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FOLLOW THAT TURTLE!

Adam & Meena on the swings before we go out

Adam & Meena on the swings before we go out

Walking on to the beach I have to be honest that I was looking forward to a nice day without any arguments or fights. The guy who fixes the beds beckoned Suzy and Yasmine to follow him so they did. We walked passed the Italian family we had the argument with the day before noticing that they had been relegated to the back rows of the beach. The ones that if you do not wear shoes you will lose a third of the skin from the souls of your feet. The rest is lost from the stone steps that lead to the sea but everyone has to use those. The woman, the prune, was looking extremely disgusted with the situation and the older man seemed to be looking for an empty chair where ever it may appear. Imagine the faces on these people when the guy who was preparing the beds took towels off five beds that were positioned in the best place on the beach.

Meena checking out the snorkeling

Meena checking out the snorkeling

It certainly goes to show that when the chips are down people stick together and the Egyptian guy who works on the beach was obviously sorry for what had happened the day before and wanted to make it up to Suzy and Yasmine. I think if they could have run an Egyptian flag up the umbrella they would have. Feeling equally smug I thought that I would join in and put the british flag up there as well just the way we brits like to claim any success even if its not ours. But to be honest I think if I did that I would probably end up further up the beach than the Italians. So I kept my mouth shut!
Adam before cutting his hand

Adam before cutting his hand

So we had the best spot on the beach, the beers were on there way and the weather was amazing it was perfect. Perfect that is until Adam cut his hand. We were sat above the sea where the children and Francis were below. They were just looking around the corals until Yasmine and I would join them in a while and we would go for a swim. Adam slipped on a coral and fell down cutting the palm of his hand. I saw him fall and immediately saw blood. Now I knew that the water was probably making it look worse that it was but you never know and he started crying. Well actually he started screaming. I immediately ran down the stairs to join him but before I left my chair I noticed a couple, man and woman around mid forties to early fifties, sat right next to where Adam was now bleeding and screaming. Running down the stairs I noticed that they had not moved and were just watching him bleed and scream. Blood was running down hi arm into the sea and I quickly lifted it and applied pressure. I washed it and then took a look. It was only a small cut but I couldn’t hold myself back from giving the couple a mouthful about sitting and doing nothing. So much for the no arguing! I took Adam to the first aid section where they applied a small dressing.

Adam enjoying a joke at my expense

Adam enjoying a joke at my expense

Adam watching the snorkeling

Adam watching the snorkeling

With Adam temporarily out of action Yasmine and Suzy decided it was a good time to eat with him so I took Meena for a swim. After a slight mishap with Meenas snorkel, it having a large hole from someone chewing it, we used Adams and set off into the water. Within a few minutes deep below us was a large sea turtle. Meena and I followed it for about five minutes before realizing that we were now quite far out to sea so we turned back with Meena still shouting turtle all the way. Later Yasmine and I went alone for a swim for over an hour. It was great but there was no turtle to be seen. At one point Yasmine started signing blue moon under water which made me laugh and nearly choke on my snorkel. We stayed late on this day soaking up the last rays of the sun.

Meena and myself coming back from following the turtle

Meena and myself coming back from following the turtle

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2009 in Blog, travel

 

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All good things must come to an end

Adam enjoying the play area

Adam enjoying the play area

As the holiday comes closer to its end the days seem to be passing very quickly. Our time in Sharm has been such an amazing experience that none of us wish to return to Dubai at this point. Sharm El Sheikh is a beautiful place that offers nature at its best. Spending time with Yasmine alone has been wonderful away from all the hustle and bustle of our lives in Dubai. The children have loved every minute of this holiday and have made many friends from all over the world. Suzy has enjoyed showing us all around Sharm and introducing us to all her wonderful friends. the only disappointment would be her brother Ghalal was not in Sharm at the same time. But we have vowed to return to this place as soon as we can because it has rejuvenated each of us in all our own ways ready to face the world again in a few days.
Meena in one of the colorful parks

Meena in one of the colorful parks

Adam on the rocks!

Adam on the rocks!

