Dumyat & Ras El Bar: A Turtle & Millions of Cockles.

Dumyat and Ras El Bar, 2 fishing towns in very close proximity to each other, so close that you just have to visit both. In Egypt, another twin cities are Cairo and Giza, but those 2 are very large cities. Very busy and congested. These 2 however  are more relaxed, a retreat site of sort for people who wishes to escape from the busyness of Cairo and the touristy nature of Alexandria.

Both town starts to breath during the summer with tourists from all over - local and foreign - coming in. During the winter it looks like a ghost town.

Dumyat - 46

But it is only during winter that you can see something like this. A beach full of cockles (kerang). Millions, trillions no countless numbers of them.

Kerang Dumyat

Egyptians do not eat cockles so the millions lying around not to mention countless more in the sea are left uncollected.

This make the size of these things bigger than what one may normally find elsewhere.

Kerang - 2

Though not many tourists can be seen here during this time of the yeara, tourism is not the only economic source of income for this place. Dumyat and Ras El Bar are also fishing industry towns, with one of the largest fleets on the Mediterranean. It accounts for fully half of the fishing boats of Egypt.

Mansoura Foggy

The date was January the 2nd of 2014. The morning was a bit misty, it wasn't cold though, and since it was Friday the surroundings were quite tranquil.

Here in front of Istad Gamaah there were 2 kids leisuring around while their mum was busy lining up fresh vegetables for sale.

Bun & His Good Deeds.

The little girls name is Ramas, while I had forgotten this young boy's name. They were both very friendly but hyperactive kids. Ramas especially, the little girl was just full of energy. The boy was a lot more quiet and subdued.

Ras El Bar.

The tremco arrived late, as expected. One thing that I noticed from my 6 years here in Egypt, they cannot tolerate people who are even a minute late even though they themselves are late in the first place? Does that sentence even make sense?

An example, a tremco I had ordered once arrived very late from schedule. Me and my friends were pissed of course, and some started to wonder off doing other things whilst waiting for the tremco. When the tremco driver arrived he was pissed that he had to wait for those wondering off eventhough he was the one late in the first place.

But overtime I found that that's a cute little trait of the Egyptians, and equivalent to those arrogant Parisians who refuse to acknowledge English speaking tourists and Londoners whom take their moment of solitude too seriously. You just can't help but smile when thinking about it retrospectively.

Ras El Bar market waiting for the boat

This is the fishing town of Ras El Bar. The journey here from Mansoura took us a little less than an hour. The tremco's portable tv was playing X-Men First Class. I didn't watch it but it did led me to talk about superhero movies and comics with my good friend Baihaqi.

I never knew you were into these Bai. I recommend him to read Annihilation as a start to Cosmic Marvel. Hope he bites.

Ras El Bar boat 2

To get to the fish market, we need to cross the river by boat. It costs 50 cents for a one way trip across.

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There are 3 stories told in Surah Al-Kahf, one of them being the story of Musa and Khidr. It was thought that the meeting between the 2 prophets occured somewhere here in the district Dumyat.

In his era, the Bani Israelian Musa was considered to be the most knowledgable man in all of Egypt. One day, a man asked him if there's anyone more knowledgable than him. Now Moses is a very stern man so in a strict and definite manner he answered "No, there's no one more knowledgable than me."

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This causes Allah to counsel him and told him of a man named Khidr. Note that the verse from the Quran does not state Khidr by name, but a very reputable Quranic commentary does indeed state that the man's name is Khidr.

Feeling humbled by that revelation, he seeks out Khidr, with clues given by Allah and hopes to be his apprentice. He met Khidr, and was given the condition of never asking, and never doubting what he did if Musa was ever to be a student of his.

Musa accepted the condition and the 2 travelled together.

Atas boat dekat Ras El Bar

However along their journey together. Khidr's seemingly violent and destructive actions so disturb Moses that he violates his oath of not to ask questions. One of the things that Khidr did that pushes Musa to do this was him killing a sinless young boy.

The moral is such that under certain events, even an influential and knowledgable prophet like Musa couldn't even understand and accept. Allah's knowledge and secrets are so vast that sometimes it is beyond one's comprehension.

Dumyat - 04

The journey to the other side took us about 5 minutes. This is the boat's operator.

Ras El Bar boat

Back to Musa and Khidr, once they were on a boat together and saw a bird drinking water from the sea with its beak. The dialogue goes something slike this:

"Musa, will the sea ever dry from the bird's action?"
"No of course not, never my teacher."
"And so is Allah's knowledge and secrets, it is so vast that what we know now can only be considered as a drop of water from this vast ocean."

