Last Pictures of Egypt

Sinai - Red Sea

Alright, I stopped smoking the shisha and hanging out with the cats and caught up with my backlog of pictures.

With last time, you have now 200 more pictures to look at. I hope it will keep you busy for some time ;).

Last time, the new pictures where in the folders:

This time, the new pictures are all in the folder Sinai-Red Sea
I edited a bunch of posts too so go check them out to get some context for the pictures (until I add some captions and it might take months before I get to that!):

Enjoy and let me know what you like :).

Welcome to Jordan

Yep, I finally did it, after lingering and enjoying everything the red sea and Dahab have to offer for 18 days, I left and found my way to Jordan.

I left yesterday morning at 10AM. It took me 1 hour to reach Nuweiba where I bought my ticket for the fast afternoon ferry that was scheduled for 3PM.

I went through the police control inside the port and found a place to seat while I was waiting for the boat. Around 2PM, I started to kind of wonder if I was at the right place since there was not that many people around especially no foreigners! I started walking around the docks and found a policeman that told me the boat would be here in 15-20 minutes. Once it got there, I waited outside and came aboard once everybody coming from Jordan had debarked the boat.

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The immigration agent that controlled my passport was not happy since I did not have a departure stamp… Well, nobody really told me about that at the first place and since I could not read any of the signs, I did not end up where I should have been and I did not get the stamp. Anyway, we are in Egypt and police has its way so they stopped one of the big empty tourist bus that was driving by and ordered the driver to take me to the right place, once there, an agent filled the form for me and stamped my passport in less than 30 seconds without much questioning, then another policeman stopped another of these empty bus that took me back to the ship. All in all, it took 5 minutes to get this stamp while I am sure it would have taken me an hour in line to get it if I had known I needed to go to a specific place before boarding the boat! In place, I had plenty of time to read the Jordan section of my Middle East Lonely Planet and listen to my IPod. I also stroke a conversation with one of the guy moving stuff in between the trucks and the boats.

The boat trip went very well. I gave my passport to the Jordanian immigration agent early in the boat and recovered it once we had debarked in Aqaba. I found the way to forget it in between that moment and the bag check though but I realized it and got it back without much trouble. It might not have been a good day after all since I usually do not loose or forget things!

Anyway, I found a hotel in Aqaba. The first thing to know is that things in Jordan are way more expensive than in Egypt. The country is way more developed. Looking around at the type and quality of the cars that Jordanians drive is just one example of that development. It really looks like a European city.

I am now planning my trip through Jordan. I will report about that later :).

Going Deep

While in Dahab, I completed 16 dives for a total of more than 10 hours underwater. It has been a great time and I feel way more confident and comfortable underwater now.

As I had written in my previous post on diving, I had some trouble with buoyancy control and kicking but I completed a class to work on this. Once I had done that and got the chance to practice more on shallower dives, I thought it was time to go for the best dives around Dahab. You can see that as a reward :).

Canyon and Blue Hole

On Sunday, I dove at Canyons and then Blue Hole. They are both 30 meters (90ft) dives. I was actually a bit stressed in the morning of these dives because I had thought about my first and only deep dive I did in Monterrey last year where I had a very bad experience. It was quite cold down at 27m (81ft) and I was stressing a bit looking at my pressure level going down fast. It ended with a case of nitrogen narcosis that caused me to not be able to inflate my BCD properly and start going back up. The dive master had to take charge, inflate my BCD and pull me up.

I did not really enjoy the Canyon dive that much. It is an OK dive but I did not find it that great. To be fair, it might be because of the stress.

On the contrary, I loved the dive at Blue Hole. You get in through a 20 meters deep hole and exit in the deep blue, except for the coral reef behind you, everything around is blue. I have been a fan of the movie “Big Blue” for a long time and always loved the deep blue scene but that was nowhere close to the feeling you get when you are there looking at it. It is like being lost in the dark, it could be quite difficult to know which way is up or down if you did not have the bubbles. It gave me a feeling of vertigo for an instant. The rest of the dive is really nice too as you dive along the reef with around 170 meters of water under you! The exit is done in the place called blue hole that is a circular reef wall that seems bottomless (same kind of depth).

