I suppose I should make it clear that this isn’t one of my travelogues and I’m not too fond of Egypt or Egyptians. As a travel writer I have spent quite a few visits to many hell holes in the Middle East and North Africa. Out of all of them if I were to recommend giving the world an enema (a procedure in which liquid or gas is injected into the rectum in order to expel its contents), the country where I would stick the tube would be Egypt.
I have every sympathy with those poor souls who perished on the Russian Airbus A321 that was downed over the Sinai desert, probably by ISIS. Incidentally my journalist mind finds it very difficult to believe that the plane was blown out of the sky on October 31st and the wreckage was found nearly straight away and it is now November 10th and with modern technology the Egyptians haven’t discovered that the plane was blown up by a bomb on board, or not. It doesn’t surprise me that the Egyptians aren’t telling truth, as its not in their nature. It’s not as though the wreckage disappeared many leagues beneath the ocean.
I have been dealing with lying, thieving Egyptians since the early 1950s when my ship moored at Port Tufic in the Red Sea. Thank the Lord we only had to endure their hospitality for 3 days on that occasion. The local natives in bumboats swarmed upon us like scavengers and stole everything that wasn’t bolted down. We spent the whole 72 hours of our stay cutting grappling hooks as the dirty Arabs tried to climb aboard. If the crew was momentarily distracted or inattentive we were robbed of most of our personal possessions, clothes, cigarettes, cameras, watches from the crew. Most of the food from the galley disappeared along with every tin of paint together with paintbrushes, tins of jam and packs of rice all disappeared from the holds.
The only thing that was untouched was several thousand tons of unrefined Demerara sugar that was battened down in the cargo hatches. Three more trips on different ships as we passed through the Suez Canal produced similar raids from marauding Egyptians. So a visit that I made to Egypt in 1956 was less unwelcome. This time I was aboard HMS Bulwark as a member of the Special Boat Squadron taking part in what was to be known as the Suez Crisis or the Kadesh Operation taking part in an invasion by Israel, Britain and France to take back the control of the Suez Canal and remove President Gamel Abdel Nasser.
The outcome of that SNAFU (Naval term – Situation Normal Another F*** Up) is well known. I then had the misfortune to be a qualified underwater demolition specialist and on the spot, so we spent just over 3 months clearing the Canal of the ships that Nasser had scuttled in order to block the transit of ships through the Canal. At least the thieving Egyptians were too afraid of us and tended to steer clear of us because of our reputation as killers. Even so we had an outboard motor nicked from one of our RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boat), slippery bastards.
Since those heady days, I have visited Alexandria, Cairo, and the Valley of the Kings with my Travel Writer’s hat on, but forewarned is forearmed and I have managed to hang on to my valuables. I have witnessed dozens of fellow travellers being relieved of their possessions. So in spite of being an old Egypt hand I have never grown to even have a soft spot for either the country or its people.
Unlike my son and his fellow diving chums, who regularly visit Sharm el-Sheikh for fantastic diving in the Red Sea, although they do now tend to stay aboard a diving boat while they are there I have made my feelings plain as to why would anyone want to fly out to a glorified Butlin’s Holiday Camp in Egypt (Spit), where they have scant respect for women and contempt for even basic human rights.
OK so it’s cheap and many holidaymakers have no idea whether they are in Egypt or Eritrea just so long as the sun is shining and the beer is cheap. Many venture no further than the all-you-can-eat salmonella buffet and the swimming pool. The whole point being to drink yourself silly and come home with a radioactive tan and a souvenir stuffed camel.
Sharm el-Sheikh has gained a reputation as being a relatively safe holiday destination thanks largely to the fact that it is heavily guarded by the Egyptian Military. It is heavily guarded because Egypt is full of Islamist Nut-Jobs looking for a chance to kill infidels. Why would anyone in their right mind choose to holiday in a resort that has to have a round the clock guard by the army. After all you wouldn’t choose to go for a holiday in Afghanistan or Iraq. If it does prove to have been a bomb planted by ISIS I wonder if their intention was to hammer the nail in the coffin of Egypt as a holiday destination for good. Talk about fouling on their own doorstep. Good thinking Mussulman!