The Way to Paradise

There’s a spot in the Sinai Peninsula that some call “The Blue Lagoon.” Others call it “paradise” on earth

Photo: Anat Schneider

The Blue Lagoon in the Sinai Peninsula is an area of shallow, calm water in varying shades of clear turquoise. The place has a Bedouin desert atmosphere – calm and peaceful – that cannot be described in words. You have to be there to feel it. Tents, camels, low seating areas and simple but delicious Bedouin food. It is one of the most special locations in Sinai.

But the way there is not easy.

If you want to get there from the north, that is, from Nuweiba, it entails a trip through the mountains and desert – a magical trip through gorges between powerful cliffs of about an hour-and-a-half by car. To reach it from the south, that is, from the Blue Hole area, you can take a 2-hour camel ride… Or you can go by boat through the Red Sea, and it is a very short water voyage of about 20 minutes.

On our last trip to Sinai we were south of the lagoon and went by the slower route, but this time we did not want to “dilly dally.” We wanted to get to the lagoon quickly and take advantage of the whole first day there. So we got on the boat.

However, we did not take into account the weather conditions. Already while onboarding, Shia (Joshua) our friend failed to get a good grip amid the strong winds. The boat rocked hard and he fell into the water. Fortunately he was not injured, though his cellphone was ruined.

After the hysteria of his fall and settling into the rocking boat along with about 15 other passengers, we set out on the sea route. The wind hit hard, and the high waves crashed over us one after another.

Every crashing wave and every accompanying jolt of the boat over the crest and into the next trough, was accompanied by terror. It was bad enough that we got wet to the bone. But the fear that gripped me was paralyzing. I felt that any moment I would fall into the water, and that would be the end of Anat.

I did not have anything to hold onto in the boat. So my dear husband Aviel told me to hold onto him. But all I wanted to do at that moment was to “kill him” for bringing us on this boat.

And yet I held on to him, since I had no other choice. It was either him or the rudder.

My friend Naomi was sitting on the floor of the boat, and she was sure that the many jarring wave impacts had broken her hind parts. She was no less panicked than I was. From time to time I shouted at her “Is everything all right?” And when I saw her gaze, I realized that it was a reflection of my own – full of dread.

The feeling was one of helplessness. That was simply the situation, and we had no way to help ourselves, except to pray that it would soon be over. When we finally got off the boat our friend Shia, who grew up in a stream of Hasidic Judaism, excitedly declared, “Now I know exactly how the prophet Jonah felt!” This connection to Jonah helped him stay calm during the voyage.

After we got off the boat, we changed clothes, drank Bedouin tea and slowly relaxed.

Then followed 10 wonderful days in the Sinai “paradise,” but what we talked about most was the sea voyage. What remained with us was an unforgettable experience that made us stronger. This is what happens when we get all the way through fear, and make it to the other side alive.

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