Meena on the beach

Meena on the beach

Sharm El Sheikh has an amazing blend of middle east culture with Mediterranean flavor that makes it a quite unique place. I’s visited Cairo a few years earlier and was expecting Sharm to have some similar feelings. I was very happily proved completely wrong as Sharm as a very unique feeling all of its own. Sharm is not without its draw backs like any place but the positive certainly out weigh the negatives. For example the other day when we arrived on the beach we were pleased to see that four beds were still free right on the edge of the beach overlooking the sea below. With the umbrella fixed in the ground behind the beds meant that the shade would be over us in the afternoon. As we approached An Italian man in his fifties started to complain to the guy who works on setting up the beds for you on the beach. Of course most of the Italians here have been very pleasant but this family seemed an exception to the rule. You didn’t need to understand Italian to get the feeling that he was upset we would be sharing his umbrella. He was with a younger guy and a woman who looked like she’d spent way too long in the sun as she looked like an old prune. They all seemed agitated and a discussion broke out through the translator who was the guy who worked on the beach.
Adam has loved being in Sharm

Adam has loved being in Sharm

Meena showing Francis what fish she has seen

Meena showing Francis what fish she has seen

Talk about stuck between a rock and a hard place as on one side the Italian mafia claimed a ridiculous position and us on the other side. Suzy and Yasmine said their piece before saying they would rather sit somewhere else than next to these people. Personally I was all for camping out on the beds and defending in a way that Franco Beresi would have been proud of. But we kept the peace and sat somewhere else. Later whilst the Italians were down swimming a family of eight turned up and surrounded the Italian’s much to our amusement. The old Italian tried to make a stand by literally standing up holding his umbrella in a show of pomp that even the late Mussolini would have thought over the top before they all left the beach with a complaining as only some Italians can do; at the top of their voices so everyone can hear. As they passed our place we happened to have a drink in hand and toasted the defeat of the Italians. Funny thing is that night we went to a great Italian restaurant called Fernando’s and had a very nice time.
Yasmine and Meena at Fernandos

Yasmine and Meena at Fernandos

All of us at Fernandos

All of us at Fernandos (Adam with a piece of bread in his mouth!)

The diving and snorkeling in Sharm has been the most humbling experience as the colors and sights we have seen continue to take away our breath. On the beach yesterday we were sat watching a boat pass when the surface of the water erupted in a flurry of activity. Long silver fish flying through the air clearly leaving the water. They flew in a variety of different directions. They didn’t look like the flying fish that I have seen before and looked very much like the barracudas that we see all the time. If it was barracudas the thought came to my mind what in gods name is under the water to make a fish leave the water at that speed and without care to where they were going just as long as it was away from what was chasing them. It ending with a large splash but whatever it was that was chasing them was not seen by us. So we did the obvious thing in this kind of circumstance; we went snorkeling to see what it was! By far for me the most impressive sight under the water has been the Giant Manta Ray the size and gracefulness of the creature was spellbinding and I only wish Yasmine had been with me to see it.
Meena on the beach

Meena on the beach

Yasmine and I are now advanced PADI divers and although we did not get a chance to visit the SS Thistlegorm it has been a wonderful experience. The climax being the dive that Yasmine and I had together alone. It was an hour long and is something I will treasure for a long time. We vowed to return and told Rami over a drink the other night that we would all go together to see the Thistlegorm. If you are looking to go diving in Sharm make sure you look up Rami Fathy who is a very good friend and both Yasmine and I agree that he makes the diving experience that much more special.  Sharm has everything you could need for a great holiday whether young or old, couple or single, whether you want a quiet relaxing holiday or want to live it up in the nightclubs Sharm has it all. So we head out today for our last full day here and will make the most of every minute!
Thanks for the memories Sharm!

Thanks for the memories Sharm!

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2009 in Blog, travel

 

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The day I saw Ray

Sporting the latest Barbie accessory is Meena

Sporting the latest Barbie accessory is Meena

With only a few days of the holiday left it was natural that the children would remember the sunglasses they bought before coming. Maybe it was meeting the italians or more likely just stumbling across them before we left the villa but we were given a beach fashion show by both children when we arrived at the beach. With the Italian girls nowhere to be seen the fashion show was cut short and we all got ready to go snorkeling. To show how appealing the sights of fish close to shore is even Francis, the nanny, who had not even wanted to come to the beach until we persuaded her to leave the house decided to join us by using the spare mask. The children’s constant nagging might have had something to do with it as well.
Not wanting to be outdone Adam gets out his shades

