I first dived Sharm el-Sheikh in 1992 with Chelmsford BSAC. It was at the time when there was one flight a week from the UK to the Egyptian Red Sea. A chartered plane (I think it was Monarch) would leave Gatwick on a Friday packed to the gunwales with divers.
It would first fly to Hurghada, disembark this weeks divers and embark last weeks departing divers. The plane would then take off again for Sharm, where the process was repeated, before making a third flight back to the UK, taking home a plane of tired divers.
I still have very strong memories of the first transfer into resort.
We were met by local guide and instructor - (the late) John Brushwood - at Sharm Airport. At the time the building resembled a very large, open-sided barn. After a short briefing we were bundled into open topped jeeps and before I knew it, we were hurtling across open desert. Acres and acres of sand and rock, and a remote petrol station.
The first building in Naama Bay was the Hilton Fayrouz Resort. The road stretched away in front of us. Desert to the right, hotels, dive centres, the shore and sea to the left. There were no hotels away from Naama Bay. The Gardens, White Knight, Nabq et was just empty desert.
You can imagine my surprise when I returned to Sharm a few years later to find that where there was once desert was now the Sonesta Club, the Rosetta, the Hilton Sharm Dreams etc.
Sharm has continued to evolve. Its grown from a tiny dive resort into an international top holiday destination.
The peaceful resort was bombed in the early hours of Saturday 23 July 2005. I was driving from Plymouth to Oban overnight and BBC Radio 4 news kept me company, as I worried and fretted over friends and colleagues working in resort. The dive guides stepped up and helped where they could with their first aid skills. 88 people lost their lives in the bomb in the Old Town, Ghazala Gardens hotel and the Moevenpick Hotel, killing six tourists.
Overnight the resort changed. The taxi rank was moved away from the centre of town, and road blocks put in place. Resort life returned to normal.
We don’t have a wall
Reports are now coming in that the Egyptian authorities have started work on a concrete barrier around Sharm. However General Khaled Fouda, the governor of South Sinai has stated "It’s not a wall, who told you it’s a wall. We don’t have a wall."
Fouda stated that a mix of high concrete barriers and at least 23 miles / 37km of razor-wire fence, with “four very beautiful doors” to access the town will “beautify and secure Sharm el-Sheikh.”
It was intended to “beautify and secure Sharm el-Sheikh”. The governor of South Sinai
It is feared that the six metre concrete barrier will encircle the perimeter of the town, destroy the beautiful views of Sharm's mountains and desert, and send out the wrong message to tourists.
A local resident stated "It’s ridiculous. This security barrier isn’t going to make a difference, it will just annoy people more and it won’t stop terrorism. It’s a joke. Any tourist coming out of the city will be worried they’re not safe - this will affect tourism”.
Is Sharm el-Sheikh safe?
I have been fortunate to live and work both in London and Sharm. Both places have been bombed by terrorists. I have felt equally safe in both places. Sharm has some of the very best scuba diving in the world.