Thistlegorm and Ras Mohammed

Thistlegorm and Ras Mohammed

Since everything had gone for the best, it was time to go for the classic one day boat dive tour that is offered from Sharm El-Sheik. It consists in 3 deep dives. 2 are made on the wreck of the Thistlegorm and one is the protected natural reserve of Ras Mohammed. This I did on Monday.

I went on the tour with Carolyn (American), Carolina (Argentinian), Gabriela (Argentinian) and Alex (German) that were all staying at the same hotel in Dahab. We were actually not the only one on the boat since we were around 25 divers total.

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We left on Sunday evening and got in Sharm El-Sheik around midnight, we then took over the space in front of the captain’s cabin that has foam pads and went to sleep in the very nice sleeping bag that were provided to us. I had a very good night and woke up to a very choppy sea.

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The boat arrived soon after breakfast to the wreck site where many boats were already dumping loads of divers. Our dive guide Salaka went first for a solo dive to attach the boat to the wreck at 2 points.

For the story, the Thistlegorm is a British boat that was sank by the Germans during world war two. If you want to know more, go read this. I will then try not to repeat too much of what is there.

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After enough surface time for him, we went for our first dive. It was an open water dive around the wreck. The current was very strong close to the surface but it was way better close to the wreck. It was just amazing to swim around the boat checking out the munition shells, the locomotives and everything else. The dives start at around 30 meters and finishes around 14 meters as you go around the boat following the deck. Also, there are many fishes hanging out around the wreck and you can find some very big specimens of fish I used to see in Dahab in what I thought was adult size… but it seems I was mistaken, some there are maybe as big as I am! It was a bit difficult to pay attention to the fishes when you have such an intact boat (except for the fact it is broken in 2 at the back) in front of you :).

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The second dive was the best of all, we went inside the wreck to visit the holds that still contain the trucks, jeeps and motorcycles that were freighted in the boat. It was really nice to swim around from one hold to another checking out the different vehicles and finishing in the captain’s cabin. It is a very different kind of dives. Kind of strange to be swimming around something that has been frozen in time 60 years ago. All in all, it was an event less dive except for the fact I almost lost the flashlight I had been given if not for the ceiling of one of the hold stopping it for me. And event less dives are the best in my book so this is not a bad thing ;).

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The third dive was way later in the day. The boat left the wreck site and took the direction of Ras Mohammed. We had lunch on board and lingered around in the sun contemplating the blue sea with its accents of green indicating the presence of reefs. That dive was more about the fishes and we were not sorry about that. The highlights were a shark (that I personally did not see so I am suspicious about the whole thing!), a school of large barracuda around 40 meters below us, very big morays, very big angel fishes and a container of toilet supplies! No kidding! It is a very nice dive that just blows away everything you can see in Dahab. It is actually very good that I did not do it earlier or I might have been less excited about diving in Dahab.

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The dive went well and it completed the day, we were back in Sharm around 6PM but had to wait 2 more hours before making our way back to Dahab since there is a 600m highest elevation on the road from Sharm to Dahab.

That was a great diving day. The highlight of a great 2 weeks of diving.

And the best is that Gabriela owns an underwater camera and Alex (that is more experienced than the rest of us) took it for each dive and made some great pictures and videos. I have a CD of these pictures and videos and will post the pictures ASAP. The videos will be shown when I come back to those interested.

[Edited on 5/19/2006 to add related pictures]

Egyptian Driver License Written Test

Since the moment I have landed in Cairo 6 weeks ago, I have been astonished by how people drive here. I have seen some crazy stuff in Peru last year but that was nowhere comparable to what it is here.

I then decided to investigate a bit about how Egyptians were learning to drive. I went to their local DMV and requested a written test to see what kind of questions people had to answer. I have the answers but I will let you first try to answer on your own to see how you would fair.

Without much further ado, here are some of the questions: 

1 – In which occasions is it OK to double line park? 

