Featured Story: Election

Thursday, July 12, 2007


It is the most passive and most aggressive of passive aggressive behaviour.

"Want to ride a camel?"
"I'm not fat and lazy like you. I'm walking."

"Where you come from?"
"Your sister's house."

The line between exterior and interior threatens to break. But no, I keep my spite inside my head. How satisfying to walk by someone offering a welcoming handshake as if they don't exist! Mouth shut. Eyes ahead. I don't look at every piece of dirt I pass on the ground, why should I treat these any differently?

The act of ignoring is extremely effective. The minute you open your mouth, you give them a response to play off of. Draw out the irritating sales pitch. Try to fool you into paying more than you should for something you never wanted in the first place. The bastards.

Outside the heat of the moment and the midday sun and the sand and the light that makes my eyes squint and the sweat dripping down my face and soaking my shirt, these are not hated enemies. They are not inferior. They are people making a living. They are not even half as persistant as those in some other places I've been. It's obvious that I need to step back, take a break. A decision: no more sightseeing. When the enjoyment is sucked out to this extent, it's time to stop. The ancient pyramids around Cairo marked the end.

It's liberating in a way. Here's a place I've never been. Now I have no obligation to tour landmarks and monuments. I'm here to enjoy the company of people.

Last of the Dives

I was detained on the way to Cairo. I stopped for a day in Dahab, on the Sinai peninsula. Then the tentacles of scuba diving grabbed hold and pulled me underwater again and again. The stunning scenery wouldn't release me. It was a full week before I managed to tear myself away and get to the big city. These are some of the images from that week I don't want to forget.

Canyon at Night

Watching a body floating downwards, chest down, legs bent at the knees, parachutist-style. Light from my torch illuminates him, then disappears into a black crevis. Darkness surrounding. Outer space.

Sitting at the bottom. Looking straight up. Watching green sparkles follow the commotion of my air bubbles as they float skywards. Long, slow inhalation. The water clears. Peace. Only the sound of my breathing, the canyon walls rising up around me, the night sky visible in the crack above, a faint grey glow through 25 metres of water. And fish swimming nearby, eyes blinking green, on off, on off, like aquatic fireflies.

The Bells

Turning, pointing my body straight down, and diving, diving, through a narrow rock chimney. I maneuver myself like an airplane in slow motion. My oxygen tank grazes a wall in the narrow space. Clang. The name rings out.

Through an archway to find the vast terrifying blue of the ocean open up. A coral wall on my right, stretching vertically down out of sight. 1,600 metres I am told. Don't lose focus, just keep swimming at the same level. Don't be intimidated. Don't let the ocean swallow you.

Blue Hole

Swimming across, the walls fade from view. The hole is effectively bottomless. Nothing but blue all around. All I can make out below me, the strange patterns the sun makes through the water. Rays of light constantly shifting. Sky. Flying. Where am I?

Lighthouse at Night

Ahmed swims ahead. I turn off my light and follow the specks of glowing plankton he leaves in his wake. Strange impression I am in a Peter Pan movie on the trail of Tinkerbell.

The Islands

Moving from one lagoon to the next. Everything teems with life. I am caught in a school of fish and mesmerised by the synchronised movement.


Around and through the wreck. World War II-vintage motorbikes and trucks are lined up. Tires still full of air. Airplane wings. Unexploded munitions.

Exhale. Air bubbles rise and are trapped on the ceiling, silver like mercury, gravity gone haywire.

Outside, fish swarm round and round. Predators dart in. The pack scatters, regroups, scatters, regroups. Trying to avoid becoming the next meal.

Ras Mohammed

Barracudas lurk in the murky blue limits of visibility. A huge green Napoleonfish — 1.5 metres long? 2? — arrives and forages for food on the coral. I swim close by. What makes me so confident about my surroundings? I feel relaxed in the presence of the giant. A parting gift before surfacing — I spot a large sea turtle swimming 15m away.