Friday, December 26, 2008

Red Sea Christmas

“Give me a small fish for my son”. The arab asked King, the filipino chap who I got to know only 5 min. ago while strolling along the beach. A lot of people gathered around King as he unhooked one small fish from his last catch…Earlier he almost caught a 1-metre long baraccuda but it managed to escape. The kid beamed with amusement at the yellow finned jumping fish as it was handed to him by dad...

The weather nowadays is much tamer and comfortable.. It’s a bit like Tagaytay. Cool and windy. I was back at the Red Sea. I discovered, the coast is nearer to where I am staying than I originally thought. It’s a mere 400 steps away from my door. An even greater discovery for me was that this place is not as inhospitable as I originally thought or was made to believe. I passed by Indians playing cricket by a large and empty deserted piece of land. There are also arab kids playing soccer in another block of land… Cute arab boys and girls are playing by the waters..Slowly I’m seeing more and more of their human and soft side. I guess the western media has demonized the muslim world too much.

3 or 4 days from now the arab calendar will be hitting the year 1430 while the rest of the world moves on to 2009.

I’m so fascinated by the unspoilt beauty of the Red Sea. How alive and teeming with fishes the waters are. King, who has been working in Saudi for 8 years told me he comes here to fish every weekend. With only an old fashioned fishing rod and some worms as his tool, he goes home everytime with the icebox filled with at least a 100 fishes of all variety without fail. “Dito sa Jiddah, buhay ka”. King said in his mild Visayan accent. He meant that food in Jeddah is virtually free. You don’t need a job or education to survive. For those who are more adventurous, you can get an even more varied catch if you dive and carry an underwater speargun. I said bye to King, and he gladly returned my greetings with 30 or so yellow-finned fishes. “Pamasko ko sa iyo”. I thank him for the nice Christmas gifts.

God is truly fair. If the Red Sea was as stale as Manila Bay or even Singapore’s East Coast, the arabs would have been starving before the discovery of oil in the early 50s. Prior to that, this place was still largely nomadic and the bedouins live a fairly simple fishing existence. No agriculture or industry whatsoever in this desert land.

The seagulls were also fun to watch. They seem to have the ability to float stationary in the air for a few seconds similar to the way helicopters do. Now I know that wherever you find seagulls and kingfishers, it tells you for sure that the waters have abundant fishes. The kingfishers are slightly smaller in built but has a sharper and more squarish figure. The seagulls have large wingspans almost like that of an eagle but not quite yet…

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