Not wanting to be outdone Adam gets out his shades

Looks like the Italian influence has made an impression

Looks like the Italian influence has made an impression

Adam giving instructions to his sister

Adam giving instructions to his sister

On the way down to the sea Adam was curious as to why on this day a lifeguard was sat by the water when all the other days there had been no one. His simple question was, “Where have you been all the other days?” The lifeguard looked a little perplexed and only when he realized that Adam was accompanied by the rest of us did he offer a response. “I have been ill,” came the unconvincing reply. Adam was not finished yet with the lifeguard who was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. A small frown was on Adams face as a question formed inside his head. “What would have happened if I was drowning yesterday?” was what finally emerged from a six year old boy clearly concerned at this stage. I wanted to go swimming and we were holding up the queue but at this point I was kind of interested to hear the response myself. We never got an answer from the embarrassed lifeguard ad Adam continued to be suspicious of the man all day.
Meena trying to catch a crab

Meena trying to catch a crab

Adam taking pictures with his own camera

Adam taking pictures with his own camera

Francis enjoyed her swim and the children enjoyed her joining them but she made it quite clear that was the one and only time she wanted to enter the sea. Back on land Meena and Adam turned into pure naturalists and wanted to explore the animals that were around the edge of the water. Actually Adam seemed to be giving directions and his braver sister was the one that was catching, or at least trying to catch, sand hoppers and crabs. Francis joined in and caught a crab. Seeing that Meena and Adam were afraid of being nipped by the small crab she preceded to pull off the two arms of the crab. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as she then tried to hand the armless crab to Meena. Meena looked at the crab and turned away to me saying, “She pulled his arms off!” I told Francis that she may as well have just stamped on the crab as it now stood little chance of surviving back in the water. She looked at me as if I was crazy and just returned the crab to the sea, as she passed me walking up to the beach her expression was clearly saying, “It’s just a crab you moron!”
Adam taking a close up of Suzy

Adam taking a close up of Suzy

Suzy, Yasmine and me at Sharm Reef Beach

Suzy, Yasmine and me at Sharm Reef Beach

Adam asking the lifeguard where he had been all the other times we'd visited this beach

Adam asking the lifeguard where he had been all the other times we'd visited this beach

Snorkeling with Yasmine and Meena in the afternoon I thought I heard Yasmine say shark from under the water. It’s amazing how a word like that can travel through the water when normally you can’t hear a thing. I quickly popped my head above water and Yasmine said shark again and then I could see her pointing down below. Quickly scanning the water below I could make out a shape that was moving in a shark like way. It turned out to be a large fish but it did look like a shark and there are sharks in the waters of Sharm. Yasmine told me be that she always used to see sharks by the coast when she swam here but now due to over diving and the pollution. It is amazing though how just hearing the word shark in the water stays in your mind. What also crossed my mind was that days earlier I had not fancied my chances with a barn owl, what chance would I really stand with a shark?
Even Francis couldn't miss an opportunity to see the fish

Even Francis couldn't miss an opportunity to see the fish

Adam, Suzy and Yasmine enjoying Sharm Reef Beach

Adam, Suzy and Yasmine enjoying Sharm Reef Beach

The Pacha boat makes a brief appearance

The Pacha boat makes a brief appearance

Later in the afternoon Adam and Meena were invited by the Italian girls father to have ice cream. Yasmine and Suzy were sleeping on the beach so I thought it was an ideal time to go snorkeling. I wish that Yasmine had come with me because what I saw she would have loved. After about fifteen minutes I was started to head back towards the steps. Deep in the water below me I saw some strange white shapes but I couldn’t work out what it was. Concentrating on the shapes I gradually realized what it was. It was a giant manta ray. It was massive! Judging from the distance and its wingspan the creature was a wide as I was tall, if not bigger. It slowly glided through the water and was an incredible scene. Seeing the ray moving effortlessly through the water was a wonderful sight and for me was the best thing I had seen in the sea, which is saying a lot after everything we have seen on this holiday. I was torn from going up the steps and getting Yasmine or just watching it. But the ray just seemed to sink into the depths and disappear.
A parrot fish swimming close to shore

A parrot fish swimming close to shore

Another large colored fish comes in close

Another large colored fish comes in close

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2009 in Blog, travel

 

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Coral Bay in Sharm El Sheikh…claims to be much better than Dubai

