Divers flock back to Egypt’s Red Sea resorts

Before Egypt’s revolution began 18 months ago, the popular Red Sea coast was seen as a safe tourist destination despite sporadic terrorist attacks. (Reuters)

The diving industry is making a comeback in Egypt, particularly in the Red Sea resort town of Dahab, which boasts some of the world’s best diving sites, such as the Canyon, where these divers are seen testing the waters.

Frank Vahrenhorst, diving organizer at the H20 Dive Center says the diving conditions are suitable for both beginner and advanced divers. Reef fish can be spotted less than one meter from the shoreline in some areas.

“Even the courses here are very nice to do here because the visibility is very good. There’s hardly any current and basically we have swimming pool like conditions and the marine life here is absolutely stunning.”

Before Egypt’s revolution began 18 months ago, the popular Red Sea coast was seen as a safe tourist destination despite sporadic terrorist attacks.

Tourism always bounced back, as European tourists flocked to the area on a seasonal basis looking to do water sports, desert treks, or simply to relax and enjoy the sun.

“I’ve only dived in the Red Sea. I’m only diving since six months, but I love it. I came here on a vacation for three weeks and two months later I came back. And now I’ve been here for already two months, always diving, diving.”

The recent national unrest however has put a firm dampener on Red Sea resorts, as they have observed a steep decline in tourism, with some tourists fearing the ongoing unrest. Others like Belgian visitor Bram Te Rijdt says politics shouldn’t hinder local business.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea not to come since we are not helping the locals by not coming. It’s a political thing so what can we do about it? It’s above our heads.”

Mahmoud Aouda, a local Bedouin dive instructor said work has declined despite recent resumption of visitors.

“We are still working and people are coming. The Red Sea attracts people from the whole world. Americans, Europeans, Asians are still coming. Work is still good, but not like before the Revolution. Work has slowed down at about 50 to 60 percent.”

Vahrenhorst appears to be positive, however, saying his business has barely suffered.

“I think most tourists who come diving here, even after the revolution or whatever problem you have, most of those customers or divers are coming back, because they’ve been here before. You obviously have the odd ones who’ve never been here before, but we see a lot of returning customers and divers.”

Dahab in the Sinai Peninsula, is more than 600 km (373 miles) from Cairo. Although it has long been a popular tourist destination, the town is surrounded by stretches of beach with no urbanisation and is far from the traffic, bustle and politics of the Egyptian capital.

The only upside to the decline in tourists, according to expert divers, is that the coral reef has a chance to recover from human disturbance, as well as an increase in fish.

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