29 April 2006

Dahab, my sacred womb

I love Mondays.

I love Mondays because I dance a wave or two that awake life within my body and my soul.

Tonight I danced with my heart wide open. I danced and offered loudly my deeper joys and sorrows and received other dancers’ laughters and fears. I danced a celebration of my past, present and future lives alike, surfing comfortably on the biggest wave ever! We all know though; it takes only a split second to be engulfed by the wave, violently thrown around and back and forth in the furious rolling waters. Tonight that split second came with the news headlines…

The terrorist attacks in sunny and peaceful Dahab killed at least 22 people and injured scores

My eyes bleed and my lungs gasp for air. The desolation of the Sinai desert penetrates my every pore and its vast quietness assaults and invades my mind. There is no possible escape. My world, most often neat and controlled, collapses the exact same way it did on that deadly morning of 7th July. My heart ripped apart pukes thick bloody burps that press and push on its walls already thinned by 30-odd years of guilt. Not too surprisingly, they quickly give in under this powerful and excruciating attack, allowing tearful grief and peaceful quietness to meet. The result brings in more guilt for a startling cheerfulness creeps in, that surely, should be vetoed. But I’m relieved all the same to feel a growing sense of compassion for those people who have had the “chance” to only be witnesses of the carnage.

Compassion for this man working at the Al Capone restaurant who I had already met two years earlier. At the time he worked for the restaurant Friends further away on the beach front. We shook hands and exchanged jokes and smiles. Is he still alive? Compassion for a guy engaging conversation while I sit, on a windless evening, on the wall opposite the post office facing the lighthouse peninsula and rejoice the lights reflecting on the still, dark waters. It has the same calming effect than watching flames in a fireplace. I do nothing and only sit there watching the colourful light reflections on the surface of the sea. He says he’s a Christian and has been in Dahab for a few years. He works as a travel agent, offering camel safaris, dive packages, trips to the St Catherine’s Monastery and much more. Of course he hands his leaflet to me! His “office hours” aren’t up yet although it is nearly 10pm. His office is just across the wooden bridge, opposite Al Capone restaurant. Was he working tonight? Has he been lucky? Compassion for still another man who chatted me up, originally from Alexandria. He says he’s of a Muslim family and has lived and worked in Dahab for the past 12 years without them knowing. He explains that he loves it here but would not be allowed to work in what they call a “degenerate” place where alcohol flows and women show themselves next to naked. Will he still have the chance to say the truth? Last but not least, compassion for the few groups of two to three girls aged 8 to 14 walking the beach or the restaurants to sell their handmade jewellery to tourists, females and males alike. They stop by, sit on your towel and speak your language. At least bits and pieces of it. They can be nice or harassing and irritating but always very clever girls who mostly get what they want. At least you win peace and breathing space… Are they still walking from dawn to dusk?

I was in Dahab two years ago for the first time. I was back in Dahab last month. Tonight people have said to me, “you must feel relieved and lucky!” But I don’t. I feel hurt and let down, bruised, saddened and guilty to be safe and so far away. I had not seen how much Dahab meant to me… until tonight. A unique heartbeat set on a smooth and tranquil pacemaker not compatible with most battery brands. Friendliness, peace, noise of rumbling air compressors and banging diving tanks was all that mattered. Dahab was unconscious, unconcerned and unaffected by the world races for fame, money, power or religion. Tonight another reality of hatred and sorrow has come uninvited and blown apart the open doors three times in quick succession. Dahab can only lick its wounds but the scars will remain.

Dahab has opened my eyes on the biggest lie of the past 30 years: I am a fake. What was supposed to be a romantic holiday ended up with the discovery of a deeply painful, long standing wound that kick-started a traumatic and tremendous journey. It is in Egypt, cradle of civilisation, that I could crawl back to ancient times and recover the wounded child. Dahab is the symbol of my sacred womb where the child was kept protected and safe from the struggle and pain of real life. Dahab is my fairy tale world where I handed over my responsibilities. No wonder tonight’s attacks hurt the very core of me!! My safe and trustworthy home has been torn into pieces in the most atrocious manner. We all know though; the count-down of the secure and confined mother’s womb environment is up at nine months. Each one of us has to go through the most terrorising event of all - birth - that we often take for granted. How on earth can we genuinely believe it is only a formality to come through the narrowest of canal into the most inhospitable world? The new born child faces the greatest decision in choosing to live in this hostile world and knows that the most agonising pain of breathing is the price to pay.

Tonight the secure haven is no more and there is no possible return! Blood has been spilled all over the pages of my favourite fairy tale book. I feel powerless and vulnerable yet confident, devastated and betrayed and utterly isolated in this western world more concerned by petrol prices than lost human lives. I’m surprised, though, that no anger flows in my veins. To tell the truth, I am actually thankful I could wish farewell in my own terms. Last month when the thought of becoming dive master and stay in Dahab crossed my mind it was violently opposed by an urge to run away from it. I symbolically went through the birth canal again. The parting celebration was painful as I left the Fake behind and welcomed the new born child into her new world. Mourning of so close a friend and overcoming the guilt of letting her go will take time but I am at peace.

Some people lose their heart in a place around the world. I have found mine in Dahab and if I forget it during the week, it takes centre stage again while I dance on Mondays.

clairem --- 24 Apr 2006

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