Ian and Alyssa on the pool at Coral Bay

Ian and Alyssa on the pool at Coral Bay

The slogan for Coral Bay resort in Sharm El Sheikh says that it’s “much better than Dubai.” So who better to judge than us. We had decided to visit Coral Bay because a friend of Yasmine’s was staying there in her villa for a few days and Yasmine had not seen her for many years. Nivine would be one of Yasmine’s closest friends from when she was young and she was very excited to be catching up with her today. We packed up the car and drove towards Coral Bay through Naama Bay. Yasmine wasn’t quite sure about the directions but she had a rough idea how to get there. She had been before many years ago but the entire area of Sharm has been built up so much that even the locals would have trouble remembering how to get from one place to another. Certainly the taxi drivers drive as though they are reading a road map, whilst on the phone and having a conversation with every person that appears on the road.
Adam strutting his stuff around the pool

Adam strutting his stuff around the pool

Soaking up the sun around the pool

Soaking up the sun around the pool

As we passed through Naama Bay there appeared to be a lot of people just stood on the side of the road doing not very much. This would typically mean nothing accept the fact that it was over 40 degrees and they were in trouser or jeans and shirts. On closer inspection there was also a bottle of water or more tucked under the nearest bush or twig. Each man didn’t seem to be looking to catch a taxi or appeared to be waiting for anything. Suzy was the first to speak as I continued to stare as we went passed a man after every 200 meters. “They are plain clothes police” she said and Yasmine agreed by pointing out the each one was spaced to precisely that it was obvious. We then drove through a very heavily guarded checkpoint next to the Sharm convention center. A very large and impressive modern building in the middle of nowhere in particular. Hosni Mubarak was here and there was some kind of international convention with many foreign dignitaries from around the world. So that explained the police presence. So along a road that we were looking for the entry to a hotel lined with undercover, hot and bothered policemen who looked as though they would shoot you just because you indicated early; we got lost!
Out come the water pistols

Out come the water pistols

Yasmine and Meena take on Adam

Yasmine and Meena take on Adam

Meena turns her attention towards me

Meena turns her attention towards me

I say lost, we actually ended up in the Sharm airport which was obviously too far so we doubled back along the road. Back assed all the hot and bothered police, who were supposed to be undercover but were not, we started driving slowly looking at every turning and sign that was there. This was one of those situations like walking through customs at airports that you feel guilty for absolutely no reason, but this time they probably had heat stroke and guns! We actually stopped along this road three times and asked one of these undercover police directions. Each one told us a different way which didn’t exactly help. The last policeman we asked was sat under a large umbrella and had a chair so I was guessing that he must have been a bit senior looked at us as if we had landed from another planet and asked for the toilets. Eventually we called Nivine again and she gave us the right directions.
The three children out on the pier exploring

The three children out on the pier exploring

Fun comes in threes

Fun comes in threes

trouble on the way!

trouble on the way!

Nivine met us in the car park and took us to the pool where her friend Ian and his daughter Alyssa were swimming. The kids introduced themselves to Alyssa in their own way, by both attacking her with the water pistols. They had obviously got plenty of practice with Seif in the water park because she took a few straight to the face. Quickly Yasmine and myself decide to even things out and remove the guns but not before we gave the kids a bit of their own medicine. Ian also joined in and it started the day off nicely; if you excuse the fact that our kids had assaulted our new friends daughter. Well we’ve had worse. Yasmine and Nivine had lots to catch up so spent a while sitting by the pool. Ian, who is from Yorkshire, seemed like a very nice guy and we enjoyed some time in the pool with the kids minus the water pistols. The kids grew bored of the no weapon rule so we decided we should move to the beach for some lunch and something for the kids to entertain themselves with.
Meena enjoying herself in Coral Bay

Meena enjoying herself in Coral Bay

Yasmine and Meena heading to the sea

Yasmine and Meena heading to the sea

Yasmine and Meena walking out on the pier to go snorkeling

Yasmine and Meena walking out on the pier to go snorkeling

We sat in the restaurant that is situated in very large bay. The three children quickly finished their food and Ian’s fruit salad, which he offered to share and probably didn’t realize what kind of a feeding frenzy he had unleashed, running along a man made pier that led to a huge platform that had two small swimming pool areas built into it. The pools were created to allow the small fish to enter but keep the larger ones out with a fence system. Watching the children from the restaurant you could see that they were getting along well and enjoying themselves immensely. Seeing how clear the water was Adam and Meena wanted to go snorkeling. Yasmine took Meena and I while I waited for Adam to have a swim with Alyssa in one of the pools. Yasmine and Meena were way off in the distance by the time Adam and I were ready. It was a great place to snorkel as there was very little sign of pollution like in other areas and the fish were many and there was some different types to what we had seen before.
Like mother like....

