Sinai's DAHAB through the eyes of the Photographer _ AMINA ZAHER
Most of us are used to having a pre-existing perspective about certain places. Sinai is no exception. Not only does it have variant perspectives about it, but it also remains an underrated and mostly unexplored territory; Many still don’t know what it’s like being there in Sinai’s streets. “Peace of mind, heart and soul” Amina Zaher, the photographer behind these astonishing photographs for DIVAZ, says when asked about what the town means to her. “I’m there almost every month.”
Amina Zaher is a Marketing graduate who gave up working for multinational companies to follow her dream of becoming a photographer and the universe sure did respond! Zaher’s work has been published in many magazines including the likes of Vogue and Bazaar. Amina is Cairo based and has unique touch in the way she captures her subjects and specially women. She takes us through a new journey with this Docu-Editorial of one of her favorite spot in Egypt.
Shot on Location: Dahab, Sinai (Egypt)
Photographer: Amina Zaher / Text: Aya Nassar
Dahab, a town on the coast of the Southern Sinai Peninsula about 80km east of Sharm El Sheikh, is a sanctuary from the intense city life. Originally the home of Bedouins of the Muzeina tribe whose lifestyle traditionally relied on goats, fishing, and palm trees, by the 1960s, the word on Dahab started to spread among the hippies but really started to flourish, due to Egypt’s wars with Israel, in the 1990s. `
But What is Dahab and its people like today?
Dahab’s culture is the most diverse with a current multicultural community of Bedouins, Egyptians from all over Egypt, and international travelers who couldn’t resist its beauty. “From the minute I've arrived I’ve noticed how diverse it is between Bedouin local people, city people and foreigners and how they’re all living together as one.. no place for racism or judgements. This was really inspiring given the hard times we’re living nowadays”, comments Amina Zaher on the town’s community.
If you’re lucky enough to go there and meet Dahab’s Bedouins, you’ll find the most decent people you’ll ever meet who hold on to their ethics so tight, from hospitality to respect and committing to one’s word. One of the most striking contrasts to the city is how safe and respected women feel there. “No one ever bothers me. There’s no sexual harrassment like you commonly find in Cairo.” Zaher explains from experience about how respected the women there are. And if someone gave his word, there’s no going back no matter what, like how a man gave his word to his late father to take care of a woman renting his apartment and, despite that it’s hurting him financially, he didn’t dare to raise the rent or force her to leave years later to not break his promise.
But don’t mistake their ethics for seriousness that leaves no space for life! Dahab’s people are the most festive with a love for life and all that it has to offer: From Cherishing well-made food, such as Farasheeh , which is like a bread that they have for breakfast every day, or Maadoush , which is a dish of lentils and rice, to weddings that spread over two to three days with all sorts of music with oud, rababa, and shababa , and not to mention the generous Hemoula, the guests’ wedding gifts to the couple; Dahab’s people like to live well, decently and with generosity.
Also one of the most refreshing and mind blowing aspects of Dahab’s authentic culture is the connection they have to nature and specifically with the mountains that are talked to, gratitude is expressed to, and Samwak, a natural antibiotic, is derived from.
As for the more “modernized” Dahab, we have the city’s people to thank for that, those who came to Dahab and knew they can’t leave. They left the big city and started opening small sustainable businesses with the help of the Bedouins who also transferred their love for the nature to those who came that it became a natural part of the everyday to go to the mountains or climb and Dahab is becoming a hotspot for rock climbing sites with each passing year, such as the most well-known site is Wadi Qnai and the up-and-coming sites Wadi Kid and Wadi Nassup. Also, with the crystal clear water of the town and it’s almost-always perfect weather,
Dahab now has more than fifty diving centers spread throughout it as well as areas as the Blue Hole and the Blue lagoon which allow for exceptional diving, kitesurfing or windsurfing.
The result of harmony between the Bedouin and the newly Dahab’s citizens is a laid-back unstressful city that offers you mountain hikes and beach cafes side by side on a daily basis! Such a diverse culture is sure to translate to the town’s fashion sense. From the Bedouins’ traditional clothing to the more boho style of both Egyptians and foreigners alike, Dahab is an on-going festival of personal expression through one’s fashion.
Zaher tries to express this diverse culture through her work; When asked about she’d like people to read from those photographs, she says “I want people to believe that we can all live together as one and respect our differences. I want this project to be a proof that this is already happening, that the things your eyes tell you to see as bad or inferior, if you put some effort and look closer, you might see the beauty in them.”
However, the out-of-this-world vibe of Dahab is threatened nowadays with a growing number of modern hotels and city-like developments. Hippies and backpackers first came to Dahab in search of a peaceful and laid-back town and the town is currently trying to retain this authentic feel, compared with the more luxurious and developed resort towns of Sharm El Sheikh for instance. Zaher explains that the locals were trying to help her through her shoot in every way they can to support the success of her photographs. “The people there were trying to help me whenever they understand that I’m trying to show the beauty of Sinai’s lifestyle. They are fighting hard here to keep it this way, as it is, so they appreciate this project a lot,” Zaher explains.
If places can be personified, Dahab would be an Egyptian diva that deserves attention and protection at all costs.