As my return to Montreal nears, I feel increasingly distant from the present moment.
I constantly catch myself daydreaming about my home in Canada, imagining the morning routine I would follow everyday: make my bed, open the curtains, and stand by the garden window while listening to the water boil in the kettle.
I feel as though my mind has taken an earlier flight back, leaving my body behind to tie loose ends.
I don't think that is necessarily an unhealthy reality to live, actually the opposite, I think it is a great practice in "letting go" and avoiding a clinging mind, however I do think that my mind has taken haste in leaving so abruptly.
To lure it back to the present I urge it to reflect on two key lessons which Dahab's wonderous Wadi Qnai has shared with me:
1. "You are not special"
I remember challenging my self-worth with this concept many years ago after watching Fight Club and acknowledging the quote: "You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake". This time a very specific granite wall reminded me of this lesson; "Strongman from here (7B)", a 20 meter lightly overhanging sport climbing route which zigzags through varied climbing styles stumped me for a week.
I was possessed by every inch of it, spending the entire day dissecting it and climbing it, and my remaining nights obsessing over it, sweating profusely with nervous anticipation. There was not a single moment spent outside the mindset that my efforts entitled me to a successful ascent.
On the seventh day my body relieved my mind of this self-inflicted pressure, as my fingers no longer had enough skin to bear my weight. Hanging in the rope, one bolt away from the anchor, I melted with relief: I DON'T NEED TO FINISH THIS.
That precise idea was so distant from me that I never realized that successfully climbing the route had nothing to do with what I wanted to DO, but instead had everything to do with what I wanted to BE.
I wanted to be the version of me that accomplished something hard.
I wanted to be recognized as Karim, the one who climbed 7B...
I wanted to be special.
Although this can be a great way to promote self-actualization, I realized that the degree of my conviction was ultimately toxic; suffocating a version of me to replace it with a "special" one. Every individual component of the route taught me this lesson, from the sharp edges in the first few meters to the polished slopes at the top.
Acknowledging this marked the transition towards an openness to the wisdom available in Wadi Qnai, which led me to the second lesson I learned.
2. "Harder is not better"
After dedicating my first three trips in Dahab to sport-climbing I decided to spend my last trip bouldering. I had heard from everyone that the bouldering in Wadi Qnai was "World Class", featuring problems ranging from three star 5a's (V2) to the first 8a (V11) in Egypt, all of which are neatly organized in the Dahab Bouldering Guide book by Fred Stone.
This was the first time I actively decided to focus on outdoor bouldering and was excited to be sharing it with some psyched individuals.
As I became more confidant with my strengths and ticked off increasingly harder routes I blindly started chasing the most subjective aspect of climbing:
After climbing my first 7a+ (V7) I became bloodthirsty and set my sights on a 7b+ (V8) named "Barracuda". My plan was to wake up every morning, travel to the Wadi, walk up the granite waterfall, scramble up to Barracuda and work on it until I completed it.
Everything surrounding Barracuda was dismissible in my mind, because it mattered the most to me.
Every morning I walked passed hundreds of boulders disregarding their intricately formed lines, blind to the lessons they could teach an ill experienced boulderer such as myself. I walked a predictable path every morning towards something I deemed important to my climbing experience without considering the possibility that I was not ready for it.
Lucky for me Barracuda is covered in unapologetically sharp and grainy holds which bite into your skin like a... (you guessed it) Barracuda! And so naturally I could only sustain a few tries everyday before giving into the pain, which tempted me to look out of the cave I had crawled into. Soon enough with the help of some adventurous friends we explored the most magnificent environments I had seen in a long while.
Although dedication and persistence are valuable traits to embody, harnessing them without reflection can be extremely limiting. Without actively thinking about the thing I dedicated my entirety to and in this case making my choice based on something subjective, I ultimately set myself up for stagnancy, instead of the intended growth.
I am so fortunate to have had these enlightening experiences and thank myself for being open to such marvelous lessons, but I would like to extend my thanks to everyone I have met these last months. I am eternally grateful for the incredible support, motivation and all around beautiful memories you've shared with me.
Timo, thank you for your beautiful smile and your detailed lessons in the technical side of climbing. Thank you for making climbing safe in Dahab and being so professional in everything you do.
Vlad, thank you for guiding me through the Wadi and showing me all its hidden beauty. You are the reason I learned lesson two. Thank you for the bone file and the unending motivation and energy you bring to the Wadi everyday, and for making me laugh so much.
Menna, thank you for being so welcoming and giving me a place to stay. Thank you for your warm hugs and the childlike psyche I always try to channel. Waiting for you to send Bedouin cigarette.
Osama, thank you for making me so comfortable. You are the most reflective person I have met and will forever miss the way you look at the world. You've inspired me to be at peace with my mind.
Salem, thank you for your patience and your flexibility. Your calmness and sensitive nature is humbling and I am yet to understand how you break every beta. I sincerely enjoy climbing with you.
Gomaa, thank you for the smoothest trips back and forth, in and out of the Wadi. Thank you for allowing us into your world and giving us the freedom to play in it. Thank you for the unlimited warm tea and your radiating heart.
And finally Amina... thank you for sharing my deepest passion in life with me. Thank you for joining me on all my adventures and leading me through your own. Thank you for catching me 267 times on the 7b from 6am till 4pm for a week straight. Thank you for teaching me how to listen and how to feel. Thank you for your love and everything in between. Thank you for being my friend and my adventure buddy.
Thank you Dahab for being everything I and all your people ever needed.
Thank you for giving, forever and always.