It is the 29th of December and I can’t believe the very trying 2020 is just about to end. What 2021 is going to be like is yet to be seen, but I have a feeling that we, as humanity, hit the rock bottom this year and it can only get better. Personally, I am neutral to 2021 and being cautious, not keeping my hopes up that the Corona pandemic will just go away. Maybe, it is also because 2020 was not very bad to me. Sure, it affected my working life, messed up my travel plans, and made me rethink a lot of my life decisions. Even then, 2020 was nicer to me than the previous years. Professionally I prospered, my financial status became more robust, and personally, I grew as a person. I made more friends, stopped feeling lonely as an expat, and started the ritual of having fun activities with my four-year-old. It was a ritual I had with my daughter when she was his age and we enjoyed painting, cooking, baking, and gardening. I even managed to do a few trips within the country of residence, completed my advanced PADI course, did a night dive, and learned to make sushi. Before I keep babbling, let’s take a look at how 2020 has been.
My new year started at the rim of the Erta Ale volcano in Ethiopia and I spent half of January there. It was my first time in Ethiopia and it was a love-hate experience. I traveled solo like the olden times for the first time after Akash’s birth and my destination was not the easiest one to navigate by oneself. However, it is a beautiful country; one that I am planning to revisit at Easter and looking forward to it.
PANDEMIC BROKE OUT
We had planned a much-awaited Morrocco trip for this Easter. It was to the Valley of Roses, where the famous damask roses are harvested only during that time. Everything was planned and booked. We all looked forward to it when the pandemic broke out. The shock came in bits and pieces. As luck would have it, my workplace was one of the first to report an infected case in Cairo and we went into quarantine. Both Tarek and I stopped going out; Akash was cooped in with us, and thus began our pandemic quarantine life. It went on for months as lockdowns started getting imposed and it was one of the toughest times we faced as professionals, adults, parents, individuals, parents, and a couple. Many important life decisions happened during this time because as they say it is only during a crisis that you get to see the real picture. In retrospect, I am grateful for this time because it opened my eyes, cemented certain decisions, and hardened my will to see them to the end. I became more aware of my own boundaries, needs, what I accepted, what were completely unacceptable, and to respect them. In the end, I started respecting myself for going through this extremely difficult face with as much creativity, peace, ease, and solidarity as possible. It was also at this time, that I got hooked to podcasts and audiobooks, especially the excellent BBC Radio 4 Dramas.
The only brief break I had before the summer was a short trip to Marsa Alam. I hired a car and a driver went to a friend’s flat and spent most of my time working online from there. Diving was still not possible, but it was nice to sit by the beach, breathe fresh, clean air, and snorkel. I also hiked in the nearby mountains just before sunset when the heat was less and the desert colours were glorious. Everything in Egypt was still in partial lockdown and Marsa Alam was deserted. At times, entire stretches of beaches seemed to belong solely to me.
As usual, I went back to the original country of my residence in the summer. Germany was once again open with relaxed lockdown restrictions and it felt strange to be among people again. I went to meet an old friend at Nuremberg for a short visit and apart from that, it was summer, which I will never repeat. It was extremely hot (in European standards), too crowded, too busy, and I was happy to return to Egypt.
This was during the fall break and it was the first I relaxed this year. 2020 until then was extremely challenging professionally. I worked from home, and most of the time, juggled with Zoom meetings, stirring a curry, and trying to dislodge a restless attention-craving toddler from my shoulders. Thus, Dahab came as a blessing. We stayed for nearly 10 days there and made friends with a local family who had kids of Akash’s age. It was a win-win situation. Akash loved playing with the children as we dived, hiked, and rested. It was also during this time that I dived with Tarek for the first time, completed my Advanced Padi course, and did my first night dive. This was another phenomenal experience, especially for me, since I am a scareddy cat who is afraid of the dark. Strangely enough, I found myself relaxing more during the night dive and the sight of hundreds of glowing bio-luminescent planktons sticking to your body is an unbelievable experience.
By this time, I made several friends and Akash started going on regular playdates. It was nice to have some quality time without having to entertain him and we often socialized with the parents of those children. I made a close friend, who came as a blessing, especially since Maria’s absence was much felt. Her daughter became Akash’s best friend and we enjoy hanging out with the couple. Thus, during one long weekend, we drove to Fayoum, stayed at a villa by the lake Qarun, and had a jolly good time. We barbequed, cooked, rode horses, and relaxed. Fayoum is just two hours away from Cairo. Though called an oasis, it is a fertile Nilotic basin that is irrigated by hundreds of capillary canals, dug in ancient times. These irrigation channels have kept the area lush with a patchwork of farms, fields of sunflowers, date palms, and flowers. Small villages dot this basin and the road traffic gets mingled with water buffaloes, herds of goats, and villagers riding donkeys. Tunis is the most famous village of this basin and it is remarkable for its glazed pottery.
This was right before Christmas. Our winter break had just started when Akash and I decided to go to Luxor on a short trip. We flew in and out of Luxor, stayed at the very beautiful Sofitel Winter Palace, did a few activities like sailing down the Nile, exploring a temple or two, enjoying a hot air balloon sunrise, and riding horses. Most of all, we spent a lot of time relaxing by the pool, bonding over food, and exploring the magnificent hotel grounds. Complete with a small menagerie, flowers, fountains, and orange trees, it was the perfect spot to spend hours with a curious child who loves nature. Needless to say, we had a fantastic time.
2020 has been challenging for everyone. However, it has also come with a lot of pros. More and more people have connected with nature, and nearly everybody is cooking, being happy at home, and spending quality time with their loved ones. The pandemic has taught us to slow down, understand the value of human contact, and how the only weapon we have at the moment to fight this sneaky virus is our own robust health. People have become more conscious and I hope this positive streak remains even when the pandemic situation is over. And sooner or later, it will get over.
Have a great new 2021 folks! Wishing you all lots of love, peace, and happiness. See you soon in 2021 and stay tuned for lots of brand new travel experiences. Now you can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your daily dose of exciting travel experiences.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE