Retirement is an amazing opportunity to experience new places and cultures, so why not retire somewhere awesome? 74-year old Aita Mihkelsoo, born and raised in Estonia, got tired of the harsh Nordic winters and decided to relocate to the city of Nuweiba, a coastal town in the eastern part of Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. Here’s her story.
Where did the idea of relocating come from to begin with?
I was looking for a place to go for the winter period - somewhere with no snow, the option to dress lightly, and affordable enough to cover living costs from my pension.
Did you arrange all of this yourself or was it an offer by someone (an agency, a friend, etc)?
I asked for advice from guide and world traveler Ants Tuuleveski. He suggested Nuweiba, booked my flight and organized a taxi to meet me at the airport. Before that, he said I should read the book about Nuweiba by Toomas Mikkor. The story and location seemed very tempting.
Are you staying there permanently or only for the winter period? If it’s periodic, are you planning to stay permanently at some point?
I am a retiree and chose this location for winter periods only. I’m definitely not considering moving here permanently.
What are your living conditions - where are you staying and what is it like?
I’ve tried living in several camps, but the one I have decided to stay put in is called Badawy camp. I rent a room here with my own bathroom, and I can cook in my room on a small electrical stove. For bigger events, I can use the big kitchen with the gas oven or eat with the other people in the house. I am always treated like family here and everyone does their best to make me feel welcome. Everyone is treated that way here, and the elderly are very much appreciated.
Besides the climate, what are the most noticeable differences compared to Estonia?
The first thing you notice is lots of plastic and other trash around - nothing decomposes here. The wind carries it all around and trees and bushes are covered in it. Where there is some already, there will be more. The inland is clean, Beduins don’t litter the desert. Trash is usually where tourists are.
What do you enjoy most about your life there?
It’s hard to say what I enjoy most. I have exactly as much freedom as I like. If I need company, I have it, if I want privacy, I will have that, too. It’s like constant spa conditions here - the sun, sand, warmth and healing sea water. The culture shock can be intimidating at first, but if you look at life and people with no prejudices, then it’s not bad at all. It’s just different - and that much more interesting. I also enjoy the desert and mountains. There are some amazing views and endless spaciousness. Also safaris, snorkelling...
Mountains of Nuweiba (source)
You’ve said other people have been interested in taking some time off in Sinai as well. Do you think it might become a popular destination for retirees?
I think that it’s a very suitable and affordable option for retirees.
You said relocating has had a strong positive effect on your health - tell us more about how and why.
Everyone who has been here has said that it has improved their health. Is it the healing sea water, sun and dry air? Is it the special light that almost shines through you and definitely affects the nervous system? Light therapy and a carefree mind? Or maybe it’s all of those things combined, but I am always charged with a lot of energy when I leave here. A lot of cheap vegetables and fruit is good for me as well - I have lost a good amount of weight here. A lot of people also mention their joints feeling better.
What do you like to do on your spare time, what are the activities are available to you?
There are so many different activities that sometimes I just run out of time. And when I’m not doing anything else, I love sitting by the sea, meditating, enjoying the colors and a very diverse sea life. There is a lot to look at here. Next year I would love to start a Sinai “Let’s Do It!” day (“Let’s Do It” is an Estonian day of collective action - activities include cleaning the country from illegal garbage, generating good ideas etc). I’ve talked about it here and many locals are more than happy to join in. Next year I’m also planning on buying a camel calf here, raising and training it. Then I can go on safaris with my own camel and much more.
What would you say to people who are afraid to move or take on an adventure like this?
For those who would like to do the same as I did, I would say - contact me. I would love to pass on my experience and knowledge. It’s all actually very simple and there’s nothing to be scared of - the only complicated part is getting from the airport to Nuweiba, and I can definitely help with that.