We had a first class bushcamp just a few metres away from the coast of the Red Sea. We were in a large recreation area.
It took us a while to find somewhere to camp. There were fences all along the road for hundreds of kilometres. Why? Who knows. There was nothing behind them but sand as far as the eye could see. It must have cost millions to install them. I have noticed similar all over the country; patches of sand walled or fenced off.
Anyway, when we found the recreation area we discovered that it was also a port. Just across the Red Sea was Eritrea and Sudan. At the end of the area was a large coastguard and border guard station. Karen, our fearless and intrepid organiser, went in to ask if we could camp here. A few of them hopped into one of their official jeeps and drove off, we followed. They brought us to a lovely level sandy area just next to the sea and indicated, no swimming, no fishing. No problem. Although a dip in the warm waters of the Red Sea would have been nice. There was a toilet block about 75 metres away so no bushdump squatting.
Another few jeeps with border guards on board pulled up. Oh oh, I thought, what’s happening. But they just wanted to see the strange old pink people, I guess. They asked us where we came from and did we like Saudi Arabia. We were all enthusiastic and effusive in our praise of their country. They began relaxing a bit and started smiling. They seemed to respond warmly to our positive regards for Saudi Arabia. They became very friendly. One gorgeous young soldier put his arm across my shoulder and posed for a selfie. Another turned on the loudhailer on his jeep and drove around saying ‘welcome to Saudi Arabia’. We all laughed. Then they all drove off in high spirits and waved as they left. A sweet special moment and typical of the tremendous warmth and hospitality of the Arab people.
It was my turn, with Cynthia, a great Australian woman, to cook so I started grating cheese, plucking coriander stalks from the leaves and other culinary faffings about.
A car pulled up and a guy came across offering to take us to his house, free of charge, for food. He somehow heard that we were here and wanted to offer Arab hospitality. As we’re all curmudgeonly old fossils embedded in our ways, we said thanks but no thanks. He stayed chatting for a while showing us photos on his phone of his establishment. It seemed very traditional. One of our younger guys went with him and the rest of us scoffed our macaroni cheese and rambled off to our tents. The night was very warm and a bit humid so I left my flysheet off so I could see the stars and keep cool. I watched an episode of Dr Who on my tablet, read for about 20 mins and was spark out by 10pm.
I woke up this morning at 6am, stowed my tent and camping kit away and helped prepare breakfast. As we were doing so, Another guy arrived with a large plastic bag. Hello, I’m Mohammed. I would like to invite you to Saudi Arabia. I have gifts of coffee and dates for you. He then produced 2 flasks of delicious Arabian coffee and boxes of really good dates. We chatted with him for a while and then he went. Another example of Arab hospitality.
Breakfast finished, we mounted the bus and headed off to Jeddah for a 3 day stay. The weather is beautiful.
(Please click on any thumbnail above to enlarge the whole gallery for full size sliding photos)