Like mother like....

Ian, Yasmine and Nivine

Ian, Yasmine and Nivine

By the end of the day the children were all best friends, Nivine and Yasmine had caught up on all the things they had being doing over the years and we had made a nice new friend in Ian. By the time we drove out of the main gate both Adam and Meena were asleep. We went out in the evening for another round on the motorbikes and a chinese meal. It had been a great day at Coral Bay and the place is amazing. Coral Bay is extremely large and you feel like you are in a small city in the Mediterranean. Small quaint little streets wind all the way from the main reception down to the beach. It is a beautiful place and there doesn’t seem any need to actually leave and do anything as everything you could possibly want is within the facility. As for being much better than Dubai? The slogan did bother me but not because I have any affinity or am pro Dubai but in a place that is so incredible like Coral Bay why you would need to talk about another destination or be negative just grated on me. The place is fantastic and should just have a slogan that is positive just the the experience you have there.
Suzy and Meena enjoying the evening

Suzy and Meena enjoying the evening

Yasmine and myself at the end of another long day

Yasmine and myself at the end of another long day

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2009 in Blog, travel

 

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The girl has pole position

Adam on  rather large quad bike

Adam on rather large quad bike

A visit to Il Mercato mall turned into an experience for the children that resembled a formula one race. Il Mercato mall in Sharm El Sheikh is a very nice open air mall with bars and restaurants dotted throughout interesting architecture and shops. A nice blend of holiday makers and locals made Il Mercato a pleasant place to walk and enjoy. Parking on the main street the children were quickly drawn to a group of squeals and cheers. Stepping off the curb towards the mall proved a little more challenging than we first had thought as a small motorbike with a little boy desperately clinging to sped past. A strange blend of fear and excitement on his face was enough to have our children asking for a try.
Yasmine checking out Adams bike

Yasmine checking out Adams bike

Meena leaving Adam trailing at the start

Meena leaving Adam trailing at the start

With promises made if the children eat dinner they can have a go we sat in the Manchow Wok for a chinese meal. The meal itself was very nice but was interrupted by an event that had us all perplexed and laughing amongst ourselves. Sat on the table next to us half way through our meal was a couple from what appeared to be Saudi Arabia. The man dressed in casual shorts and t-shirt and the woman in an abaya that only had a place for her eyes to be showing. Sensitive to certain things in the Middle East I refrained from taking any more photographs in their direction. Strangely the lady thought it appropriate to pull out a video camera and start filming us! When the man took the camera and did the same I gestured to him, as politely as you would, to stop filming immediately. Now if the incident had occurred the other way round I was left wondering what kind of fuss would have ensued.

Meena didn't hang around for anyone

Meena didn't hang around for anyone

After the meal the children, who had eating surprisingly well and fast, we walked towards the apparently magnetic pull of the bikes. From quad bikes of all sizes, chopper like harley davidson to small buggy like electric cars they seemed to have every age from 3 to 14 covered. Adam went for a quad bike that would have fitted me and Meena chose a smaller quad that took off like the proverbial bullet from a gun. With Meena gone in a cloud of smoke Adam took off in pursuit in what looked on paper to be a miss match of power. But then for anyone not knowing our children would not know that Meena doesn’t seem to abide to the laws of physics or reason as she not only stayed in front but actually continued to expand her lead.
Meena was stopping for no one, not even a photograph

Meena was stopping for no one, not even a photograph

Enjoying himself Adam couldn't catch Meena on the quad

Enjoying himself Adam couldn't catch Meena on the quad

As most boys faced with this kind of challenge Adam blamed the bike and not his driving skills and changed his bike three times until he finally felt he had the machine to match Meena. After a few false tries a hybrid scooter and motorbike had Adam drooling with anticipation. Standing on a small platform with two wheels at the back his feet were astride a large front wheel and engine that looked more dangerous than fast. He took off at a fair old pace which was what he was looking for but he never managed to catch Meena. It seemed though that it was no longer the idea of the game as it was more important just to keep the strange contraption in a straight line. When he did it was pretty fast. When he didn’t it looked like a scene from an american rodeo with the scooter and motorbike contraption did its upmost to throw him off. But he enjoyed himself and that was what mattered.
Meena speeding around the circuit

