Befriending an Egyptian (by the Red Sea)!

by - 3:22 PM

Fearsomely beautiful
As I was taking photos of the sea one early sunrise morning, a guy happened to cycle up the wharf that I was standing on. He commented in Hebrew about how beautiful it was, and we started talking in a jumble of broken Hebrew (me) and broken English (him). Turns out he is an Egyptian from Cairo, and his name is Otman. Later on, I reflected on how funny it was that I got to befriend an Egyptian right by the Red Sea! I guess cool things happen when you wake up at five in the morning for the breaking dawn! I won’t forget him.

He ended up inviting me for a cup of coffee at his café where he also works at the water sports centre. We sat there watching the Red Sea as the sun rose higher and higher, peaking over the towering Edom Mountains (הרי אדום). It was seriously so much fun to discover the thrill of speaking in a foreign language (and Hebrew or עברית, of all languages!) as well as learning new things about someone who has lived a totally different life from mine simply by virtue of where he was born. I found out that he came to Eilat (אילת) to work because there was little opportunity to earn good money back in Cairo due to all the unrest that is going on at the moment. But he has all his friends (khaverim, חברים) and family (mishpakha, משפחה) back there, so he is quite alone in this Israeli beach town. He loves it here, though. What a truly beautiful (yafe, יפה) place it is – and I thoroughly agree!

I truly felt the exhilaration of speaking another tongue in a new place. I believe God has answered my prayer when I asked Him two years ago for a reason to learn Hebrew when the opportunity arose. I am so glad I enrolled for the one semester of Hebrew at University of Melbourne. It helps so much that I can at least read most signs, as well as guess what people are talking about. And of course, being able to converse in simple terms for everyday traveling and living is just priceless.

This is exactly what I want and love to do when I travel: meet the locals, hang around with people who live on the land, and allow different ones to touch my life and illuminate my perspective in some way through the building of relationships. And sometimes, the quickest way you can do that is to take the effort to learn the language and to read about the history of the place. It will transform your travel experience, as well as give you opportunity to share your story with others as they accept you into their world and their communities!

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