Egypt - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 96

Sharm El-Sheikh

Monday 16th June

I had to complete our dive program on this, our last day of Red Sea diving, alone today. Sandy hasn’t really recovered from the effects of the fatigue that she was complaining about yesterday and has elected to forgo the trip out into the Red Sea. Instead, she rested and generally lounged around for the day and I’m sure this will have done her good.

With no dive buddy, I had to team up with one of the other four divers on the boat today. My teammate was from Chelmsford in England – not too far from where I grew up. He was a nice enough guy and we made a pretty good team under the water for the two dives. Both dives were local drift dives. We went to a place called the Garden and also back to Ras Umm Sid where we had previously dived just the other day. Each dive was very good and I added a few more species of marine life to the ever-growing list of things that we’ve seen to date. I wasn’t nearly as hungry coming back from the boat today. I used the left over rolls from our KFC yesterday to make some egg rolls using some eggs that I snatched from the breakfast buffet this morning. These did me for lunch on the boat.

We settled up our bill with Henk and he had his driver and one of his travel agent associates drive me around to try and see about getting a direct flight from Sharm to Petra. Alas, none of the alternatives were any good so we will have to make do with the bus-ferry-bus combination. It will be an all-day trip and I’m not looking forward to Sandy being cranky. The thought of the journey has already started to work its effects on her and there is subsequently a bit of tension on the air. Hopefully the trip won’t be too bad.

Although Sandy is enjoying seeing new places, she is not keen on the labours of travel. For the next leg of our trip, then, we must find some way of spending less time travelling and more time exploring a given destination. I’m not yet sure how we are going to achieve this so it is something that we will have to seriously think about.

Since our time here in Egypt is drawing to a close, I find myself reflecting on some of the aspects of Egyptian culture and its people. Egypt is unlike any other African country we’ve visited. In fact, even though it is geographically located in Africa, I can’t really call it an African country at all since the gulf between it and any other African country is so enormous. By all accounts, Egypt is a physically poor country, despite everything that it has going for it. The country’s infrastructure is exceedingly poorly maintained and nobody seems to care. Roads and buildings are all falling apart at the seams and rubbish litters the landscape everywhere you look. Judging by the way the Egyptians show a complete disregard for the environment, I can’t help but feel that they lack a sense of respect for themselves and their country. The poor quality of services and infrastructure just seems to be tolerated with no sense of pride. Businesses run by Egyptian employees and management tend to be less well run than those run by foreigners. By far the highest degree of service we’ve experienced here in Egypt has been with the dive centre where we’ve been diving over the past week. Having observed how the business is run and operated, it’s painfully clear that the only reason for this is the fact that the office manager and all the dive instructors are foreigners. All the local Egyptian staff need constant prodding and poking to get them to move and work.

Another interesting facet of Egyptian life are their toilets. Due to the insufficient sewage infrastructure, most places we’ve been to discourage the disposal of tissue paper down the toilet. Instead, all the toilets are equipped with water jets that you are supposed to ‘wash yourself’ with. Then, you are supposed to dry yourself with the toilet tissue that you then dispose of in the plastic wastebasket that is always sitting next to the toilet. It takes a bit of getting used to and can be quite a predicament when underestimating the force of the bidet water jet. A couple of times already, I’ve made a complete mess of myself, and the floor, due to the unexpected force of the water.

Haggling over the price of just about anything is also the norm here. In some of the more touristy places, the shop owners try to give the impression of fixed prices but pretty much everything is negotiable here with only a very few exceptions.

Drivers don’t follow the rules of the road. Actually, it would be more accurate to state that the rules of the road are informal as opposed to formal. There is ‘an understanding’ between all drivers about how to navigate on the roads without killing each other. Sitting in an Egyptian car and driving anywhere is, at first, terrifying but after a while you get to appreciate how things just seem to work – although it has to be said that there is a high rate of traffic accidents here. Following the formal rules of the road here would be completely futile. Dropping and Egyptian driver onto the roads of a European country would be an immediate recipe for disaster but the same can also be said for the reverse. Henk told me today that there are two reasons why Egyptian drivers don’t use the headlamps at night. Firstly, because they don’t like to have bright lights shining in each other’s eyes, and secondly, because they think it is bad for their batteries. They also don’t like using the air-conditioning for fear that doing so will somehow degrade the vehicle in some way. Having lived in Florida for seven years, I’m particularly baffled by this air-co. hang-up since it has been topping thirty-five degrees Celsius every day here and it’s not even summer yet.

Another thing that we’ve noticed is that the pillows are always very flat. We usually need at least three each just to keep our heads high enough for comfort.

There always seem to be new buildings going up everywhere we look. In the three weeks that we’ve been here, however, I’ve not once seen a construction worker on any of the building sites. All the towns are devoid of activity during the day (perhaps because of the intense heat) making everywhere look like a ghost town. After dark, however, the streets tend to liven up a bit. Closer to midnight and beyond is when most of the activity seems to take place and the population comes out in force.