The Red Sea
Our next morning in Hurghada was an early one.
Allie and I woke up and got geared up to go to the Red Sea. Mohamed had chartered a yacht for the day to go snorkeling. We lathered on sunscreen and packed every camera we had brought (there were four of them, if you’re curious). I was pumped to get the day started.
Mohamed and Ahmed were waiting for us in the lobby again. On the way to the beach, we stopped and ordered a delicious falafel breakfast, which we devoured in the car. A short drive later, and we arrived at the beach. We went through a long, covered walkway that eventually spit us out on the most amazing beach.
The beach itself was along the tiniest of inlets. To the right side, there were beautiful houses whose backyards merged into the soft waves of the Red Sea. From the left side where we entered to the middle of the beach was a resort. Lounge chairs sprinkled the sand beach with shade provided by palm umbrellas. We kept to the left side of the beach and congregated around a small snorkel and scuba shack. The boys warmly greeted the owner, and Allie and I were promptly fitted for out fins and masks.
The yacht itself was incredible. Getting on the yacht, though, was rather interesting. Just as you imagine a pirate’s plank, our “bridge” to board the boat was a mere strip of wood. The men around us kindly helped us board our yacht, and instructed we remove our shoes upon arriving.
Since Allie and I were the first two on the boat, we made no hesitation to scope out the best spot. As soon as we climbed to the top deck of the boat and got our stuff unloaded, Ahmed climbed up the ladder to retrieve us, “Mohamed has us a better boat! Follow me!”.
Allie and I repeated the process of stumbling across the wooden plank twice, debarking and reboarding the boat. This new boat- let me tell you- was something to behold. Our last one was nice, but this one was like wowza. We secured the same spot on this boat as we did on our first one, and by the time we were unpacked, we had undocked and were cruising out to sea.
On our top deck, the four of us goofed off and enjoyed the drinks we had packed. I stuck mainly to coke and water to keep myself (more) hydrated, though the sun was always more powerful than my hydration efforts.
We arrived at the coral reef about 2 hours into our luxury raft rude (ha). I was hesitant to snorkel, as the whole not breathing out of your nose thing kinda throws me for a loop. I ultimately decided I would be insane if I neglected my one opportunity to go snorkeling in the Red Sea, and alas, I fished out my GoPro camera from my backpack and jumped in.
The water was incredible- it was’t cold at all, and the coral reef below me was crystal clear from the surface. Schools of fish swam about our feet, and breathing solely through my mouth wasn’t as bad as I remembered. Allie and I were a laughing mess trying to swim and not choke on water. Eventually, our perpetually foggy masks became too annoying to deal with, and we swam back to the boat. I was super pleased with the GoPro footage and pictures from our dive that I captured from our dive.
The voyage back to the mainland was a lazy one for both of us girls. Diving was a lot more exhausting than I remembered, so I was out cold on the top deck in a matter of minutes. This was all around a great decision, except for the part where I got a crazy mad sunburn. To make the sunburn situation even better, it was the strangest sunburn of my life, as you might imagine from my swimsuit. Shit happens when you snorkel and don’t reapply sunscreen, fam.
Ahmed and Mohamed woke the two of us up for lunch on the boat, and we both chowed down. If we’re being perfectly honest, I went back to sleep after lunch, though this time, wrapped up in my scarf.
Speaking of scarfs, those suckers are the best thing you can bring to the middle east on vacation because of their multi-functionality. Seriously, when you need to blend in with your surroundings, you wrap it around your head like a hijab. When the mosquitos are on the hunt during a dusk cup of tea, you can wrap your body in it. In this case, when you’re sunburned as all get out, you can pull it from under you (it’s your towel too, obviously) and cover yourself. I’m telling you, scarfs are the most savvy thing you can pack.
Once back on the beach, Mohamed went back out “hunting”, which was basically spear fishing. Ahmed, Allie and I snagged a few chairs and an umbrella on the beach and just vegged. Allie and Ahmed went for a swim; meanwhile, I continued to practice my napping skills. While I was half asleep, I happened to notice the group of girls in front of us and immediately recognized one of them to be Lady Gaga. There was no question about it.
