In September 2014, Egyptian national and technical diver Ahmed Gabr performed a deep dive off Dahab in the Egyptian Red Sea under the auspices and observation of adjudicators from The Guinness Book of Records. After the dive, Gabr was acknowledged for having reached the record depth of 332m, surpassing South African Nuno Gomes who made it to 318m in 2005, also off Dahab.
My relationship to the Middle East is like a long-running but complicated love affair. I keep being attracted to it and keep coming back. Each time I step out of the airplane when I arrive there, I am embraced by a pleasant, complex, and—dare I say—almost sensual scent so full of notes, most of which I have never been able to identify.
Many years ago, whilst learning to scuba dive, I came across an article on manatees and dugongs. I was entranced. Not only were they cute, according to the article, they loved hugging divers, and once they held on to you, they did not want to let you go. The image of this human-hugging, underwater teddy bear remained with me and I was determined that one day, I would find one and hug it.
From all over the world, more and more divers are coming to the Red Sea to discover its underwater paradise. The vast majority choose the Egyptian Red Sea as their main destination because it offers a wide variety of dive sites, suitable for all levels of diving; it is where one can travel all year round at a great price.
I first visited the Red Sea as part of a marine biological expedition with Dr Paul Cragg back in 1973. After having run safaris out of Israel and ending up living there for several years working on the legendary liveaboard dive boats Lady Jenny III and Lady Jenny V, my love for the Red Sea has never diminished. Now, some 45 years later, a return trip to the Red Sea was increasing my heartbeat in anticipation.
It was 6:30 in the morning, and my dive buddy and I were hauling our gear back from the big zodiac speedboat after a thrilling midnight dive on the famous Elphinstone reef in the Red Sea near Marsa Alam, Egypt. While rinsing my gear, Ahmed—the local dive guide—started talking to me because I was diving a back plate, wing and long hose just like him, and he probably felt some kind of connection.