Living in a bustling metropolis like Cairo can take its toll. Thats why people retreat to the numerous resorts dotted along the coast for some relaxation. We decided to be more adventerous and ventured further to the red sea and the city of Marsa Alam, famous for its sea-life and and a haven for hardcore divers.
We arrived at a diving resort called Marsa Shagra which is situated at the heart of the coral and boasts one of the best diving places in the world. The red sea has a high salinity (4% more than average, apart from the red sea), making it abundant with many species of fish.
By the second day I had tried snorkelling and as I write this it is the third day. This morning I woke up early, wanting to get good visibility in the sea. After a leisurely breakfast, by 8am I put on my life jacket, goggles and snorkels and waded into the sea. Because I’m not a strong swimmer, the life jacket enabled me to go further without drowning.
It was the most inspiring and awe (insert more adjectives) moment in my life.
We had arrived on a wednesday and booked ourselves in a royal tent, complete with a mini fridge and fan. By the afternoon they warned us that there was a storm due that evening. As the sunset a flash of lightning struck. The monsterous roar of thunder sounded and a few moments later it started raining. A few drops at first, and then a heavy downpour. People started to panic and grab the cushions to take inside. Others fled into the restaurant. I hadn’t seen rain for a few months and it felt amazing.
That night we moved to a hut and slept to the sound of the wind strongly blowing against the shore, wondering what adventures the morning would bring.
I recently had the amazing opportunity to visit Japan for ten days. This place was out of this world. As soon as the wheels hits the tarmac and you file out of the plane, you feel the sense of organisation. Coming from Cairo I was shocked at how systematic and easy it was to do things. From filling out a landing card to navigating your way around the city, Japan was definitely another planet, and the people, another species.
We landed in Osaka, a modern Japanese city, home of excellent food. I crave food all the time. As soon as I finish breakfast im thinking about lunch, when I eat lunch I’m thinking about what to have for dinner and when I sleep I’m…well you get the picture.
Osaka is mainly famous for its pancakes and in the handy Lonely Planet guide that I used to navigate the city, it says that “the phase kuidaore (eat ’till you drop) was coined to describe Osakans’ love for good food.”
When you first arrive in Osaka, head down to Dotombori Arcade, but be prepared to be wowed on many levels. The place is a maddening crowd of shops, restaurants, Arcade pinball machines, tourist groups and advertisements screaming right in your face to buy this cream or eat in this restaurant because they have the best sushi. My head was spinning at all the information that is available. In an article in the Guardian in 2005 it says that in an entire day you’re likely to see 3,500 marketing messages. In Japan it must be triple that. I became a shopping whore during my time there, so it must have worked.
Dotombori is like the Leicester Square of Japan. Its dirty, sleazy, full of annoying tourists that congregate in large groups and unrefined restaurants in abundance that are over-priced.
When it comes to food, the Japanese know how to do it. It’s not just about the way it tastes, but the presentation of the food is very important. It’s the little details that count. When I have a curry at home it looks like a splatter of spices placed in a plain dish with plain bread and served in mis-matched bowls. That’s the no frills approach to food. When the Japanese do food they like to go the whole hog. A bowl of noodles isn’t just wheat flour floating in a brown broth, but a masterpiece of yellow dough surrounded by an array of fish and vegetables cut into fancy shapes, all served in stylish bowls. The portions are small, not friendly to a western belly, so you might need to order a few dishes each.
I even tried some Sashimi, which is raw fish (Tuna and sea bream). Yes i can’t believe I had some, but I even surprised myself as it was tasty. You need to make sure that you order this from a good restaurant as fish that isn’t fresh will just make you ill. Each meal is usually served with endless cups of green tea. You nearly reach the end of your supply, and in an instant the waiter rushes over with their jug to fill replenish your cup. You don’t even have to ask them, they just know. Service is just as important as the food, and I found the Japanese to be very attentive and helpful.
My only problem with the food was eating it with chopsticks. I still didn’t get the hang of it, instead having to adjust them again and again. I think I should youtube a tutorial on using chopsticks for dummies.
A delicacy I loved was octopus tentacles served in a ball made from batter. The octopus is placed in a deep rounded mould and batter is then poured into the moulds. When one side is done, using the wooden handle, the metal plates moulds are flipped over so that the other side can cook. The gooey texture of the batter and chewy octopus was delicious.
In Koyoto we had a savoury dumpling of vegetables served with green tea. Notice the quaint and stylish presentation.
Even the breakfast at the design hostel we were staying at was stylishly served, resembling a Monocle magazine picture spread. Home made bread served with apple jam, plain yoghurt, fresh orange juice and English Breakfast tea.
McDonalds got in on the act and transformed a plain milkshake into a green tea flavour which tasted nothing like tea, more like bubble gum.
Even the fake food that was used as a visual menu looked good enough to eat
“Live in this world as (if you are) a wayfarer or a stranger”
(Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him)
The American boy, now a young man in his early 20’s, at the prime of his life, decides to embark on a journey, to travel across the world. He has never stepped foot outside his home town, and the prospect of leaving his state is daunting for him. He didn’t own a passport until two weeks ago when it arrived through the post, freshly printed and the crisp pages still possessing the lingering smell of wet ink. It was to him, the smell of hope and excitement, of unfamiliar places he had yet to discover. The pages blank, ready for him to fill with his adventures and life changing experiences.
A young female, recently graduated wearily lies down on her bed, her flowery bedspread engulfing her petite frame. She craves for some independence in her life, and hoped she would achieve this at university, but living at home meant she didn’t quite gain the experience she had dreamed of. Unlike her friends, she didn’t know how it felt to cook for one, how to read the mundane bills that came through the door and how to solve real problems. Her parents did all that for her. A graduate, she felt she would be prepared for the real world, but she suddenly realised that she wasn’t. She had not even travelled far beyond her campus walls. How could she be independent if she hadn’t been introduced to the world, the one outside her front door?
A recently divorced father of three sits dejected in his compact one bedroom flat situated on a dismal road in East London. His family meant everything to him, but now that he had lost custody of them, he was numb. What were his interests apart from playing hide and seek and pulling funny faces which made his children laugh uncontrollably?
He had never travelled before, preferring Butlins or day trips to Margate to entertain the children. All throughout the holiday he would lie on a lounger and try to get a tan from the sun that was quickly disappearing behind a dirty cloud. Now he yearned for real interests, his own interests. He longed to climb the highest mountain and go scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. To mingle with shoppers in an over crowded market in Delhi and to seek solitude in a Buddhist temple on the hills of Nepal. As he let his mind wander over his dreams, outside the sky had slowly blackened. The heavy clouds suddenly burst, releasing their burden and bringing fresh rain down onto the empty streets.
We travel to broaden our horizons and our minds as we are introduced to many different lands, cultures, food and way of thinking. We might get ripped off by the pushy taxi driver at the airport and charged too much for a hotel room with two single beds pushed together in the pretence of being a double, but that’s what travelling is all about. You make these silly mistakes, all in the hope that it’ll help you to grow as a person. Most of the times though you come back with lighter pockets, a lost passport and a journal full of amusing stories.
To view pictures of my travels click here or visit the ‘photography’ page at the top of the blog
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”