T'Egypt - an Emotional Time in Dahab
Dahab Travel Blog› entry 13 of 36 › view all entries
And so we arrived at the Mohammed Ali hotel camp in Dahab, from which the Club Red diving school operated. Having arranged accomodation at LP25 per night (about 2.50 pounds) myseld and Bastien headed to the school to discuss taking a course. We were introduced to Nicholas, a French instructor with good English, and arranged to start our 4 day PADI Open Water course the following day. Some reading materials were provided, the course would consist of 5 classroom sessions, 4 closed water dives (still in the sea) and 4 open water dives, to a maximum depth of 18m.
The evenings of these first few days were reasonably quiet as we were pretty knackered from the days' activities and had reading to do for the first couple of nights. However, I did manage to crack a few beers with the people at Club Red, who were all a good laugh. A mixture of Western nationalities were represented, and Tota bar was generally the preferred choice to sink a few Stellas (Egyptian - not what we get back home) or Sakarras.
The course went swimmingly - so to speak - and when we completed on the Sunday a big blow out was called for - it took little persuasion for a good crowd to turn out. I did have a little too much to drink that night, but managed not to disgrace myself. The following morning I woke with a hangover, which actually felt pretty good, it had been quite some time since I had had one!
That day, Monday the 24th, I took time out to recover, relax and explore the town, which is essentially a narrow strip along the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, part of the Red Sea. The promenade is wall to wall restaurants, bars, dive schools and hotels. The place is not unattractive, particularly for a tourist resort, and really comes to life in the evenings when said tourists "hit the town" after days spent diving, snorkelling, windsurfing or simply lazing. Most meals, espeacially breakfast and lunch, were taken at Ala Kafak, a cool little place on the beach in front of Club Red which did great pancakes with fruit, a good line in tea, and some decent western style dishes at very reasonable cost. Mohammed and Mustafa were always very welcoming.
That evening at around 7 I headed down to the Crazy House bar for a few rounds of pool and a drink or 2. We had barely sat down on the verranda when a huge blast shook us to our right. As I turned my head a second blast went off, and I saw a huge red and orange fireball and felt the heat and pressure against my body. Debris was flying allover and the air filled with screaming. The reality of the situation was sinking in and I headed for the beach, 10 yards away, as away from buildings seemed to be the place to be. A third huge blast someway to our left was then ringing though our ears.
As the situation settled somewhat (a relative term) people on the beach were checking each other. I walked up to the promenade to see if I could be of any use. I was clearly better off staying away as I had no medical experience to offer. The sights and sounds were galling, with the most horrendous injuries I have ever seen, whether through the media or otherwise, nothing can prepare you for such an experience and I now truely know what it means to be in shock. The promenade was covered in bloodied footprints, and people were seen with legs snapped the wrong way, eye sockets missing and massive bloodied cuts.
There was, understandably, pandemonium for some time, with people screaming and running all over. The taxis that remained (many had run for the hills) were commandered as make shift ambulances, with most of the medical attention appearing to be given by the "local" westerners, many of whom were well trained in medical treatment through variuous sports-related courses. One German doctor, diving at Club Red, seemed central to many efforts, although unfortunately a child died in his arms. (One disappointing post script to this particular case is that when interviewed by his home media, the Dr said that when he heard the blasts he ran to his hotel room to grab his medical kit - the German media simply reported that he ran to his hotel room.)
Once all casualties and injured were whisked away everyone associated gathered at Club Red. It became clear that everyone here was physically ok. It transpired that the first bomb had been little more than 25 yards from where we had been sat, the second a further 10 yards away and the third around 50 yards to our left, behind the hotel. When I reached our room and windows and door had been blown in and my bed had been showered with glass. We headed back to one of the intructors' apartment (Joe) and tuned in to BBC World to glean what info we could, although this was hazy. Marion, a French tourist, offered myself and Bastien the chance to kip in her room, an offer gratefully accepted, down at the Dolphin Camp a further 100 yards or so down the beach. Sleep was not as difficult as expected, although the following days were filled with flash backs and it took some time for the shock to truely settle.
The following day, Tuesday, we gathered to discuss the previous evening's events, although little was said as people were either unable to speak or did not know what to say, other than muttering the odd 4-letter word under their breath. The world's media had descended on this small resort to replace the large number of fleeing tourists. It did not take long for the British media to pick up on my accent and I was bombarded with questions, leading to interviews, and then the phone calls from the media back home began.
That night the only option was to have a few drinks to work our way around the experiences and release a few emotions. Whilst doing so, in Tota, a French TV crew filmed us and we were later told that we had been seen on French news. I can only hope that the wrong impression was not conveyed, this was not a normal night at the pub, it was medicinal and did us all the power of good. One and all there resolved that we would not let what events affect our plans, you don't let the buggers get you down. The thanks offered for what few tourists did decide to stay were long and deep, but we couldn't leave these people in their hour of need. The hotel I stayed in (I had now moved permanently to Dolphin Camp) even offered me half rates, flatly refused.
That day had also seen the first of several locally orgaised peace processions - attended by locals and foreigners, Egyptians and Bedouin (an important distinction), young and old, men and women - wind its way along the promenade and past the sites of the bombs. Many banners were unfurled and chanting filled the air. Repairs were already well under way to the affected buildings, and the next day all businesses that were able to had re-opened.
The following days were quiet, sat on the beach front, chatting, watching the egrets plodding though the shallows and the osprey catching his supper to eat atop of the police station. I (literally) dived into the task of completing my PADI Advanced Diving Course, a further 5 days over the following three days, one at night and one to 30m, with three other skills being tested in the others. While I passed the course with little trouble (I think - maybe Mady my instructor would say otherwise!) I hardly feel like an advanced diver after so few dives, but this is something I intend to keep up where available as I continue my journey.
Further peace marches took place and the forigners held a special party to raise funds for the injured and affected. The alcohol was donated for free by the breweries, although we all of course paid for the attendance and drinks at the event. I'm not sure how much was raised, but it must have been several thousands of pounds.
A London based Aussie, Steve, completed his dive master course which was the cue for a further night on the tiles, as he undertook the dreaded snorkel test - drinking through a snorkel whatever was poured down it, in his case several beers, and a small bottle each of gin and whisky. His efforts were more than admirable, although it was quite amusing watching him stagger around for the rest of the evening!
I have nothing but great affection for Dahab, with many fond memories and, despite the events that unfolded, would not change a single aspect of my time there (although it goes without saying that I would rather there had not been the loss of lives and injuries). The people were largely wonderful, with special mentions for Bastien, Nicholas, Shona, Marion, Lee, Darren, Mady, Joe, Steve, Alan, the list goes on and I apologise to those absent - I'm sure you know who you are. I look forward to returning one day, and would recommend it to one and all.
Emotional but Unmissable.