When the other two came back, I was freaking out. “Dude, it’s totally Lady Gaga”. To be clear, I don’t even like Lady Gaga. I was just so impressed by my star-scouting abilities at this point, that I needed to share them with everyone. With the other two completely on board now, our speculations grew and grew. The chick looked identical to the celebrity. Allie and I even took sneaky pictures to prove we shared a beach with the notorious Gaga and her squad.
Our conspiracy theory that Lady Gaga was on a secret vacation in Egypt was shattered once we heard her start speaking Russian. Ugh.
Ok so maybe it wasn’t Lady Gaga.
But maybe it was.
The afternoon was super relaxed. We picked up some grub from a local restaurant. I ordered my usual falafel, though this time, switched things up and ordered eggplant for my second pita filling. We ate our dinner as we walked back to the hotel, and decided to scope out the world famous “buddha bar” chain that was located a few blocks from our hotel.
In Egypt, nightlife starts at 12 and ends at 4 am— a very different story from the Tuscaloosa nightlife where you’re back in bed by midnight, 2 am if you’re having a particularly good night. Allie and I learned the Egyptians’ trick of the trade, though: you nap after dinner and set your alarm for 11. From there, you get ready with a few drinks and make your way to the bar.
When we arrived at the bar, Mohamed has secured us a VIP table, which was a wild experience. We had bartenders tending to our every need, and the wildest presentations of drinks. We had sushi catered to our table, which was a nice touch. Our night out was mild compared to those in Tuscaloosa, though quite entertaining and far more luxurious for sure.
The next morning, we left for Luxor around noon. Allie and I woke up super sick, which we both traced back to the sushi that was ordered for us. Between the time we awoke and the time we left, I had thrown up five times, and Allie had thrown up twice. I was dreading the six hour trek to Luxor, and the car ride turned out to be just as bad as I had imagined.
I threw up another four times in the car (in a bag, hahaha) and was as miserable as I’ve ever been. I was burning hot and couldn’t keep my eyes open. By the end of my bout, I was just throwing up spit- there was nothing left to purge from my stomach. I don’t think I’ve ever suffered from food poisoning before, but now that I know how horrible it is, my heart goes out to everyone who has experienced this, especially on a road trip.
Sweet Mohamed and Ahmed instead they cook the two of us soup for dinner. We stopped by a grocery store a few miles out from our AirBnb, and they picked up a bunch of food to cook. We learned later that it was Ahmed’s first time ever cooking in his life. Ha!
My unsettled stomach calmed down once we got to our AirBnB in Luxor, though I still felt horrible. Allie also felt like she’d been hit by a bus, though thankfully, she didn’t throw up again after leaving Hurghada. We both mustered the energy to explore the rooftop of the house. I swear, the beauty from the rooftop patio was magic for my health, as things slowly turned around from there.
We came downstairs once dinner was ready. Ahmed and Mohamed had made a Syrian spaghetti-like dish (so much meat, ugh), soup, and a Mediterranean salad. I ate a single bite of the pasta, scrapping off all the beef crumbles to be polite. The salad and soup were right up my alley and amazing- like so good. The soup especially- it was this brothy creation with some orzo-like pasta in it. There were onions and celery, and I actually felt like I could keep it down.
A few bites in, Mohamed asked “How do you like the chicken soup, girls?”.
Joke’s on me. I was like, seriously? Chicken soup?? Both of the boys had been so good about remembering about my vegetarian diet, even going above and beyond to make sure everything I was eating from restaurants and food stalls was good to go. I suppose my diet must have been conditional on my good health to them, though, because they gave zero cares about my veg eating self.
So I had this internal battle- do I continue eating to settle my stomach or do I stop and uphold my values? I fished around in the bowl and saw no chicken. I concluded the chicken must have been chicken broth, to which I felt less grimy about eating. I was so starving and desprate to feel better, than I regret to inform you that I did have a few more bites of soup. I mean, it was just chicken broth after all. That’s only half a vegetarian sin, right?
After dinner, I showered and went to bed, praying I’d feel better the next morning.
By the grace of God, I awoke feeling 95% good as new, which was all I needed. We had a huge day ahead of us seeing ancient Egyptian ruins and tombs..