Monday, December 14, 2009

Small incident on the way to Dahab

A couple of days ago when I met the guy with the van outside the Sharm El-Sheikh airport who I rode with to Dahab there was one more small incident that I didn't mention. A bit of background first. As some of you probably know there were 3 suicide bombers here in Dahab in 2006 who killed 23 and injured dozens. In Sharm El-Sheikh in 2005 3 bombs exploded and killed 88 and injured over 200. In 1997 there was also the terrorist attack in Luxor which killed 62 and injured 12.

Anyway, back to the ride to Dahab. After we had left Sharm El-Sheikh and were out on the desert highway we passed a couple of men in their 20s standing beside the road. The driver stopped and asked me if it was okay to pick these guys up so they could ride with us. He said they were police. Hmm, no uniforms. Why do they need a ride to Dahab? Of course, although it seemed a bit strange he did ask me and most likely there was nothing more to it than what he said, but I decided to say no. After all, I don't want to turn into another Daniel Pearl. I also made a joke that if they were willing to each pay 1/3 the cost then I might say okay. :-) The two guys were talking in Arabic to my driver through the open window and I guess he told them I didn't want them to share the ride. They gave me a dirty look and we drove off. Right after we started driving again my driver said that they just wanted a ride to the police checkpoint that was ahead. I could see it maybe 600-700 meters down the road. Maybe they were police, but everyone else there, I noticed, had uniforms on. I am not sure why they wanted a ride to get somewhere they could walk in 5-8 minutes. It was about 8:30 AM and not hot at all. I guess they just continued waiting there until they got a ride. :-)

Incidentally, not far from my hotel here in Dahab there is a foot bridge on the concrete walkway right next to the ocean that goes the full length of the central part of Dahab. There are many open air restaurants, dive shops, small hotels, etc. The foot bridge is in the most central location. I noticed that on both ends of the bridge the concrete appears to have been sort of blasted in an area about a meter circumference and then many pockmarks radiating away from it. I haven't asked but I am pretty sure this is where the suicide bombers did their dirty work. It looks exactly what one would expect if a bomb loaded with bolts, ball bearings, etc. was to explode there and the place that has the most people hanging around.

Anyway, it was probably nothing more than what the driver said and I am not a scaredy-cat, but at the same time it is good to use some common sense. Of course, between the two extremes of them just being police who wanted a 30-40 second car ride and being terrorists looking to kidnap a foreigner there are other possibilities such as two friends of the driver who would try to put the hard sell on me to go to some shop, hotel, etc. :-)

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