Dahab is a small town located on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula. It used to be a Bedouin fishing village and the hotel information said that the Bedouin still owned a lot of it, maybe even all of it, I am not sure. I read they like to keep the businesses locally owned. Dahab is a popular tourist spot especially for windsurfing, snorkeling, and SCUBA diving; it is very big on diving. The famous Blue Hole of the Red Sea, where we will be snorkeling tomorrow, is just a few kilometers away.
On the morning of day 10 I woke up bright and early to this view outside of my hotel room:
Ahhh, yeah, loving it! This is a great place for chillaxin- lounging, walking the boardwalk, shopping, and dinner at the Bedouin style restaurant, The Funky Mummy:
I think the hotel thought Noelle and I were gay because they gave us a king sized bed and the next day we found these towel swans with their heads in a heart pattern on the bed.
Noelle says the manager apologized for the bed, but hey, no worries, dude, it’s a big bed.
It’s day 11 and we are going to the Blue Hole. What is a blue hole you ask? Well, it is like a cave standing upright in the water. There are different blue holes located around the world. The best known are the ones in Belize, the Bahamas, Guam, Australia, and the one we are going to: the Blue Hole in the Red Sea.
(Picture from Wikipedia)
This Blue Hole is basically a coral lagoon with vertical walls that descend about 130 m (426 ft) deep. At the top there is a shallow area known as “the Saddle”. It is around 6 m (20 ft) deep and opens out to the sea. There is also a tunnel about 26 m (85 ft) long known as “the Arch” that opens out to the sea. This Arch, however, is an underwater tunnel whose top is at a depth of 55 m (180 ft) and whose base is about 120 m (394 ft). After this the seabed plunges to about 1000 m (3280 ft). The following picture is a map that will help you see what I am talking about:
(Picture from Wikipedia)
This is a picture of a diver at one end of the Arch:
(Picture from Wikipedia)
The Blue Hole has the nickname, “Diver’s Cemetery” and has earned the reputation of being the “World’s Most Dangerous Dive Site”. This is due to the divers that have died trying to dive down to the arch and through it.
PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) recommends a maximum recreational diving limit of 40 m (131 ft); the arch is further down than that. The Arch is a problem to swim because it can be difficult to find due to its odd angle to the water; it appears to be a shorter length than it is; there is frequently a current flowing inward toward the Blue Hole that makes swimming take longer than expected; and, because it is essentially bottomless, there is no reference point from below to know when you have gone too far. Divers who are not prepared can get into big trouble very fast.
When I got home, I googled all of this information and saw videos of decomposed bodies and SCUBA equipment on the seabed near the Arch. In the cliffs along the shoreline of the Blue Hole are epitaphs of divers who have died here. Officially there have been 40 recorded deaths, but the locals say the number is higher.
(Picture from Wikipedia)
Of course, I was clueless. I had none of this information when I was there.
We met our snorkeling guide, the lovely Lorraine, on the boardwalk in Dahab then took a truck out to the Blue Hole. Lorraine is a Caucasian woman from England who has lived in Dahab for many years. She loves living there and told me she feels quite safe.
“It would be against the men’s religion, morals, ethics, and… everything, to hurt a woman. I feel very safe here. Of course, if a woman doesn’t understand the culture she may unintentionally give signals of interest to a man. All she has to do then is say ‘no’ when he makes an advance. You do have to be careful to not be misunderstood. Of course it’s looser in Dahab because it is a beach tourist town. The men are used to seeing scantily clad women and their more forward behavior. They don’t misinterpret like they might somewhere else.”
Good information for women travelers anywhere, I think.
We picked up another person for our group. His name was Philippe. I think he lives in France. He spoke very good English and was pleasant to be with. Neither Philippe nor I had any snorkeling experience and we weren’t divers. Noelle and Alexei were experienced divers.
At the Blue Hole shoreline there was a small collection of services including a cool Bedouin restaurant where we also got fitted for our snorkeling masks, fins and shorty wetsuits.
(Picture from Wikipedia)
I could hear Lorraine telling us information about the Blue Hole and about the epitaphs, but, for some reason I wasn’t really getting it. It was either going over my head; I couldn’t always understand Lorraine’s accent; I just wasn’t paying attention; OR, maybe it was selective hearing because what I did hear was, “There is no nice easy slope going into the water; rather, it is a steep deep plunge right from the get go.”
And I heard, “The water is deep and sometimes this gets to people so don’t look down; keep your eyes on the coral.”
Ahh, okay… yeah… uh, sure.
Maybe that’s why I didn’t hear anything else!
Noelle and Alexei kept reassuring me that they would be right there with me the whole time.
We would be travelling on the ocean side of the coral walls and then enter the Blue Hole via the saddle and climb out onto shore in the one place that had rocks rather than coral. We walked along the beach to an entry point just north of the Blue Hole. This is the entrance point for the divers. I am not sure if this is what is known as “the Bells” or not.
At any rate, you just drop your body in and get out of the way for the next guy cuz only one person can get in at a time.
Okay then. No time to dilly dally, Linda!
I think Alexei went first and then maybe, Philippe. I can’t remember. Suddenly it was my turn and, dude, there is no time for a timid descent; I just slid off the rocks, moved toward open ocean and waited. I could hear Noelle’s and Lorraine’s voices drifting toward me. Apparently, Noelle was having a flashback to a rafting accident and could not make herself get into the water. Lorraine could not take the time to help her through this post traumatic fear while she had other “charges” in the water, so Noelle didn’t get in.
Meanwhile I found myself relatively alone in the water. I couldn’t really see anyone near me, so… I stared at the coral.
Well, hell, if you know me you know I don’t like to do anything based upon fear so, of course, I looked down.
