Christmas in the desert

Simon reminisces his first Christmas as a newly-wed.

I've seen enough movies to know what a Beduoin feast looks like. The belly dancers, the mountains of food... the traditional singing. What better way to celebrate Christmas day? So before my wife and I travelled to Dahab in South Sinai I booked a desert expedition.

I was so excited that our first Christmas together as husband and wife would be in a very special place with stars for a roof.

We’d had a wonderful few days of scuba diving (my obsession, but my wife is also qualified and tags along) and now Christmas day we waited by the side of the road for transportation. The world’s oldest, most battered up 4x4 arrived. Kez’s face was a picture and I was wondering if what appeared to be good value for money was actually going to turn out to be a big mistake.

The driver was friendly and chatty.

The guide who took us up to the top of the mountain range for a sunset view was friendly and chatty.

The chef at the “camp” was also friendly and chatty.

Yep. Same guy.

And what I was hoping for… a ring of cushions and rugs around a blazing desert fire was a couple of damp rugs in a makeshift shelter. There were just two guests. Me and Keziah.

Ahmed… not his real name… dowsed some twigs in petrol. Lit it. And then put the precooked food on to heat up. It tasted OK. Not too petrol-y.

We chatted, he was friendly.

We looked up at the stars that appeared like dust in the non-neon polluted skies, and as I gazed upwards I began to think of my relatives tucking into round 2 of turkey sandwiches and falling asleep in front of a Bond Movie or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This was bizarre, surreal, but better than that!

It’s great to try something new.

And sometimes you’ll never do it again.

Simon Rushton