A Bedouin Sheikh and an English Woman create a Guest House with a difference in Dahab

Nov. 12, 2006 – The House called Sheikh Salem House was built in 1994 by the then Sheikh of Dahab, Sheikh Salem. He was a much respected leader of the Sinai Bedouin Muzziena Tribe. He was determined to make sure that Dahabs Bedouin Community had the opportunity to develop their own business and to sustain incomes for themselves and their families amidst all the redevelopment of Dahab and Sinai as a tourist destination. The Sheikh himself had a large family with 34 sons and 11 daughters. When he passed away in 2001, his son Twalia became the new Sheikh of Dahab and became responsible for the family, the house and the Muzziena Tribe in Dahab.

Nicole Simpkins left her job in East London 16 months ago in search of a new life in the sun. Little did she expect to end up working in partnership with a Bedouin Sheikh! Ten months ago Sheikh Salem House was an empty shell, a building site that looked and felt like a ghost house. After the previous developers left, the Sheikh needed a good solution that would not only be good for the house, but also that would ensure his family maintained ownership and an interest in the building.

Nicole who was already living in the building and had already given money towards the redevelopment of the house to the previous developers, after much trying she had failed to get her money back. Having sold her own house in East London, she had some money available to start working on the building. She and the Sheikh agreed to a partnership deal that would benefit the Sheikh and his family, whilst ensuring that the redevelopment could take place. The Spirit of Dahab company was then formed to carry out this work and the management of the building.

The vision for the Guest House then started to take shape. The house would become a tribute to Sheikh Salem and a flag ship for the Bedouin Community in Dahab. Nicole had previously worked in the NHS on many improvement projects for patients and staff. She was already passionate about supporting Dahab’s Bedouin Community and preserving Bedouin Culture in Dahab. It then made sense for her to plan to help them create their own business in Dahab before all the opportunities have been taken by other entrepreneurs. The development of Dahab has happened so quickly that many are missing the boat and if they don’t start soon it will be too late for them. We want our Bedouin community to directly benefit from the tourism in Dahab and Sinai, we need them to be equipped to take up jobs in local hotels and restaurants and to start making the most of the current opportunities available for them.

By working in partnership Nicole and Sheikh hope they can make a difference. “It’s a challenge indeed, we have started by employing Bedouin Drivers and developing our own Bedouin Safari’s. But we still have a long way to go. I plan to start holding English lessons for Bedouin community in the New Year, to offer them the chance to gain valuable work experience here so that they are able to get jobs in tourism initially. After this we will start to work with those who want to set up their own businesses and see how we can best support them”.

In addition to all this Nicole is also a strong advocate of eco friendly initiatives. “We are also working on the guest house as an example of responsible tourism. We are recycling and re-using what we can, and introducing energy efficiency and green practices where possible. We are making the most of what we have, by composting waste and making new from old. This is another challenge but we are making good progress in this area also”.

Since the bomb attacks in April 2006 Dahab tourism was badly hit. Just as we were starting to work on the guest house when we had a series of unfortunate events take place. This was followed by the World Cup (which kept most potential customers glued to big screens in Europe) and then the further problems in the Middle East and Lebanon has dealt a severe blow to tourism in Sinai. We hope that our new Guest House will form the basis of a new start for the area and Dahab. We badly need to restore the confidence of the traveling public in Dahab and we need a high level publicity campaign to do this, so we hope this guest house is the answer Dahab needs.

Work on the Guest House started in February 2006 and most of the house is now complete. We are starting to plan phase three of the development which will be the creation of a beautiful roof space for teaching sessions, and guest relaxation.

The Guest House is now ready to receive Guests and our Web Site has just gone live. http://www.sheikhsalemhouse.com We are planning an opening party on the 21st December and welcome any media coverage which will help us with this new and alternative project.

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