The buses took off from the busy streets of Downtown Cairo to Taba and Nuweiba at 5:30 am.
The bus sped along the Palms of Nuweiba Road that was completely empty except for a few people, despite the greenery on either side. We arrived in the afternoon at the Valley of Wadi Watir, which pours seasonal torrents into the Gulf of Aqaba in Nuweiba.
The road took us about seven hours as we reached the fishermen’s village on the Aqaba Bay at 3 pm.
Chairman of Tourism Investor Association Sami Soliman was our guide when we stopped at the Valley of Wadi Watir and saw the effects of the floods, which destroyed the road to Nuweiba and the green meadows of grass in the valley.
In May, rainfall covered 350mn square metres during floods, and the region did not benefit from the rain, according to a statement by the chairman of the association.
The floods had crushed huge blocks of cement weighing more than a ton.
We met some of the Bedouins and drivers of international trucks on the road that traverse the international border between Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. They told us that there is no attention given to this region and the road is very dangerous.
In the Valley of Wadi Watir, pools of water from torrents of last May still fall from the mountain to collect in small streams, from which birds and the sheep of the Bedouins in the valley drink.
We entered the fishermen’s village, in which we stayed until we departed for Taba the third day. There was no one in the village except for some workers and ourselves, the owner of the village told us. “Some resorts have closed their doors and others are on their way,” he said.
The next day, we went to Rayyan resort, which includes more than 200 rooms. The manager, Magdy Othman, told us that there are only 18 workers of a total of 140 workers as a result of teh absolute lack of guests for more than 5 months.
A hotel manager, preferring to stay anonymous, told us that some hotels were closed and then robbed by the Bedouins. “All the hotel belongings were stolen, even the marble was taken off. They also kidnapped a security worker who was only returned after paying the ransom “
Hotel capacity in the region is about 15,000 rooms with investments of more than EGP 10bn, according to the President of the Association.
“Tourism is a major source of income for the region and Bedouins are its biggest beneficiaries. There hasn’t been a single tourist in the region for four months and the state bodies have conflicting views regarding the region’s development,” said Bedouin Sheikh Ashish Tarabin.
On the third day, we set off to Taba and accepted the invitation of a Bedouin who works in tourism, Farag Odah, an energetic young man in his twenties, said: “The area is clear of tourists and we are living a difficult crisis, and we’re not getting any support from the state”
When asked about the ransoms imposed by the Bedouins on the hotels, he said: “No one imposes ransoms on the hotels, is for the provision of security.”
We stopped by a hotel at the end of the Taba road; it doesn’t much differ from the other hotels; there is no one but the manager and some workers and barely a handful of Russian-speaking tourists.
We arrived at Taba by dusk, and we stayed in Tobya hotel, which wasn’t different from the other hotels we had been to. “There isn’t one single guest in the place. We suffer from poor marketing. Eilat and Aqaba are bustling with tourists, especially during this time of Christmas preparations,” said the manager Lisa; an Italian lady married to an Egyptian.
According to Lisa, attention in Sinai is given only to Sharm el-Sheikh.