It was love at first sight; love at first consciousness; love at first feel; It was Love all around me. I opened my arms wide, leaned back and allowed myself to be embraced by Love. All of me came to life. My body was energized; my heart was filled with joy; my mind was One with Love in all things.
I don’t have the words to describe the experience.
Then, Lorraine was at my side. She checked my mask and made sure I was comfortable.
I was fabulous! I looked down some more into that beautiful blue water. I had never seen such a blue before.
We started our swim alongside the coral. What a beautiful experience that was. Once again, I felt I was alone, just me and the life around me. I was swimming easily and enjoying everything when Alexei was suddenly there.
“Linda, are you okay, are you feeling afraid?
“No, I am great!”
“Good. You are just swimming so fast, I was worried.”
“Oh, am I not supposed to be swimming?”
“No, just float, the current will take us where we need to go. You can just take your time looking at the coral. Did you see…?”
No, I didn’t see it, dang! Okay, so I stopped swimming and just floated. I took my time seeing things. However, we must remember that I wear trifocal glasses. I thought I was seeing a lot until I recently got these pictures from Alexei. Boy, if I get into SCUBA, I will need a special mask made! Look at what I didn’t see:
I did see these though:
All too soon we were at the saddle and into the Blue Hole.
Lorraine exclaimed, “Hey there’s Noelle!”
Yes, indeed, my brave friend had conquered her fear all by herself and had entered the water via the Blue Hole itself.
It was a happy group that got out and headed to a great lunch. (The blonde woman is Lorraine)
After lunch, the group intended to go out again, but I had other plans. I wanted to take a camel ride!
I don’t remember the camel’s name, bummer. The handler had the rope in his hand and walked behind me, out of my sight, as we headed off down the desert coast. It was surreal! I felt transported into another time, another place. The desert mountains were on one side of me; the beautiful water was on the other side; and just me ‘n my camel.
O man, this day was heavenly!
When I got back, the others were still out in the water. I met Lorraine in the restaurant and, lying on comfy pillows seats overlooking the water, we began chatting. She was telling me what life in a foreign country was like for her. Then she said, “I do feel lucky that I have a community of friends here who would help me if I got hurt or sick.”
“Yes, you are very lucky. What would happen?”
“Oh, they would take me in and take care of me until I got better.”
“That’s great. What about if you got really sick or hurt, how is the medical care here?”
“It’s good, but, I would want to go back to England for that.”
“What would happen if you were unconscious or unable to communicate what you would want done then?”
“It’s so funny you should ask me because I have been thinking a lot about just that.”
“Hmm, what a coincidence. Is there someone who you have given the authority to make health care decisions for you when you can’t?”
“Yes, my brother. He is in England.”
“Good for you! So many people never do that and then things can become very complicated. Have you given your brother guidelines on how to make decisions for you?”
“Well, not really. That is the sticky part, isn’t it? How do you know?”
“Yes, how do you know? Let me ask you this, where do you draw the line; what kind of a disability would you be willing to live with? For example, I have known some people who would be willing to live in a coma.”
“Oh no, that wouldn’t be me!”
“Well, let’s see… is it important for you to have your brain be working so that you can recognize your loved ones?”
“Is it important for you to be able to communicate in some way?”
“Oh I would have to be able to talk!”
“Talk clearly, so that others can understand you?”
“Okay, what about eating? Did you know that some people would not want to stay alive if they couldn’t actually eat food? They don’t want to be fed by a tube”
“Oh yeah.” She laughed, “I have to able to eat.”
“What about moving your body? Is it okay to be bed bound or do you need to be able to get out of bed by yourself and go to the bathroom and all of that stuff?”
“Okay, I am getting this now. Yes, I would want to be independent and be able to take care of myself.”
“Would it be okay to be wheelchair bound?”
“If I was independent, yes”
“Well, there you go. By deciding what kind of disability you can live with, you have just become aware of where you draw the line and the minimum quality of life you want. This is important information to give to anyone who would have to make healthcare decisions for you when you can’t. Then your Advocate can ask the doctors’, ‘In your experience doctor how have you seen patients in this condition progress; are they able to wake up, be aware, communicate, eat, etc. etc.’ They should get an idea of whether or not you could possibly reach the level of function you would want. In addition, they should ask how long it usually takes to get there. Will it take a month, six months, a year, longer? Maybe it is cool with you to take a month, but, maybe a year would be too long. They should ask all of the doctors, nurses, and therapists involved so they can get the broad picture provided by all of their experiences. In this way, your Advocate can weigh their experiences with what you want and make a choice you could live with. If it is not likely you will achieve a level of function you would want, then your Advocate can ask the doctors to allow you to be on a “peaceful death path” rather than a “fix me path”.
By you providing your Advocate with guidelines, you have given him a gift of Love because it takes the burden of decision away from him In return, it is his gift of Love to provide what you have asked for.”
Lorraine’s eyes and face were shining, “Oh my God, this is wonderful. I never looked at it like this before, I didn’t even know how to go about approaching it; it seemed too big.” She took my hand, “Thank you so much. This has helped me tremendously. You know people could use this information, you should write a book…”
I started laughing, “Oh honey, I did write a book about it. I can’t tell you how many times I have had this conversation.”
“You wrote a book about this?”
“Yes, it’s about all of this and other things like Code Status, questions to ask doctors, and more stuff. In fact it is called, Where Do You Draw The line? – An Insider’s Guide To Effective Living Wills, Healing, Critical Care.”
“How extraordinary that we have met today and have had this conversation. I am very grateful.”
“Extraordinary, yes. Surprising, no. It’s just how Love works and I am grateful for that!
On that note, the others returned and it was time to go. Back in Dahab, Lorraine and I hugged and it was filled with a mutual affection and gratitude for all of the wonderful things we had provided to each other on this day.
It was, indeed, a heavenly day!