Meena speeding around the circuit

Meena had a huge smile on her face the entire time. I actually got worried that her face would end up being stuck like that. The only time it changed was when some young guy came running out of the shopping center and bounded in front of Meena. The guy didn’t look back and just kept running and Meena didn’t even slow down. She must have missed up by millimeters and her expression which was a large beaming smile turned into an expression as if she had sat on something sharp or hot! Eyes wider than an owl and smile turned into a tight little O. She never slowed or turned just continued on her way. I asked her afterwards what she thought of the guy and what would have happened had she hit him. Her reply was simple and honest “It would have hurt and it was his fault!” That’s my girl!

Adam on the scooter and motorbike contraption

Adam on the scooter and motorbike contraption

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2009 in Blog, travel

 

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THE GARDEN OF DELIGHTS

Sitting in the back garden of the villa in Sharm has been a treat in so many ways. Firstly how quiet it is here, at least when the children go to sleep that is. Silence can be as relaxing as a massage sometimes and with a view like the one we have it has been very soothing. We have also been treated to some other pleasures that Sharm has to offer. Meena has terrorized the Grasshopper community to the point that we don’t even hear them in the evening anymore. Every now and then we see Meena pounce in the garden returning to us with a big smile on her face and a grasshopper desperately trying to escape from the grasp of their captor.

The other evening I was sat on my own in the garden just thinking about the days fun and sights we had enjoyed. Out of the deep black sky something caught my eye coming towards me across the garden to my left. A white shape began to appear more clearly but I still could not register what it was or hear any sound at all. Suddenly, the head of an very large owl was clearly visible as its wings  swooped from above its head and beneath its body. The owl flew right towards me open up its wings and banking to its left away from me into the garden to the right. The entire action must have taken no more than 6 seconds with the owl coming within a few feet of me. I knew that owls were a silent hunter but to witness it first hand was something very special. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a mouse or vole when one of these beautiful hunters is on the prowl, I wouldn’t have stood a chance!

During the mornings having breakfast we have been treated to a display of hunting that has been quite spectacular at times. A small falcon has been preying on something at the bottom of our garden as well as the neighbors to the right. Watching it hover high in the sky for a few minutes before diving into the ground like a stuka dive bomber has been educational for us all. Occasionally the falcon has rested on the lights at the end of the garden but it has given us a display quite breathtaking at times.

Even with all of the above events the most spectacular show of all has been one that I had when sitting in the garden with Yasmine. Yasmine was pouring herself a drink and I was enjoying the view of the bounty of stars that are visible in the night at Sharm. As I took a deep breath and relaxed a streak of light raced across the night sky; my first ever shooting star! Happening in just under a second the feeling was quite exhilarating. A sign of good luck or the devil being burned are two of the many superstitions attached to the phenomenon. It could have been a meteor or it could have been anything but what I saw gave me a lift inside that is quite unexplainable and if there is good luck on offer who am I to refuse?

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2009 in Blog, travel

 

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Welcome to the water pistol wars in Aqua Park land

Adam and Meena enjoying the new swings in the garden

Adam and Meena enjoying the new swings in the garden

The day started off with the kids playing on the newly arrived swings and slide that Yasmine bought for the kids. Delivered and assembled in the garden it seems to act as a magnet to kids that up until that moment I didn’t even know existed in the area! Adam and Meena were excited today as they had been asking to go to the Aqua Park since day one when we arrived. And today was the day we were going. Suzy was going to take a break today as she was still feeling a little burnt from the previous days. My stomach seemed to be under control although I still felt a little weak. We set off to pick up Amr, Fatma and their children from their hotel. Once that was done and after approximately fifty “are we nearly their yet” in only a ten minute drive we arrived at the Aqua Park in Sharm.
Meena on the swing

