Saint Catherine’s protectorate

During a 2 hours drive from Dahab to St Catherine’s we encountered beautiful scenery; sandy plains and eroded rock formations. Upon entering the area we were met by our Bedouin guide Josef. The local Bedouins of the Saint Catherine’s area belong to the Jebeleya tribe, “The mountain people” .  They are of Eastern European origin, not from Arabia as the other Bedouins of Sinai. They were brought to the area to protect and serve the Monastery.

St Catherine’s Monastery, constructed in the 6th century and built on the site where Moses is said to have encountered God speaking from a burning bush, is located 1500 metres above sea level at the base of Mt Sinai, also called Moses Mountain as this is where he received the Ten Commandments. The Monastery is one of the oldest in continuous use, and houses a library which is very well preserved and has the largest religious collection after the Vatican. The Monastery itself has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

During the hike through narrow valleys and impressive rock formations, we encountered water pools, creeks and lush gardens.  Saint Catherine’s protectorate contains a unique high altitude desert ecosystem as well as many historical and sacred sites to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The fresh mountain air and silence made the hike even more special.

Close to the small town of St Catherines , we visited the herbal doctor Ahmed who gave us a tour in his garden where he cultivates medicinal plants that have been used by the locals for centuries and are also  found in the area of Saint Catherines, some endemic. The herbs are used for remedies such as arthritis, allergies, eczema, just to mention a few.  We ended up buying a selection of his tasty tea, rosemary, oregano, and anise.

After a delicious lunch on top of a mountain with a stunning view, our journey ended. There is still so much to explore, and this is for sure a place we will be visiting more often.

A day in Wadi Gnai

Wadi Gnai is a small oasis in the middle of the desert, just 20 minutes drive from Coachhouse. Water is found here most of the time, this time only very limited, but even this will make a difference in the desert.

Our day started with a camel ride from the entrance of the wadi. This is a beautiful experience; the narrow valley with its majestic red glowing granite mountains at sunset, the occasional desert fox (if lucky,) and Acacia trees.

 After an easy climb we arrived at the oasis. Unfortunately we did not see any flowers in bloom this time, but we still enjoyed the green grass, date palms and the Acacia trees with dragonflies buzzing around us.  When arriving back at the camp we ate a delicious Bedouin dinner around the fire. The Bedouins sang traditional songs and then it was time to lay back and watch the stars and to enjoy the silence of the desert.

Brother Hamd

Meet our Bedouin friend Hamd (Abu Abdullah). We have been working with him for many years. He can organise everything from short trips to local Wadis by car or camel, Bedouin desert dinner, or excursions to Nabq Protected area and Ras Mohammed National Park.  Not only is he an excellent cook, but he will also tell you many interesting stories about desert life and how the Bedouins in the old days, some still, used plants for medicinal or other purposes.  The Arak plant, which is common in Nabq, was used in folk medicine, e.g. for treating poisonous bites, and the fruit for treating stomach problems. The twig of an Arak plant can be used as a toothbrush. They are now sold in many Western countries as an alternative to the plastic toothbrushes.  

The Sinai desert is the best place to relax, away from noise and light pollution. The star lit sky during a desert dinner is one of our guests’ most memorable experiences. Come and enjoy the beauty of Sinai with us, and a nice (and very sweet) cup of Bedouin tea with fresh herbs from the desert!

Where the Desert meets the Sea

The summer heat is gone, but the water temperature remains the same. From October until May is the best time of year to explore Sinai. One of our most popular activities is visiting the Ras Mohammed National Park at the tip of Sinai Peninsula, just an hours drive from Dahab. Ras Mohammed has some of the best coral reefs in the world and breathtaking desert landscape.  Other things to see include a small mangrove stand with its fiddler crab inhabitants, climbing the Shark Observatory cliff and getting a panoramic view of the park, and visiting the Hidden Bay where resident and migratory birds can be observed.

Go for a day trip or spend the night in a Bedouin camp. Our friend Hamd will make sure you are well fed and taken care of. The camp is located in a secluded bay in the park with one of the best snorkeling spots and magical scenery.

Happy Face-Happy Art

Happy Face-Happy Art

Khaled is a well known face in Dahab. He has been here since the 1990’s; long before the beach promenade, all the restaurants along the shore, the paved roads, and at a time when you would probably see more camels than cars in Dahab.  He is the former caretaker of my favourite cat Nesaja, or nuss-nuss (Arabic: half-half) as her face has one black part and one ginger.  Nesaja has now “adopted” me as he moved locations. He is one of the people you get in a good mood to meet, just exchanging “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, chatting about Dahab life or looking at his beautiful paintings.  I can’t remember how many I have already bought. The Coachhouse has a diverse selection of them, and I love giving them away as presents. Show him a photograph of your favourite pet or animal, landscape, anything, and he will paint it for you, in the most beautiful and unique way. You will find him in his shop, Happy Art, in Masbat, usually in the afternoon or evenings.

Beautiful days

Finally the water temperature in Dahab has increased and the visibility is great.  Not only we divers and snorkelers are enjoying the season, marine life is also enjoying the longer days and higher temperatures!   Just a few metres from Coachhouse is one of the best spots for diving and snorkeling- Bannerfish Bay. There is a lot of action underwater at the moment; fish aggregating to spawn, groups of squids hanging out right in front of the entry, and mating octopi. During the last weeks we have encountered the bay’s resident green turtle, ghost pipe fish, sea horses, frogfish, cuttlefish, just to mention a few. How lucky we are to have all of this beauty on our doorstep!

The desert is in bloom!

A warm welcome by Bedouin kids in the desert. The kids proudly presenting the young goats. After some recent rain in Dahab and the surrounding area the desert is in bloom! A great time for nature lovers to explore desert flora and fauna, and for Bedouins to feed their livestock with a vast selection of plants.