Ras El Bar

The ship docked here and off we go. The water here is so dirty and full of rubbish that the water looks oily on the bayside area.

Ras El Bar market udang 2

A few meters after we disembarked from the boat we met our first seafood seller for the day.  He was selling what I assume are freshly catched shrimps. The shrimps' size are a bit average though.

Ras El Bar market sayur

Ras El Bar market. Vegetable sellers.

Ras El Bar market pisang

Fruit sellers. Banana is very cheap during the winter. You can normally buy these for 4.00 EGP a kilo.

Ras El Bar market 3

The price of seafood here is much much cheaper than in Mansoura. For example, a kilo of squid is only 25 EGP. In Mansoura it ranges from 40 - 60 EGP a kilo.

Ras El Bar market 4

The cat must be hungry.

Pakcik Jual Ikan Ras El Bar 2

It's funny, even though I have fishermen blood in me, the only 3 fishes that I know of all my life are mackerels, sardines and red snappers. You can add barramundi and catfish too to that list I guess. My point is looking at all these type of fishes,  I was pretty much puzzled all the way through.

Ras El Bar market penjual

I do like the atmosphere though. And surprisingly the market is not as loud as I thought. The sellers are more passive and not that forceful.

Ras El Bar market udang segar

These prawns are much bigger than the ones we found before. But no, we didn't buy these.

Ras El Bar market strawberry

The freshest strawberries that money can buy. I tasted my first ever strawberry here believe it or not. I'm not a very adventurous guy you see, gastronomy wise.

Ras El Bar market turtle

Surprisingly, there was a turtle being sold here. At first I thought that this was a normal sight but after walking around the market back and forth this was the only turtle being sold in the whole market.

The turtle must be trapped in the fisherman's net. Poor turtle.

Ras El Bar market penyu

A friend suggested that we should buy the turtle and release it into the sea. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

To be honest I thought the idea was ridiculous at first but this eventually ends up being the most memorable moment of the whole trip. Chances like this don't come often, if ever.

Beli Penyu

We bought the turtle for 60 EGP which is roughly RM30. A bargain.

Ras El Bar market pilih ikan

Meanwhile Nizam and the others are shopping for our BBQ that we had planned later on.

Ras El Bar market ikan segar

They bought 2 kilos of squids (or was it 1 kilo??), a couple of rays, a kilo of ikan sebelah (which costs 120 EGP a kilo) among others which I honestly can't recall.

Ras El Bar market the fishermans

Nizam and the others continued to take a stroll around the market whilst me, Bun and Izzat decided to go back to the tremco on the other side first. We fear that the turtle would become dehydrated had we waited too long.

Ras El Bar market

Whilst waiting for the boat a couple of kids stopped by to look and eventually touch the turtle. They asked what the thing was and us not knowing what a turtle is in arabic, answered by saying "penyu".

Ras El Bar - 2

We regrouped about half an hour later and thankfully there was a large bucket for us to put the turtle on. It was funny running around carrying a turtle inside a plastic bag as if we were shopping vegetables.

Anyway the bucket was filled with seawater.

Ras El Bar - 1

The town is so quiet and empty that it is eerie.

New Dumyat

This is the town of New Dumyat, about 15-20 minutes from Ras El Bar. There's also Old Dumyat which is a bit farther down south. In Egypt, many shops are closed in Friday.

Dumyat is the aforementioned Ras El Bar's twin city.

Dumyat - 28

We stopped at this mosque for our Friday Prayers. We cannot be considered a musafir since Mansoura is less than 60 miles from here.

Dumyat - 30

The khutbah hadn't started yet when we arrived.

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My friend commented that this mosque feels similar to one that he visited in Mecca when he was doing his piligrimage there.

The khutbah was quite long, it was about half an hour.

Dumyat - 32

We aren't exactly in a rush so we didn't storm out of the mosque immediately after prayer.

Just the other day I was in Penarik, Terengganu and there I finally found a mosque whose management is in my opinion perfect and should be followed by others.

Dumyat - 44

The tremco ride to the beach wasn't long. Only 10 minutes. There were quite a lot of Malaysians there on that day. From Mansoura alone if memory serves me correctly there were 3 tremcos and a bus of Malaysian students.

Nizam whom had been here several times before picked a picnic spot for us. We followed.

