“On your right is mainland Egypt, on the continent of Africa. On your left is Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, on the continent of Asia.”
Hassan’s words as we were beginning our journey down the Suez Canal echoed in the air like speech bubbles from a cartoon character. Asia? Did he really say Asia?
Africa would be our seventh continent, a milestone I had been anticipating for weeks. Sharm el-Sheikh was our first stop in Egypt and would forever be known as the place where we first stepped onto African soil and continent number seven. We would celebrate at a beach resort on the Red Sea. I had made a sign – a large number 7 that looked like sparkly golden sand, mounted on sturdy cardboard – to honor the occasion.
Except that Sharm el-Sheikh is on the Sinai Peninsula. Which suddenly seemed to be found in Asia.
Back in our cabin, Herb turned to Google. “Uh-oh,” he said quietly. “Well, we’ll just have to wait one more day. And hey, Luxor will be an even more special place for our seventh continent.”
But it wasn’t waiting another day that upset me. It was me. I couldn’t understand how I had missed this important piece of information. I know that Turkey and Russia lie in both Europe and Asia. How did I not know that Egypt – the country I have dreamed of visiting for decades – straddled two continents? I pride myself on researching every detail of our travels. I angst over each fact that I write on this blog, always double-checking my notes and resources. Four years of long-ago journalism school instilled in me a quest for accuracy that to this day is part of every fiber of my being.
And yet, here I was, not in Africa.
* * * * *
The following morning, we continued with our day as planned and joined the ship’s beach break excursion. Security at the port was tightly monitored – we boarded the bus, disembarked and passed through security before our bus was permitted to leave the compound. A friendly Egyptian guide accompanied us on the short drive through town, pointing out a few sights along the way.
Our destination for the morning was the Fayrouz Resort, which claims to have the longest stretch of sandy beach on Naama Bay, a popular Red Sea vacation spot. With clear blue skies and balmy temperatures, we couldn’t have ordered up a better day. Our guide led us through the resort, past security, to the place where we’d be spending the morning. We were on our own, but he wanted to give us complimentary soft drink tickets and make sure we knew our way around the resort.
Sharm el-Sheikh is in a transitional mode, with tourists slowly returning after a long absence because of security fears. It was clear to me that Fayrouz Resort had been greatly impacted by all the quietness. The facilities were in good shape, but not in the pristine condition that I would have expected at a prime spot on the Red Sea. There were a handful of beach-goers and a few tourist boats in the near distance, but the place felt a little empty. We were there on a November weekday morning – not yet the peak season for visitors – and I couldn’t help but silently cheer for this lovely beach to be busy over the next few months, to return to what must have been its days of glory.
Herb and I picked out a thatched umbrella, laid out our beach towels on blue and white chaises and settled in. We dipped our toes in the Red Sea, walked along the beach and read a little, but mostly we were content to sit under our thatched umbrella and enjoy the view.
It turned out to be a pretty great day after all. Even if we were on the wrong continent.