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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ras Mohammed


Today, we had a wonderful experience in the natural world of the middle east. We visited Ras Mohammed National Park. Ras means ‘head’ in Arabic, so the park’s name basically means The Head of Mohammed. Apparently, when you look at the area on a map it resembles the head of a man.
There are seven protected areas here in the Sinai, though this 450 square kilometers is exceptional for its size and terrain. Dozens of towering mountains filled with desert sand lead directly to the water’s edge. From the desert to the water! There isn’t even a strip of greenery, we were surprised. In addition to the coral reefs one can see when diving, snorkeling and swimming, there are osprey, storks, foxes, falcons and eagles occupying the land.
Our first stop in the National Park was a Mangrove Canal. The trees literally grow in the water, which is salty. When you look closely at the leaves on the tree, you notice that they have crystallized salt on them! The tree absorbed the water through its roots and basically sweated out the salt content through its leaves. There were dozens of bright blue crabs with an extremely large and bright orange claw.
Next, we visited a Shark Observatory, which is a little piece of land that juts out into the intersection of three bodies of water: the Red Sea, the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Acaba. Many of us agree that this place has one of the best coral reefs we have ever seen. The reef is shallow but drops suddenly into the darkness. “It feels like I am flying!” I heard someone say about the experience afterwards. He was right, as our eyes adjusted to the patterns of light we were suddenly overwhelmed with the plethora of fish and coral followed by darkness.
After enjoying this incredible coral cliff, we ventured over to another more secluded beach, Marsa Breaka Camping Site. There was one Italian group there but they promptly departed. We had the place to ourselves! There was much more of a beach here, which several students used to build various objects with the desert/beach sand. Other students and teachers went out into the water with our snorkeling equipment. We found a completely different type of coral here. It was shaped more like a table than a cliff. It was great though, we were able to swim above the reefs and have a birds-eye view of the life under the sea.

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