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First thing first is to rehydrate the turtle with fresh sea water.

Kerang Dumyat  1

The Nile river has two main distributaries before it drains to the sea, Dumyat & Rashid. Both are also called Damietta & Rosetta respectively. Ancient records state that there used to be 7 branches of the Nil, but due to floods and sand formations only those 2 remains.

And Rashid (Rosetta) is the place where the very famous Rosetta Stone was found. I'll elaborate on the Stone soon in another time and place.

Dumyat - 47

Due to absence of appreciable rainfall, Egypt’s agriculture depends entirely on continuous flow of water from the Nile. Thus, control of Dumyat, which is a major distributary, means control of the Nile.

Dumyat - 36

Our little turtle looks happy to finally be able to go back to the sea.

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This is my favourite picture of the whole trip. The turtle was a celebrity that day.

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Bye bye little one.

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This is what the beach looks like exactly. Many people think that the whole beach is covered with cockles. So much that the cockles covered all the sands. It really isn't. But, do come here because the beach is certainly unique and you'll appreciate the feeling walking on the beach and stepping on those countless numbers of cockles.

Dumyat - 56

After unpacking our things, the next step is of course to start a fire for our BBQ. Instead of using kerosene, we stopped by a petrol station and bought a bottle full of petroleum for cooking. This was before we arrived in Ras El Bar.

Bun was almost burned by the fire when the petrol was over poured onto the BBQ set filled with amber.

Dumyat - 54

Spices, pepper and salts were also brough along.

Kerang Dumyat 3

You will never find cockles as large as these in Malaysia. Some are as large as my fist.

Dumyat - Cockles

3 years ago my housemates brought back 2 large sacks of these home. The cockles are so large that they made "sate kerang" out of them. Bah gawd it was so delicious.

We didn' pick up cockles that were on the beach but instead pick those fresh and living ones in the water.

Dumyat - 50

You know, the hardest thing to do is to open up the shells. And the amount of blood pouring out of these things are unreal.

Kerang - 3

So many blood.

This was also the first time that I cleaned up squids for cooking. Pullin out the head and the eyes are a lot harder than I thought. I respect my mum so much more now.

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The various types of fishes being grilled. There were potatoes and chicken too. The chicken was marinated overnight.

Dumyat - Bakar Strawberry

BBQ strawberry. People can get very creative when they're hungry.

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Dumyat - Bakar Kerang

The cockles do take a long time to get cooked. It was tiring fanning the flames. We took turns fanning it but still my hands were spent.

Kerang Dumyat

To eat things that we cooked ourselves were very rewarding. And there's nothing more fun than eating with friends after a day's worth of activity.

As expected the squids were the first to be finished. Poor Husni he didn' even get a bite of those. We should've bought atleast 3 kilos of squids.

The marinated chicken and smoked potates were delicious. I coul eat grilled fish everyday if fish aren't so expensive. 

Siput Dumyat

We arrived home just before Isyak, and I brought home with me a million shells worth of happiness.

Inspirations, passions & motivations.
1. I cycled a bit wether to use the word cockles or kerang for this entry. Ultimately I settled on using the english word but Awang Goneng's writing made it perfectly clear that it is okay to use a local word in your writing as long as the reader understands it. Try read Growing Up In Trengganu by him. It is a collection of his short blog entries over the years that are sure to make you smile. It did for me, countless times.
2. This was a long entry to write, but I had a blast researching about the facts in here. Particularly the story about the 2 prophets. Originally the thought of including this story never crossed my mind but a friend of mine went to Dumyat recently. He updated his Facebook status saying that this is the place where Moses and Khidr met and after glancing over a friend's status on Facebook about this I think why not explore the story a bit more.
3. Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown is amazing to watch. His previous show No Reservations and book Kitchen Confidential are a huge part in making me want to blog in the first place.
4. The Sacrifice by AVOX is such a nice and relaxing instrumental to be played on the background. With that being said Uranus by Sleeping At Last has almost the same arrangement and feel as The Sacrifice that I can't help but conclude that one was inspired by another.
5. I'm contemplating between making an entry about Angkor Wat to finish up my Cambodia travelogue or a short entry about Superman next. I'm leaning towards the Superman one because I planned on doing that for a very long time but some concepts are so hard to turn into a reality. Maybe I'll rewatch the Man of Steel to get some inspirations.
6. Two of my housemates are getting married this week so Yearbook for February will be partially about that. I got the concept in my mind now so hopefully it will be smooth sailing.