Sinai: The Isthmus between Africa and Asia

"Residing between Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Red Sea to the south, Sinai is the only land bridge between the two continents of Africa and Asia."

“Shukran,” says our Bedouin guide, Ahmed, thanking me for the compliment I gave him for his red and white checks’ keffiyeh tied into a turban over his head. 

Bedouins tribes date back to the 13th century and they used to control the major Sinai peninsula region until 1982, when the Israeli’s left, after the implementation of Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

It is a sunny ascent in the Sinai desert, so sunny that I can taste my salty perspiration after every passing minute as we walk amidst vast sand dunes, gigantic granite crests and deep gullies. 

Instead of harping on the customary route of traveling and witnessing the seven cliches of the world, here I am to witness a real, natural wonder; Coloured Canyon. 

I witnessed nature’s perseverance as I walked through the canyons, formed as a result of water erosion over millions of years, as this region was previously submerged under the ocean. Green, Red and Yellow range of hues in rocks of varying sizes canoodling with each other in walls as long as 800 metres and flanked by walls 40 metres high. The colors are visible due to the presence of iron oxides and magnesium.

“The Sinai Desert is a nature’s gallery,” I mumbled to myself. The rocks, sand and the colored canyons are the art subjects painted over the canvas of a big lone desert.  

The sun whispered, “Good riddance,” and as dusk approached us, we planned to spend the night in the desert. Well known for their shisha around the globe, we enjoyed Bateekh (Blueberry) shisha and engaged in sand-boarding.

But then I heard voices, and I got really scared.

The voices were coming from my belly and it was almost midnight in a massive desert. Then came a friend in disguise, and I had a chance to savour the ultimate “Abu Mardam chicken,” cooked 3 feet under the sand in a desert oven. The meat is buried inside a metallic pot and cooked with fire . 

“This is Arabic style barbeque,” said Nour, my Israeli companion.

The smoky taste accompanied in every bite of my meal, a nice change from Tesco’s frozen chicken fillets. Along with chicken, there were rice, soup and the national dish of Egypt; Kausheri. I topped it up with some Tahini chilli sauce as Nour fed my pride by remarking, “Indians can eat really spicy food.”  

“This traditional cooking style is called Abu Mardam,” added Ahmed. I savoured my meal while gazing at hundreds of stars, some forming constellations, some stayed alone, albeit shining.

I lied down on the cold, soft sand. Nour, shivering and startled, came and lied next to me. Deserts can get really cold during night time. Looking at her, Ahmed untied his keffiyeh and covered her body with it.

“No more wars between Egyptians and Israelis anymore,” he giggled, with a pinch of sarcasm.