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Sharm El Sheikh Sinai Peninsula

SCUBA Diving

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

As we flew from Luxor to Cairo and on to Sharm el Sheikh yesterday it was a beautifully clear day so we were able to see the Suez Canal and the Sinai sand deserts and rugged mountains. What a very strange and alien place the Sinai is.

The Sinai Great Sand Deserts.

The first analog that comes to my mind are the resent photos seen from the surface of Mars.

From Julia: Now we are eating humble pie (and a big lunch of burger and fries). We just called my mum in London to say hello, only to find out that there's been an outbreak of a vomiting bug in the UK. It sounds like the exact symptoms and duration of the bug we just had. Our trip was nearly all English travelers so probably someone brought the plague on board and infected us all, and it wasn"t the Egyptian kitchen hygiene after all. Oh dear.

At the Hyatt Regency Sharm el Sheikh.

Today we had a wonderful day of leisurely recovery surrounded by heavenly luxury. Our room overlooks the Red Sea. The hotel has lots of restaurants with fresh fruit, great for travelers near to scurvy as we are.

Julia snorkeling on the hotel reef.

Most of the tourists here are from Russia; some of the men look like Russian Tony Sopranos with glamorous girlfriends draped from their arms. We booked dives for the next couple of days when I will complete SCUBA certification. Next we went snorkeling in the coral reef and saw lots of brightly colored fish. We feel very much recovered as evidenced by eating a huge burger with a glass of chardonnay.

The hotel has taken up position on one of the better parts of the reef so it was wonderful snorkeling from the beach.

There were many military boats anchored off the shore. We heard tail that George W. would be staying at or visiting the hotel soon.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My diving instructor Georgia and I looking happy.

We set off on our SCUBA diving adventures today. Julia started her first set of certification dives with her instructor who was a local Egyptian guy and who she liked very much. He displayed much patience and calming approach to training. I decided to do a refresher dive as I had not dived for over three years. My dive instructor Georgia took me through some review in the swimming pool and then we went for a quick dive on the reef in front of the hotel.

From Julia: My instructor is called Shokry which means thankful in Arabic. I was thankful for his help as I had a couple of episodes of panic and anxiety. He was very calm and helped me to relax and not worry so I could continue.

Julia completed her two certification dives today and was very brave as she did have some problems but she pushed on with the training. She has only to complete two dives in open water from a dive boat which we have scheduled for tomorrow. You go girl!

Sites we saw as we did our diving this day.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The elated new SCUBA diver!

Julia completed her two reaming open water certification dives today and is now a qualified open water SCUBA diver! Bravo Julia!

Friday, January 11, 2008

From Julia: Today has been a "veg out" day of hanging out by the pool and eating yummy lunch. I can't tell you how wonderfully relaxing it is here. Nothing more to say!

The hotel reef.

I spent the morning on the phone with Wells Fargo bank pleading with them to stop turning off my Internet access to my bank account. This has been a constant theme for both Julia and I since we first tried to access our accounts in Egypt. To make matters worse the banker told me this morning that they had made a mistake and turned my access off by mistake. The lesson here is to call your bank, especially if it is Wells Fargo, before you travel overseas and let them know. What a waste of good beach time.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

We rose up early and caught the tour bus to Saint Catherine's monastery this morning. The bus traveled through the vast Sinai sandy deserts and rocky, craggy mountains. Truly there is very little life in these lands at least when looking from a bus on the road. Last year it rained once in Egypt and this was less than an inch. Given this it is easy to understand why this place is so dry and desolate.

The Sinai countryside from our bus.

The bus stopped at a gas station and then at the side of the road to view an oasis. Finally we parked at Saint Catherine's monastery. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable (as have all of our guides been in Egypt) and spoke multiple languages. He explained the amazing history of Saint Catherine's monastery. This monastery has been continually operating since 400 BC.

The skull room where they place the bones of their dead monks.

From Julia: In the skull room was also the fully robed skeleton of the monk who went up a nearby mountain and found the bones of St Catherine, which had been dropped there by angels after she was killed by the Romans, well so the story goes. St Catherine's forearm and head are still in the Basilica and believers come to kiss them and give rings and jewels to the monastery. The rest of her bones were generously distributed to churches in Italy and France to serve as relics.

We encountered this next problem once before on our other tour in Egypt. Once the bus left the monastery we stopped for lunch and then they made a stop at Dahab where we were dropped off at a "government controlled" jewelry store. There the owner tried every trick in the book to sell something to anyone. This does seem to be an annoying theme with tours in Egypt.

The Burning Bush within Saint Catherine's monastery; you know the one from the Old Testament.

From Julia: It was wonderful to think of all the history of the monastery and the 1000's of monks and pilgrims who"d been to St Catherine's since Roman times. We heard that an historian went there in Victorian times and was studying the ancient bible the monks had in the library, which is second only to the Vatican for ancient texts. Anyway, this guy stole the bible and gave it to Alexander II of Russia. Then when the Revolution came it was sold to the British museum where it resides to this day. If you can't get to Egypt I think the British museum has enough Egyptian treasures to give you a good idea of the place!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Here is a typical view of SCUBA diving at Sharm.

We headed out on a beautiful day to the Ras Mohammed marine reserve to make our last SCUBA dive in Sharm. This is one of the main the reason I came to Egypt. I have met several SCUBA divers over the years who assured me that the Ras Mohammed marine reserve was as good as the Australian Great Barrier Reef to dive. Well, Ras Mohammed marine reserve is certainly a great place to dive but, it comes nowhere near the Australian Great Barrier Reef for the types of corals and fish and other animals. Sorry, Australia is much better.

Julia dived with me for the first time after her certification and had a good dive but she still felt a bit uneasy under the water. I believe in time she will get more comfortable with it all. Next stop tomorrow is back to jolly old England and Canterbury. We have until the end of February before we return to warm weather.

We are looking forward to seeing everyone in UK again and facing the challenge of Offa's Dyke later this month.

Hotel Reef Video

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