Red Sea Egypt
The year was 1995, my brother Jeff and I were traveling through the middle east. In Cairo, we randomly chose to hop on a bus to Hurghada Egypt to see the beach. I had read in a book that the diving was amazing, so I tried to convince my brother to take an Intro Dive with me. He was hesitant to do it, fearing the safety and reliability of the equipment, plus a healthy fear of drowning. Ignoring all this, we fell for a smooth talking Egyptian for a $50-dollar intro dive. We were not prepared for how amazing this experience was going to be for us.
We went out on a boat all day for this price, got a freshly cooked meal of fish that was caught off the boat, and geared up for our first dive. Being the way that we are, we started with a hangover too. First thing I noticed was the hangover disappeared when we descended more than ten feet. At the end of the dive I felt completely rejuvenated. The life under those waters, was breathtaking.
We had a German dive master named Peta, who had short blond hair, and was as petite as they come. We were instructed on various techniques of equalizing ourselves underwater, how to maneuver, and survival techniques. During the whole time gorgeous fish of all styles would swim around, under, and above us. We were sold, and signed up for the three-day class to get our license then and there.
We spent three glorious days diving in what even now, 20 years later I consider the most gorgeous, untouched reefs that I had ever seen. We saw six foot long moray eels, lion fish, groupers, and mantas. The coral was filled with brain, whip, soft and hard coral, in a dazzling display of colors. We went down 80 feet, through towers of coral that reminded me of petrified trees, soaring 100s of feet up. The light filtered down in shafts, creating a mystifying experience.
Being the young new divers that we were, we shot through our air quickly, causing Petra’s eyes to burst out of her head when I showed her my air gage, which was near zero. But there was no panic for Petra or I, as she expertly showed me how to buddy breath, and we continued our dive as we slowly surfaced. It turns out that Petra was a bit of an adrenalin junkie, in the diving world she was into Deep Dives. The deeper you dive, the more nitrogen enters your blood stream, the more chance you will get nitrogen narcosis, which is like being drunk under water. Some divers lived for the thrill of this, and would push the limits. Sadly and ironically, some divers get so high under water that they forget to come up, and end up drowning.
In the end, Jeff was right about some things, like our Padi License that we paid 300 dollars for turned out to be a lie, and things were a bit more risky then they should have been, and there was certainly a lack of professionalism with the owner of the company we dove with. I suppose all the diving videos being in German, which Jeff translated to me, was a big clue. But I would not trade it for a moment, and I am pretty certain neither would my brother, who received his first underwater kiss from Petra ten meters under the surface.
After diving all day we would go out and celebrate all night. Most of the restaurants there catered to western taste, so food was ok, but at that time pizza and frys were good enough for me. I had not developed the expensive taste of a foodie just yet. The only beer in Egypt besides Budweiser was the beer named Stella, which was bottled and brewed there. Stella was great, you drank it warm, cold, flat, and explosive. I have been searching for this beer ever since, so if anyone knows where I can get it or if they even still brew it I would love to know. These celebrations often would get out of hand, and you never know what will happen on a full moon in Egypt unless you are there. Then we would be up and early diving again.
I have heard that the Red Sea has been overfished, the reefs destroyed by dynamite fishing, and no longer in the condition that we were lucky enough to experience, but I have not seen it first hand. So for me, it is still the best diving in the world.
If diving is not your thing, well you can always go and check out the Pyramids with the other tourists. When we went there were practically no rules, so we climbed 150 feet down a twisted ladder under the pyramid to where the sarcophagus were found. For a five dollar tip, we were allowed to lay in them and take pictures. We even sneaked away from our guides and crawled up an airshaft, but lacking light, we soon found there was nowhere else to go. Down there, under all that stone and earth, you just feel this massive weight on you. The Sphinx was so much smaller than I imagined it to be. The nose had been shot off during one of the wars. The best way to get around the pyramids back then was by camel. Now a days, everything has glass around it and you are lucky if you can take a picture. Times have changed, but who wouldn’t love to see these magnificent buildings.