I was ten when my family and I took a trip to the Sinai Desert in Egypt. We drove down all night long and arrived in the morning. We hadn’t booked a hotel, since we weren’t planning on sleeping in a big resort on the beaches of the Red Sea. No, we preferred to find one of the small groups of huts to rent out – “chushot” as they’re called – and rent ourselves a couple of huts for the week we were planning on staying.
We found the most perfect spot. A man who had just started up his hut rental spot was glad to welcome us as his first customers. He was a chef and had studied in France and so despite our protests he cooked a couple of serious meals while we were there. The huts were rudimentary, but then that’s what we’d wanted – there were a couple of sandy mattresses and thin blankets in each hut, and the windows were just shutters which we threw wide open during the night, trying to will a breeze to enter the stifling rooms. The only time we ever spent in those huts was at night, to sleep. During the rest of our days and evenings, we enjoyed our secluded and empty beach – no one in sight except for us and the manager’s friends who visited him from Nueba, the nearest city. We snorkeled, saw exotic fish and beautiful coral reefs. We lay in the sun, we played backgammon, we walked around the markets of Nueba – it was the most restful and idle vacation I’d ever been on, and I haven’t been on a similar one since.
The trip is a blur to me, the memories all fading into each other and forming a short montage of what we’d done during that week. However, one night stands out crystal clear in my memory.
The moon rises not from the sea, but from the mountains in Sinai, and so it seems to rise very late because it takes it so long to rise above the mountains and be visible. One night, the full moon, it rose very late. Until it rose, the sky was this vast and endless velvet blanket above us, sprinkled with a million stars, all twinkling brightly. We were so far away from the big hotels and from the city that when we extinguished the lamps we had, we could see the stars perfectly. We could have counted them one by one if we’d wishes. I felt so small, so insignificant that night, because I saw The Milky Way – that ribbon of stars that is the basis of our galaxy’s name. It was so plain and easy to see – right there, above me, a river of stars so dense they seemed like a long white cloth spread across the heavens. I’d never felt or seen the full scope of the sky like that before.
It was, to say the least, overwhelming. But there is something wonderful in looking up and seeing how big the world really is and how small and insignificant your life is. There’s a sort of relief to it.