Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Returning from Marsa Alam

After multiple dives, diving practice is that there should be a minimum 24 hour gap between your last dive and the flight (known as the NoFly time). Although we spend our last night in Egypt on the boat, we are checked into the Marina Lodge hotel for 6 hours so that the boat crew can prepare it for the next group of divers.

The Marina Lodge in Port Ghalib does not have a great reputation as a hotel and for reasons unknown to anyone other than the original architect, is built in one corner of the Port and separated from the rest of the Port by lagoons. Other than a very long walk around the outside road going around the complex, the only way to get to the Hotel from the central area of the port where the GSS moors is by water taxi.

Port Ghalib is supposed to look like the above “artists impression”. I have been here on a number of occasions over the past 8 years and will let the following pictures help you decide how close to the above concept, Port Ghalib actually looks.

Port Ghalib Port Mouth

When you come into the port, a well built vista appears

Port Ghalib Main Quay

The main quay looks pretty good Port Ghalib Port Office

as does the Port Authority building

Port Ghalib Square

and the town square

Port Ghalib Developing

but to the sides, vast stretches of landscaped desert exists

ML-004 DSCF2250

According to its website, the Port was completed about 8 years ago, obviously this is not the case. The Port is an example of money being used to create a large something (the airport, town, harbour, marina etc) in the middle of an equally large nothing (the desert) and a combination of the economic downturn; the political situation in Egypt and the death of the original backer, have led to a stalled project which is unlikely to restart in the near future. It is said that when the original backer died and his sons took over, they banned the sale of alcohol in all but the two hotels within the Port and on the Dive Boats. One understands why but it will not encourage western tourists to come.

The Marina Lodge hotel is in the bottom right area of the plan and it is still surrounded by

Marina Lodge

desert, “work in progress” is how one might politely describe it – the problem is that over the past 8 years, the work has hardly progressed at all! The wreck which I first saw on the foreshore some 5 years ago is still there awaiting collection.

Wreck Stll there

To me, it does not seem to be a good place for any type of holiday other than a diving holiday.

Anyway, we spend only a few hours, sufficient to ensure that we have clocked up at least 24 hours between our last dive and the flight.

Marsa Alam airport is slow and bureaucratic when you fly out. At check-in, it is usual to find that your luggage weighs more than it did when you flew out despite the fact that you have purchased nothing. This amazing event often has its origins in the scales which do not read zero when unloaded but this can be solved by handing over money (or a frank exchange of views). There then are numerous people who check that the previous person has checked your paperwork correctly, attempts to get you to pay to use the “free” toilet and some of the most expensive water on sale anywhere I have been to.

The plane arrives on-time to take me back

Marsa to Gatwick

from an over warm 42C to an over cold 7C, the flight arrives back at Gatwick early, the baggage arrives quickly, the motorway back to home is quiet, and so, some 11 hours after I leave my hotel room in Port Ghalib, I open the door at home. Tired and aching but pleased with a good diving trip.

21 hours underwater over 18 dives, maximum depth 36.8m.

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