Days in Dahab
What is it we’re doing here?
Becka has found her passion in this place. She’s pushing the limits of underwater exploration. Diving into a world most of us never have the guts to experience. Jonathan was captivated by the sports' reaches in January and imagined a project to share its depths. He's going beyond the comforts of typical documentary filmmaking. They're bringing us all here to share in the experience. It’s the start of something bigger than all of us. They're creating a vision and voice to form a place where we can all share what makes us us. How on Earth did I end up being able to share this experience with them? I am nothing but grateful.
A Panamanian December greeted us as strangers. An Egyptian April has left us as everything but. The community we created in Dahab is precisely why I cherish modern nomadism. A spontaneous free diving workshop back in January left a craving for more experience. Messages back and forth told us we wanted to spend more quality time together. An appeal on social media found us a beautiful home to rent. A rejection of 9-to-5s allowed us to hop on planes. We're here.
Ideas can take you anywhere. A constant flow of people in and out of this home - some for minutes, some for weeks. None of us are best at the same thing. Filmmakers. Musicians. Freedivers. Dancers. Actors. Photographers. Storytellers. All of us are learning. We’re exploring new places, making stupid mistakes, gaining new skills, embarrassing ourselves, and asking for forgiveness. There is no reason this enthusiasm can’t be everywhere.
There’s a unique energy here. Its strength is undeniable. It comes from early morning bike rides and late night falafels / from singing on rooftops and the desert’s deafening silence. Right when you think uncontrollable laughter and late night pillow talks are what strengthen a relationship, you learn the fierce power of “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you”. The audacity to be real. To be open. Vulnerable.
We are dashing through the streets to catch the sun peaking over Saudi Arabia’s mountains. We are sitting cross-legged on lineated fabrics sharing eye contact and camel milk. Frequenting dive spots entirely Suessical in their grandeur. Sharing bikes with the munchkins next door. Being invited in for late night teas. Unknowingly learning Egypt’s national anthem. We have entered into a sanctuary of sorts and I am taking in its every offer.
Our home enables relentless creativity with each new inhabitant. Outside is a world open for exploration, but our time spent within its walls is just as rich. There are hastened proposals to send off and hefty design deadlines to defeat, but also apples to share and naps to appreciate. I am able to unpack my bags in this home. Clean up its counters. Laugh through its jam sessions. Sleep on its roof. Make it mine for a bit. I hold its keys and know its patterns. I cherish all of these things.
It's a slow afternoon. No expectations for activity going on. Lasse has brought along too many musical gems to not give them proper use. Jonathan has childlike glee about this mystery drum sitting in front of him. Sebastian starts grabbing every object in the kitchen to to test its musical capabilities. Tripods quickly turn to drum sticks. Water jugs are producing the greatest of tunes. Hands clapping. Bursts of laughter. This music is uniquely ours. These things are why we're all here. BeSvensen is creating wonder with music. What Took You So Long? has provided the audio clips from Somalia. Shortly after, Karim arrives with cameras able to fly high in the sky and sink far into the sea. It's all being melded together as a powerful piece. It's all so possible - as simple as an idea.
Outside our doors is a city of mysterious charm. Children run tires around the small neighborhood mosque, only paused by the slow meandering of goats. Unfinished buildings host stunning graffiti. Russian cartoons play on seaside decks. Scuba tanks are dropped to grab fresh Bedouin tea. An endless stream of muscled men hold dried wetsuits in one hand and blonde-haired toddlers in their other. Toughened Jeeps give way to tiny bicycles. My fifteen-cent IOUs are charted at the roadside market. Nothing makes sense, yet nothing surprises.
We’ve woken up late for sunrise. A quick exchange of words in the house. I don’t even realize I’m awake until my bike has taken me four blocks down the road. Are meditative sunrises supposed to include races of fury through empty streets? Our spot is waiting for us. It’s quiet. The dogs are cuddled together. The waves are loud. Lasse says if politicians experienced this there would be no war. He’s right. Each day's new sun is tangible, believable peace. We stare until our eyes ache. The start of another day of endless opportunity.
Dahab is Dahab because of what it hosts under its waves. They give way to depth, surprise, and meditation. A constant stream of people eager to become intimate with unknowns. A community of individuals just as keen to float in silence as they are to breathe their next breath. It’s all new to me. Everyone has their definition of the sport, but somehow each is vastly different. I suppose we are to figure it out on our own.
Passion seeps from every pore. I watch. I listen. We swim.
Nature’s contrast is strong here. In jumping out of those waters we head to the desert. The mountains are wide. They seem untouched. Can they be climbed? The holds are flaky. A short bit of stemming gives nothing but choss. Maybe in time I will learn how to interact with these walls. Not now. Not yet. Until then, we wander. Ground water lends way to surprising vegetation. That sand-colored, slithery line? It’s the deadliest snake in the East. There are chilled walks and warmed teas. Silence comes naturally. It stays. The stars make me happy. Searching for known constellations only leads to understanding how much I simply don’t know. In how many places have I felt just the same? In how many places can we make such community? I've left with more questions than I came with, but also with far greater understanding that I imagined feasible. We know we can recreate these experiences. Epic landscapes and exhilirating sports aren't necessary to make us feel alive. All we ever need is something be enthusiastic about.
We must chase the things that make us feel alive.
*All underwater and drone photos by Karim Iliya