and studying. They came back to the world with sweet memories, perhaps even wiser, and aware that life can continue anywhere you truly wish.
Others decided to stay. Like Nader, a young designer from Giza, Egypt. During the first wave of the virus, the months spent home became an opportunity to focus, reflect and plan. For a long time, he had been dreaming to create his design studio, thinking from where to start.
Dahab is now the subject and scenario of his projects. And there is always an undefinable, good feeling when you start something. The “where” does not really matter.