  1. Never, it could create a traffic jam
  2. Only to drop someone off
  3. If you have paid a big enough baksheesh to the police officer seated on the sidewalk two meters away
  4. When you cannot find a parking spot in less than 2 minutes and you cannot wait to get to your daily evening shesha

2 – What kind of other vehicles should you watch out for while driving your car? 

  1. Donkey carts
  2. Horse carts
  3. Camels
  4. All of the above

3 – What is the most important non-engine related feature in your car?

  1. The horn
  2. The headlights
  3. The wipers
  4. The seat belts

4 – Explain why?

5 – What is the maximum speed allowed in town?

  1. 30 MPH
  2. 50 MPH
  3. As fast as the beaten up 30 years old Peugeot 504 can go
  4. Who cares! Your speedometer does not work anyway (like the rest of the dashboard instruments).

6 – How many cars should be side by side on one lane?

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. As many as can fit
  4. What is a lane?

7 – On the highway, if the two lanes are blocked by two slowest trucks. What should you do?

  1. Slow down and wait for one to move out of the way
  2. Honk the horn and flash your headlight until one of them move out of the way
  3. Honk the horn as much as you can handle and make your way in between the two trucks

8 – What if you are in the previous situation and another slower vehicle is following option 3?

  1. Slow down and wait for one to move out of the way
  2. Slow down and wait until the 3rd vehicle completes passing the trucks before doing the same
  3. Use the dirty emergency lane to take over the 3 vehicles at once

9 – When is it OK to take a one-way street in the wrong direction?

  1. Never, it would be dangerous and could create a congestion
  2. When you want to take the next street up traffic and it would take you 2 minutes more to go around otherwise
  3. Only if you know the police officers in that street
  4. When the street is congested and you don’t want to be like the other suckers that wait for the traffic to resume.
  5. When you saw a free parking spot less than 500 meters up the street

10 – If a pedestrian is crossing the street in front of you, what should you do?

  1. Slow down and stop if necessary. He/She is vulnerable while on the street
  2. Keep the same speed, honk the horn and flash your headlights if at night. You can then assume they know you are going to pass 1 foot in front of him/her
  3. Stop the car and insult him/her

11 – If the same pedestrian seems to hesitate to move forward or backward, what should you do?

  1. Slow down and stop if necessary. He/She is vulnerable while on the street
  2. Keep the same speed, honk the horn and flash your headlights if at night. You can then assume they know you are going to pass 1 foot in front of him/her
  3. Speed up and drive straight without changing direction at all. If he/she is unable to make a decision fast, he/she does not deserve to survive. Survival of the fittest they call it.

12 – What should you do if you hit another car from behind?

  1. Stop your car, make sure you are in a safe situation, check on your passengers, get out of the car and go check on the other car’s passengers
  2. Get out of the car swearing, come toward the other driver, start insulting the bastard that did not move out of the way fast enough and maybe punch him in the face
  3. Do like nothing happened and drive away

13 – What is the name and function of the black rubber band hanging from the sides of the driver and passenger seats?

  1. I don’t see what you are talking about! 
  2. It is a decoration that the previous owner installed. 
  3. It is the thing you should set across your body whenever you get close to a police check
  4. It is a seat belt, it helps protect your passengers and yourself in case of accidents.

14 – When should the headlights of your car be turned on?

  1. I don’t see what you are talking about!
  2. To flash another driver that seems to not have heard your ghetto blaster style horn that you already honked 3 times
  3. To say hi to your friends at night
  4. As soon it is dark in order to see in front of you and be noticed by pedestrians and other vehicles

15 – What is the best way to turn right at an intersection?

  1. Get safely and respectfully to the rightmost lane, slow down, watch out for pedestrians and turn
  2. Wait the last second, stay on the leftmost lane, stick your arm out the window and signal you are turning right, accelerate and turn right just in front of all the other cars while honking the horn feverishly (try to picture that!)

Alright, let me know your answers and I will let you know how you would fair driving in Egypt.