Red Sea Cruise – December 2009

During the first two weeks of December I accompanied my father on a cruise of the Red Sea. We flew to Al Akabah in Jordan and sailed to Safaga, Egypt from where we drove across the mountains and desert to the Nile Valley to visit Karnak, Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. In Sudan we visited the destroyed island city of Suakin which was built of coral and housed the British Administration in the nineteenth century. In Eritrea we took a train ride from Massawa into the desert, on a refurbished train with original engine and rolling stock from the times that Ethiopia was an Italian colony. And from Salalah, Oman we visited Job’s Tomb, and an ancient city which was the center of the Frankincense trade in the centuries before Christ. Finally we flew back to England from Mumbai. It was the first time I’d visited the Middle East and although I can’t say it was all a pleasure I enjoyed the trip and learned something about Islam, from experience and the excellent talks presented on the ship. But the displeasure was a certain level of anxiety – in Egypt we had armed guards to protect against possible terrorist attack: in Sudan I felt so out of place in a group of wealthy western tourists amongst a people who were so obviously poor and living in such bad conditions in a country which has resources, but clearly does not use them for the benefit of its people. In the Gulf of Aden the ship was protected with razor wire and we traveled under naval protection because of the threat of pirate attack. In Eritrea and especially Oman felt much safer and at ease. On board ship we were treated very well with excellent food, very attentive service from all the crew especially the delightful Filipino waiters and waitresses, and stimulating lectures on Islam and Cosmology and various talks from several of the contributors to the ‘Antiques Roadshow’. There were also entertainments and films. My father is now planning another trip – to Norway perhaps. If you’d like to see more pictures please go here