Breaking News: Our Red Sea, Egypt, and Lebanon Retreats for 2020 have officially been rescheduled for 2021, and there are a few spots left. More details at the end of this post!
Here, I’m recapping my travels in 2019, including my Wander Women Red Sea trips in September.
Is it possible that I feel as nostalgic for the last post of my retreat recaps as I do for the actual last day of a retreat? Because it feels as hard to wrap up this series as it did to hug goodbye!
Our Wander Women Red Sea retreats ended with one last yoga class on our balcony, overlooking the beautiful shoreline of Sinai. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to spend so many hours in our homemade yoga studio over those two weeks, learning and moving and teaching on our mats.
I’ve grown so much as an instructor through leading these retreats and can’t wait to continue on this journey with our guests. I talked a bit in a previous post about how we get all levels of divers on our trips, from freshly certified straight through to instructor. The same goes for yoga.
We get everyone from yoga teachers (who I’ve happily had teach a class on the trip, too!) to those who have perhaps never rolled out a mat before. It’s actually one of the biggest questions we field from prospective guests — “do I have to be good at yoga?” One of my yoga teacher friends has a great reply to that omni-present question, in the form of another question — do you go to the breakfast table having already eaten? No, you go because you are hungry, and want to be nourished. And I like to think of yoga as the yummiest açaí bowl.
Did that land? You never really know, when I start firing up the analogy machine…
Speaking of landing, my divers in the crowd know that there’s a strict 24 hour no-fly rule after your last dive of a trip — this is to allow your body to decompress properly before heading up to altitude. Which means for the last day of our dive trips, we go on a whimsical land-based decompression day tour.
After a week of exploring Dahab’s underwater treasures, I thought it would be wise to end on a note of topside adventure. Admittedly, Dahab is largely an aquatic destination — if you’re not diving you’re probably windsurfing, snorkeling, kitesurfing, sunbathing, etc.
Of course there are exceptions — there’s some pretty major hiking nearby at the famous St. Catherines Monastary (for shame, I’ve yet to visit!) and some hardcore rock climbing in the area. But considering the big week we’d had, I settled on something more passive that I too, had been eager to check out — a Jeep-based canyon tour.
If you’ve been on a tour like this anywhere in the world that is vast desert — in Sinai it’s oh, say, twenty-three thousand square miles of it — you kind of know the drill. Our lovely Bedouin guides ferried us between unique rock formations, ancient petroglyphs, winding canyons, oasis overlooks, and beyond. Sometimes, the thrill of whipping through the endless stretches of sand in between stops was the greatest adventure of all.
The landscapes were stunning, and I tried to wrap my head around the fact that this stark Mars-like topography, rather than the jewel-toned waterfront where I spend most of my time, is in fact what the majority of Sinai resembles.
The Small Colored Canyon, our guides shared, was the result of tides receding slowly from the Red Sea over centuries. It is here in these very mountains that, according to biblical history, Moses once wandered for decades.
While due to the heat, many in the group reported feeling that we too had been in the desert for that long, we didn’t let that stop us from having a blast. It being the last day and all, everyone had really warmed up to the constant opportunity to be photographed that presents itself when I’m around. I loved seeing some get creative… very creative. Cue the new Tinder profile picture rotation.
Somewhere along the way, we stopped for lunch in a village home. Now, you know how some tours say you’ll stop at an “authentic” home that’s really more like a cultural center built or preserved for tourists?
None of that here. We were truly guests in a home far, far from the cafes of Dahab, where we were treated to a delicious home-cooked Bedouin-style meal, and the hospitality of the women that lovingly made it for us.
And then we were back in the Jeeps, and back on the road.
Our final stop was perhaps my favorite. This cluster of structures, known as Nawamis, remain largely a mystery. It’s unclear who built them, or why, though archeologists date them to around 1000 B.C., making them the oldest structures in Sinai.
While their original purpose is unknown, throughout their long history they have been used as shelters, tombs, and lodges for the people of this region.
While I’d say about 99% of every aspect of a Wander Women Retreat is something I’ve already vetted, it’s a treat when I get to experience something for the first time alongside the crew! I loved getting to take a closer look at side of Sinai I need to explore further in the future.
As you know if you’ve been following these recaps, every year we tweak our trips slightly to incorporate feedback and lessons. For the third edition of this trip coming up in 2021, we’re opening up our decompression day a bit to allow for more time in the cute lil’ town of Dahab, too — some of the top requests we had were for more time to cafe laze, mural hop, boutique shop, and just wander the streets of my favorite place in all of Egypt.
I mean, just look at this place!
I’ll end this post with my pride and joy of every trip — my recap video! I hope watching this brings you exactly where it brings me — to the deserts and seas of Sinai. As always, the incredible soundtrack is by my old friend (and once prom date!) and current music producer Dusty G, who you can find on Bandcamp or Spotify.
Wow, what a journey.
I left Cairo after three straight weeks of leading two back-to-back retreats with an exhausted body, a buzzing mind and a grateful heart. This was the hardest I’ve ever hustled and it was a privilege to do so. So many moments I looked around and almost had to pinch myself when I realized, I built this.
From my first visit, Egypt blew my mind and I was honored to introduce this bucket list destination to so many incredible women as their host, yoga teacher, occasional dive guide, personal photographer, and retreat leader.
This can be an intimidating region for women to travel solo and it was my dream to make it feel safe, accessible and most importantly full of magic and adventure for those who wanted to make their dream of visiting here a reality.
I can’t wait to return here in 2021 for two more retreats — the third iteration of our Wander Women Red Sea Dive + Yoga Retreat in Dahab (for which there are four spots left!) and a brand new Wander Women Egypt Yoga + Ancient Adventures Retreat along the Nile through Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan (which is currently sold out and waitlist only.)
I am humbled by my gratitude for the ability to create this life.
Shukran from the bottom of my heart to the many, many hands that understood my vision and made this happen alongside me, and to the girls who trusted me to make their dreams of seeing Egypt a reality. I saw this place through fresh eyes, through each of you.
And finally thank you Egypt, for all your magic.
Thank you, too, for following along with these recaps. None of this could happen without my amazing community here on Alex in Wanderland.
Intrigued by Egypt? Our 2020 retreats have been rescheduled to 2021, and there’s a few spots left in each. We’ll be holding Wander Women Lebanon: An Adventure + Yoga Retreat from August 21-28th (waitlist only!), Wander Women Egypt: An Ancient Adventure and Yoga Retreatfrom August 28th-September 4th (waitlist only!), and Wander Women Red Sea: A Dive + Yoga Retreatfrom September 4-11th (five spots left!)
Wow — with every recap post I became more and more convinced that I NEED to experience this retreat someday! Every single dive site, meal and adventure looks incredible. Thank you for taking us along on the journey, and congrats on a job well done!
Aw, that makes me so happy Jill — I’d so love to travel with you again (and dive, no less!) Actually, I’ve been digging up our Martha’s Vineyard footage and will be sharing a long awaited (by, well, me) video at some point! Loving using this time to catch up on photo/video editing!
I am dreaming of the day I’d finally get to join one of your retreats!! (Or all of then if I’m lucky! ????)
Haha we do have a few guests who basically do that — and we love it! We’d love to have ya!