Meena on the swing

Yasmine, Shariffa, Meena, Me and Adam at the Aqua Park in Sharm El Sheikh

Yasmine, Shariffa, Meena, Me and Adam at the Aqua Park in Sharm El Sheikh

The entire group ready for the Aqua Park

The entire group ready for the Aqua Park

It looked from the car park as though it was going to be quiet but that was to be a false dawn the place was heaving. It was also a lot bigger than I had presumed it to be. An endless array of colored slides all in different shapes contorted into strange shapes littered the park. A dinosaur was also clearly visible although the reason for that still escapes me. We located the children’s park and headed towards that as it would be where we were going to spend the majority of our time. Once the seats were found and the cream was applied the kids flew into action covering the entire children’s park in minutes to see what they had to play with.
Meena checking out the Aqua Park

Meena checking out the Aqua Park

Meena on the rainbow slide

Meena on the rainbow slide

Adam was soon having the time of his life

Adam was soon having the time of his life

The highlight would have to be the three main slides: The brown fast straight slide, The yellow round and round slide and the rainbow slide that was straight but had a bump in the middle for extra speed. Adam and Meena were up and down the slides like crazy. Seif tried one got a mouth full of water and we couldn’t get him on them again the whole day. Sitting and watching all the kids on the slides was like watching one of those iron man contests where the contestants swim 12k, bike 50k and then run a marathon. These little kids were no sooner in the water at the bottom of the slide than  exiting on my side of the pool and jogging, only because they kept getting told to stop running, back around and up the stairs in an endless race.
Adam and Meena racing up the stairs to the slides

Adam and Meena racing up the stairs to the slides

Meena on the yellow slide

Meena on the yellow slide

Adam checking Meena was okay on the slide

Adam checking Meena was okay on the slide

Meena and Adam must have tried every different way to come down each slide. Forwards, backwards, sideways and even doing all three in one go. I haven’t seen the two have so much fun together as they did on these slides even to the point where Adam confronted a boy who came down on top of Meena in the water. Mind you the kid was half his size and didn’t look like he would have put up much of a fight but it’s the thought that counts! But Adam would even make sure Meena was okay after every go was nice to see. Even if we all knew things would be back to normal tomorrow.
A quick wave on the way down

A quick wave on the way down

Meena leaving the rainbow slide

Meena leaving the rainbow slide

Adam coming out of the brown slide

Adam coming out of the brown slide

We decided that Amr and I would go on the other slides first and then Fatma and yasmine would go after to ensure that the kids wouldn’t get upset they were not allowed on the big slides. Amr and I went to the black hole which actually wasn’t that black and wasn’t that fast. In fact it was very disappointing. We tried another two slides which were no better before moving onto the next section. The first ride we took was on a mat and not really knowing which ride it was from the top at least had some kind of surprising element to it. We agreed to try one more before going back to the kids so we picked what looked like a horse saddle upside down. It didn’t look that great but it certainly looked better than the other one we were next to.
Meena, Queen of the castle

Meena, Queen of the castle

Adam having a great time with his water pistol

Adam having a great time with his water pistol

Meena aka Daddy's Angel!

Meena aka Daddy's Angel!

At the top of the steps the queue seemed to stall and we couldn’t work out why. Then one man came back down the stairs with his teenage son who had obviously seen something he didn’t like. From the top of the stairs you couldn’t see what was happening on the slide so when our turn came Amr politely offered for me to go first. I sat on the rubber ring and tried to peer over the edge. Still trying to see over the edge of what was now looking like quite a drop the lifeguard gave me a push and I was off over the top. That was nice of him! Falling like a rock I have to be honest it’s a good job my stomach had improved or Amr, who was next, might have got a nasty surprise on the slide. Feeling that I was no longer on the slide but literally just falling I tried desperately to hold on to the handles on the rubber ring. I hit the bottom and seemed to crumple into the ring on all sides meaning that my head, feet and backside all managed to hit the slide at the same time even though I was inside the ring. But there was no time to think as I was propelled up the other side of the slide with equal force. Finally regaining some composure the rest of the slide looked to be quite uneventful. I guess I should have seen it coming but at the end of the slide I was flip out of the ring into a pool of water on to resurface with a girl of around eight asking if she could have the ring. I just managed to turn in time to see Amr’s expression as he was propelled down the slide and it made me fell, if only a little, a little less of the coward I had been a few minutes before!
Adam in full action during the water pistol wars

