Nuweiba's Green Beach
After a long travel day we'd successfully transited from the Bedouin villages around Petra to the Egyptian port of Nuweiba.
Tatiana was familiar with this area. Her fantastic experiences idling here in the summer of 2007 (during her independent travels to Egypt and Jordan) were generally the reason why we'd arranged to come here.
The guidebooks and message forums are generally devoid of information for this part of the Sinai Peninsula, so we reached out to the CouchSurfing community for insight (just as I'd grown accustomed to from months and months of staying with locals via the system).
Tom Mikkor's profile was the only one within a radius of dozens of miles from the city, and had plenty of friendly feedback. We contacted Tom several days before setting off, and had some enlightening e-mails with him (summarized below):
Hi Craig and Tatiana!
Sorry I can't host you myself. I'm in New England until October. But I can recommend you my neighbor, Nasser al-Din. He runs a basic and affordable beach camp right on the water—beautiful coral reef 50 footsteps away, nice and quiet place. Read the comments other 'surfers left about him [in my profile] and make up your mind.
You can just show up day or night. Your call will only make check in smoother, no big difference.
A taxi from port Nuweiba to Nasser al-Din's "Green Beach" will cost 10-20EGP ($1.75-$3.50USD), depending on your bargaining skills.
You may also get free ride if you stop some Bedouin in the port area and ask for Attawy Ibrahim's camp (same as Green Beach, Attawy is the owner). If the Bedouin you stopped is from the Muzeina tribe and from Attawy's clan (very likely), he will drop you to the camp for free. I usually pay 10EGP anyway, because they have almost no income now.
Bedouins can be recognized by white galabyyas (robes?) and blue, white or white + red headgear and they drive jeep wranglers and white pickup trucks.
The notation at the bottom of his CouchSurfing profile gave further generic details for all:
In case you get stranded around Nuweiba and need an affordable place to sleep or eat, call Nasser al-Din (+20101964131); he'll fix you up. No need to explain who you are, just say you got the number from 'Toomas' or simply Tom. Need transportation or desert guide? Call Salman (+20101964130). He is a bright and helpful guy. Say Also you got the phone number from 'Toomas'.
Sounded just like the kinda spot we were looking for. I wrote my father an FYI last night (as I typically do before travel, just in case something happens) explaining what we had planned for today's relocation:
So, after nine months of CouchSurfing, it looks like we're finally going to stop. There's a fellow currently in the US that I've been e-mailing who suggests his neighbor's wooden beach huts on the Gulf of Aqaba. [wikimapia map]
That'll be our destination—seems as good as any to start with. We've some serious concerns about how we can make living at such a place (for $4.50/night) work with Aidric, and of course the terrible security for our stuff. I'm almost certain most people are there for a few days and eat all their meals at their owner's restaurant. The satellite image doesn't look promising for walking-distance foodstuff supplies, even if we can get use of a kitchen. We'll see. Also, I expect zero Internet access in the area, or at least a lack of something worth paying for.
If everything goes to hell our fallback will be to jump on the long-haul buses to Cairo, where Tatiana's American friend Princess keeps an apartment. Apparently she's in the Miami area right now, but will be back by the end of the month. She's given instructions for the keys to her home to be given to us by her Arab fiancée, Shalaby.
Taking Tom's advice, last night I sent a text message with Skype to Nasser al-Din's phone introducing ourselves, explaining that we had a baby with us, and that we'd be arriving on the afternoon ferry. We didn't receive anything back, but Skype showed the message was delivered (confirming the number was indeed a mobile phone).
As expected, Nuweiba's port was full of sweaty men, hungry for your business. Pushing past the mass vying to pull you into their transport, we cleared the gates of the port when we were approached directly by a young man who said he'd been "expecting us."
Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight—of course he was. We kept walking, but the kid was rather insistent that we speak with him.
Tatiana and I looked at each other and silently agreed to hold up for moment.
"Oh? And who sent you to wait for us?" I asked, expecting some laughable BS in return.
"Nasser al-Din," he replied, matter-of-factly.
Tatiana and I exchanged a pair of stunned looks with each other.
The young man led us a few paces over to a station wagon parked at the curb of the street in the shade of a tree. Another man exited the vehicle and offered to help us load our backpacks.
Tatiana and I were both still rather nervous and on guard, but it genuinely looked like our text message was happily received at Green Beach and a car had been sent for us. Awesome.
As you can see from the image above, the coast is full of little bungalow camps/resorts for travelers. I'm under the impression that the tourism market has pretty much bottomed out around Nuweiba, leaving many of these bungalow 'resorts' in a state of disrepair and generally empty year-round.
As per Tom's guidance, I tipped the young man for the transport. We discovered later that he lived at the 'resort' just next door.
Sudanese-born Nasser al-Din (commonly pronounced Naser-deen, or simply Nasser) welcomed us to the camp with great warmth and hospitality. Despite having never met Tom in person, he treated us as if we were long-time friends of the man (who spends much of the year living in a lofted room on the property). Any friends of Tom's were indeed friend to him.
We were led down to the waterfront and shown to bungalow #6, arguable the best of the lot, and told it would be just 25 Egyptian pounds (US$4.45) total per night. The resort camp had no other guests at present, although Nasser said a couple had just departed that spent a week there, and another that had stayed for two weeks prior to that.
We chatted and then were left to settle in and aquatint ourselves with the place as the evening light waned beautifully over the Sinai's mountains.
Gathering Some Provisions
Clearly in need of potable water and foodstuffs for the start of our stay at the remote camp, I asked Nasser if he could arrange for me a ride into town this evening. I could already tell we were going to be having problems with the mosquitoes after dark here, so I made a note to buy more insect repellent.
We visited some pretty dusty little corner markets full of over-ripened and near-spoiled fruits and veggies had been waiting too long for purchase amongst the cans of food and dried goods. Nasser ended up coming along with me, in part to ensure I received the local prices on the unmarked goods (not the tourist prices, as the men were fond of imposing).
I don't often write down such things, but made a notation of what I bought and for how much:
Nuweiba Corner Market Shopping — 126.50EGP, US$22.50
- Can of beans
- Lentils (orange)
- 10 Eggs
- 2 boxes of milk (1 litre)
- Box of mange juice (1 litre)
- Bottle of Coke (2 litres)
- Bottle of Diet Coke (2 litres)
- Jug of water (12 litres)
- OFF! Mosquito spray (20EGP, $3.50)
I returned to find the baby asleep and the star-filled evening silent, save for the sound of water on the shore.
It had been quite the day, but we certainly loved the way it'd ended.