South Sinai

A Timely Interview With The App Whisperer

Ibrahim and the Shipwreck in Nabq, South Sinai

I arrived in Dahab, South Sinai last night to find that an interview had been published about my street photography, with a large emphasis on Egypt and the Middle East.

You can read the article on The App Whisperer website, which is one of the leading providers of all mobile app news. It specialises in mobile photography and mobile art, particularly iPhoneography.

My good friend Cara Gellardo Weil contacted me about it a few weeks ago, and I was so happy to be given the opportunity to be featured. I've read many interviews with photographers I admire from afar, so it's a real honour to be included.

But more than that, the timing couldn't have been more perfect. Syria (where my late mother was born and raised) and Egypt (where I have been based for almost three years) are going through extremely turbulent times, so anything I can do to highlight the beauty of these countries and their people means a lot to me.

I've enjoyed my photographic journey of South Sinai. While I'm back here I intend to carry on documenting the amazing people and breathtaking scenery I come across on a daily basis. Please subscribe to my blog (top right of this page) to get email updates as soon as I add new content, and keep Egypt and Syria in your prayers. I hope a few of you decide to visit Dahab soon.

To buy a book of my late mother Hayfa's delicious Syrian recipes put together by my sister Jenny Sowerby, please visit the Taste of Freedom website. All proceeds go to the British Red Cross Syria Crisis Appeal.

If you're like to find out more about how you can help a Bedouin kindergarten school here in Dahab that's very close to my heart, please apply to join the Facebook group.

 

Returning to South Sinai

Montage of Bedouin portraits

As I write this, I'm preparing to return to Dahab. I'll be flying in just a few hours' time, and this is the first time I've experienced bittersweet feelings about my trip.

Dahab has been my second home for almost three years now, and I've met some of the most inspirational people I could have imagined there. South Sinai also sparked my passion for photography and iPhoneography, largely due to the breathtaking scenery, and because those I meet are so open to having their picture taken. In fact most of them embrace it.

Despite the current uprising across Egypt, Dahab remains very much "business as usual", so I have no fears about my safety or what to expect when I get back. But what I do worry about is how the current political situation has affected my friends and their businesses over there.

If anyone reading this entry is thinking about taking a trip to the Red Sea area, Foreign Office advice is that you'd be safe to do so. If you need any help or advice just let me know as I'd love to explain the many reasons why now would be an interesting time to join us.

Ras Mohamed Safari

Approaching the camp

Last Saturday I went to Ras Mohamed National Park, South Sinai with a group of friends. It's very close to Sharm El Sheikh (although once there you would never know it) and the scenery is breathtaking. We spent the day drinking tea, eating food cooked on the fire, and exploring, plus there was a lot of time to chat, and generally escape the outside world for a while.

Later on there was something very magical about sitting around that same fire under a vast carpet of the stars and a half moon. The night skies of Sinai have to be seen to be believed.

This shot was taken when we arrived, and the reason I like it is because I think there's something timeless in its quality. It was the moment we walked over a hill and found our friends' camp.

You can view more photographs from the day here.

Wadi Zalaga Camel Race, South Sinai

Today I was lucky enough to attend a major camel race here in South Sinai. Two Bedouin tribes compete by placing young boys on their finest camels and racing them through Wadi Zalaga for around 45 minutes.

Meanwhile the 1,000 or so spectators, who are made up of the Muzeina and Taraben tribes, tourists and ex-pats living in Sinai follow at high speed alongside and behind them in their various modes of transport. You can barely see the camels for dust, sand and vehicles ranging from vintage jeeps to top of the range Land Cruisers and Hummers.

Prize money is donated by the spectators, who give as much or as little as they can afford, and the young jockeys are also given gifts and cash at the end of the race when they gather for their photo call. This year's winning tribe were the Muzeina, who are mainly based in Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab and Nuweiba.

Most people camp in the wadi the night before in freezing conditions, and the general background noise throughout the event is the firing of assault rifles into the sky. This isn't frightening by any means - it's just a way the Bedouin celebrate their important events and weddings, and believe me it has to be seen and heard to be believed.

I took this shot when I was just about to leave, and even stopped my car to ask permission to take it. To me, this man represents everything I respect about the Bedouin. Grace, dignity, beauty and pride in a world that is changing so rapidly around them.

Throughout the day I was mesmerised by the sight of these amazing tribes, in traditional dress, crouched on car roofs, leaning precariously out of windows or sitting casually in the passenger and driver seats looking out at the desert environment they know, love and embrace as often as they can when time allows. They may be taking photographs with their iPads and transporting themselves in Toyota Hilux trucks more than on camels these days, but I sincerely hope the most important elements of their lives will never change.

Tourism in Sinai is suffering thanks to the news you read every day about Egypt and both the Bedouin and Egyptians in South Sinai rely heavily on us for their income. So please do try and visit this incredible area if you can, and make it soon. Contact me if you would like any advise or assistance with your trip - I'd be happy to help!