Destination: Red Sea, Marsa Allam, Al Kolaan, El Sheikh El shazly, Abo Ghosoun

Distance traveled: 800 KM

Project: Youth Citizenship Ambassadors Group- UN  WOMEN

Young Cairenes heading to the southern borders of Egypt for the first time, maybe you will start thinking we managed to stay at a fancy resort, well that was not the case, we stayed at a  primitive camp with a heavenly sea view.

IMG_3580

First day, starving, checking  what’s in store for lunch, but one doesn’t get their cravings served precisely. There it is sea food, only sea food. It doesn’t matter how long you  stay, it’s a one-dish menu, yet it’s not limited to one taste, you get to choose your favorite fish.

Next Day, heading to a village 80 KM away from where we stay (Abu Ghusun village) where we intended to deliver the raising awareness for women,  a cool Bedouin driver  taking us there was surprised by the touristic behavior we aired, it was totally normal for Cairenes who have never seen a distance-road sign that directs to Shalatin ( 973 Km from Cairo )[1] but fine he was nice and coping with it or in other words dealing with it specially after we asked him to stop by the next Shalatin sign to capture the moment , we were like ” we almost made it to shalatin ya gama3a !”IMG_3619

All  along the 10 governorates we aimed to raise awareness for 750 women and young girls in each governorate on the necessity of issuing  national identity cards and most importantly use it; we made it to Abu Ghusun, a small village located in the middle of the desert that seems uninhabited at the first sight, having a population of only 540.

I am pretty sure everyone has  been told  ”make yourself at home” but maybe never felt the way we did, we felt at home the moment we stepped into  this frontier governorate (Red Sea), I am not talking about the fancy touristic attractions but about the town natives. Locals are very welcoming, holding onto their traditions graciously. We met storytellers with amusing stories on the geography, daily habits and routine.  Acknowledging our presence with the popular traditional hot beverage called ” Al- Gabana – الجبنة ” a mixture between coffee and ginger that you drink in small shots and that you only find it in the south (Red Sea and Aswan).

Local residents started telling us about their life, how they have been – as a whole governorate located in the southern Red Sea coast- socially , economically marginalized, and how health care centers are inaccessible to everyone that they have to travel to Al- Quseir city (almost 150 KM away) to reach the nearest hospital, about their amazing handcrafts that they weren’t very successful to market due to the lack of visibility, long distance from the capital city where all the selling spots and commercing opportunities are, so they end up keeping those handcrafts for themselves or till a tourist passes by, however it is worth mentioning that local women are incredibly skillful in crafting products that could easily appeal to countless tastes outside their community . Their living conditions were very bad till post 2011 Uprising, since then conditions started to get better but yet on a rather slow pace. Thanks to the recent national attention given to marginalized areas on the Egyptian map, and underserved communities, on top of them is Red Sea governorate.

What is captivating about Red Sea governorate is it’s gifted phenomenal natural and cultural aspects which have not gone mainstream among Egyptian travelers, at least not yet! And maybe the weak interest in the Red Sea as a getaway is what preserves its untrodden beauty . In all honesty, I’m shifting all my travel plans towards the Red Sea.

To keep you in picture with me, this trip birthed challenges we never, as a team, were aware of, leaving us with an exhausting to-do list, as youth workers, civil society organization, and as Egyptians..  We went really far attempting to integrate those marginalized communities, particularly women and young girls, and convince them to issue national ID cards.

Towards the end of that trip, I’m left with the contemplation of how integrating our diverse backgrounds will be a persistent celebration of our differences, making room for real development and advancement.

 

Before you leave, watch Youth Citizenship Ambassadors Group video here

Check out the official song of the project, written and performed by Red Sea Youth Ambassadors  here 

Fatma Khaled

Program Specialist

[1] Shalateen is the biggest town just north of the Halayeb Triangle, an area of disputed sovereignty between Egypt and Sudan. It is located 520 kilometres (320 mi) south of Hurghada and it is 973 kilometers from Cairo