During a holiday from the university, six friends went on a trip to the Sinai peninsula in eastern Egypt. They ended up at a remote beach camp and it was there that the group chose to stay for a number of days. It is impossible to say how long it was they stayed at Ras Abu-Galum due to the mind-expanding nature of the drugs they were taking during their sojourn there, and because the scenery that surrounded them on all sides was so vast and breath-taking that it served to obscure the reality in which they existed.
From the Tarabin/Nuweiba campground a few hours south of the Eilat border crossing, six friends climbed into the bed of a rusted pick-up truck and piled their gear in the center. Having agreed on a price for the trip, the driver jumped in the cab with his partner and a Cairene on his way to Dahab and the group made for the main road and began driving South. An hour or so into the trip the truck careened onto a dirt path, spilling completely the contents of a joint being rolled. The truck stopped briefly and the driver hopped out of the cab, informing the travellers that he needed some grass or hash to give to his cousin in a nearby village. All too happy to oblige, four or so grams of hash was shared between eight people at a nameless village on a dirt path. Night fell and the group in the bed of the pick-up became restless and paranoid. In the middle of nowhere, they were scared that their isolation might be an invitation for someone with the inclination to rob, rape, or murder a group of young westerners. One look at the sky, however, changed their entire way of thinking. It seemed as if the entire galaxy had been painted onto the black canvas of the sky especially for them to see. Countless stars formed into bright clusters that flowed along the milky way guiding them through the mountains that loomed on either side of the dirt track. At this moment the group was blessed with another spliff and a mile or two of smooth road on which to enjoy it peacefully.
Out of the pitch black night the pick-up drove slowly into Ras Abu-Galum and stopped in front of a small hut made of palm fronds. They were met first by a flock of curious young children and soon thereafter by two men representing one of the families in the village. The driver negotiated the price of a hut and food for the six travellers and what had become their Cairene guide/interpreter/companion. Being an astute negotiator, the driver also procured for the group a small quantity of opium in exchange for the hash that he had been given earlier that day.
There was a small splash as the opium dropped into the tea kettle and disappeared. Having laid out all the gear for the night the group sipped leisurely on their tea and recounted the events of the day, spending extra time to meditate on the good fortunes that had managed to find them among the huge expanse of desert and mountains in which they were surrounded. After the tea, the girls in the group were escorted away by the women of the family hosting them so that they might help with the preparation of the evening meal. The remaining travellers cleaned a large quantity of herb and smoked until the women returned with an amazing and delicious meal of lamb, rice, fish, and fresh dates. Intoxication wove in and out of every person in that hut.
Exploring their surroundings seemed like the next logical thing to do; three of the six set off along the dusty path that was the main road in the village. They met a man with a long black beard and black ringlets that dropped below the shoulder of his dark-blue thobe. To their utter surprise this man was fluent in english and after the necessary greetings the three were invited to his home. Around the fire they all sat smoking and talking; this wise nomad had copius amounts of hash, grass, and brown sugar, a diluted form of opium that the group would become very familiar with that night.
Their stash being in need of rejuvenation the nomad blessed the group with a few stalks of bud and some brown sugar. The three travellers and their nomadic companion walked along the shoreline back to the hut where the rest of the group were drinking more tea and smoking. Introductions were made and they all formed a circle in one portion of the hut around a small fire. For hours they conversed about life, philosophy, politics, religion, marijuana, and countless other subjects all the while passing joints of hash, herb, and free-basing brown sugar, until it was obvious that morning was fast approaching. Their spirits and minds high, they all crept into their sleeping bags and passed out.
Awoken by the incessant buzzing of flies and the heat of the morning sun, one by one the travellers sat up and looked out over the smooth blue water towards the rocky shores of Saudi Arabia. The majestic beauty of this place collectively dawned on them, though it went unspoken. The spliffs were rolled and the six friends got high under the shade of their hut watching the local children splash in the Red Sea. They followed the shoreline back to where they had met the bearded man the night before. Also the proprietor of the only cafe in the village, the Bedouin with whom they had shared the Earth’s fruits with only hours before prepared for them a meal of shakshuka and omlettes.
For the rest of their time in Ras Abu-Galum, six people enjoyed the beauty of the Sinai relaxing by the cool waters of the Red Sea, swimming, smoking, talking with the locals, and meeting other travellers lucky enough to pass through this remarkable village.
This account of the journey I was lucky enough to be a part of is not meant to be a template by which future travellers should try to follow. Like all places, Ras Abu-Galum changes with the passing of time; the experience I and my friends shared is only one of many possibilities and I do not expect that everyone who visits or has visited Ras Abu-Galum will find it as peaceful and free as I was blessed to find it. In the near future I expect that Ras Abu-Galum will retain much of it’s beauty and tranquility, and during the time I spent there, through the lens of my mind, it was truly a hippie-haven.
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