Adam in full action during the water pistol wars

Looking for her next target Meena would find me and the camera too tempting

Looking for her next target Meena would find me and the camera too tempting

Adam in full pump action mode

Adam in full pump action mode

Returning to the families Fatma decided she didn’t want to go yet so Yasmine had to wait before she would have a go on the slides. We had probably chosen the worst possible spot in the whole children’s park as it was right next to the shop where all the toys were. Adam was first to go and he bought a huge water pistol which drew concerned looks from most people who were sat in our vicinity. When Meena and Seif returned with the same I swear people started moving! War broke out with Seif hitting the first blow into Adams face. This seemed to ignite a family bond between Adam and Meena as Meena emptied her entire water pistol into Seifs face. I didn’t realize how strong the pump action guns were until Adam unloaded his gun into my face.
Seif on the wrong end of a water pistol as Adam went looking for revenge

Seif on the wrong end of a water pistol as Adam went looking for revenge

The water pistol war soon spread all over the children's park

The water pistol war soon spread all over the children's park

Adam taking care of business the family way!

Adam taking care of business the family way!

Yasmine and Fatma finally made their move to the main slides although they would only get to go on two rides before the park would close didn’t go down well. The kids park would stay open another twenty minutes before the sounds of falling and running water were exchanged with puzzled looks and a few tears. All the children with us though had obviously had a good time as they quietly changed and made towards the exit. A long day in over forty degrees of heat meant that everyone was napping as soon as we got home. With no plans yet as to what the evening would hold Adam and Meena were desperately trying to convince us to go to the Mercato mall where they had quad bike rides they had been on the first few days.
 
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Posted by on July 13, 2009 in Blog, travel

 

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A day with friends on the beach

Adam skimming stones

Adam skimming stones

With Amr and Fatma staying in the Hilton Waterfalls resort we decided to spend the day there with them. From outside the resort looks pretty small but inside it is enormous. Carrying what seemed like our entire house we had to walk from the car park to the lobby as they do not allow cars to enter. Exiting out of the large lobby we slowly walked around a large swimming pool that had a sign, “No children” I remember a discussion between Fatma, Amr, Yasmine and myself about how relaxed everyone around the pool looked!
Meena starting the day on beach

Meena starting the day on beach

Meena in the sea

Meena in the sea

An inflatable crocodile always comes in handy

An inflatable crocodile always comes in handy

We entered a cable car that took us from the top of the resort all the way to a large swimming pool at the bottom. The resort was filled with three story buildings that had little balconies facing the sea. The view was as striking as usual of the sea as we arrived at the last stop in the cable car. We walked around the large swimming pool and out onto a grass area that had people playing volleyball. Still down further steps we descended to the beach where Amr and Fatma were sat.

Seif and Meena tour the bay on the crocodile

Seif and Meena tour the bay on the crocodile

Yasmine, Fatma and Amr taking a break on the beach

Yasmine, Fatma and Amr taking a break on the beach

Adam after walking along the bridge to the pontoon

Adam after walking along the bridge to the pontoon

Once the kids were all dressed and had sun tan cream on they headed into the shallow water around the beach. The water was very shallow for a long way which was safe for the kids although it was quite rocky underneath. Large beautifully colored fish still swam close to the shore much to the excitement of the children. Amr had brought an inflatable crocodile which proved to provide the entertainment for a full ten minutes!
Adam out on the pontoon

Adam out on the pontoon

Adam taking a quick swim

Adam taking a quick swim

Meena masked up and ready to go

Meena masked up and ready to go

First Seif and Meena took a trip before Adam decided to join them capsizing the crocodile. Adam and Meena are both older than Seif. Seif’s sister Sheriffa is still only 18 months. Once the crocodile fun was over Adam wanted to to head out along the long man made bridge to the floating pontoon in the depths of the sea.
Seems the accident hasn't slowed her down at all!

Seems the accident hasn't slowed her down at all!

Comfortable in the water with her snorkel and mask

Comfortable in the water with her snorkel and mask

Yasmine heading out to swim

Yasmine heading out to swim

Along the wobbly bridge I walked first with Meena and Adam. The temperature was already hitting forty degrees and it was only twelve o’clock. Out on the pontoon the sea was deep and very clear. You could see all the colors of the fish very clearly swimming around the reef that was under the pontoon. Adam was fist to start running and jumping off the pontoon and into the water. Of course Meena couldn’t allow her brother have all the fun so she put on her mask and kept leaping into the water. It seems that her little accident is long forgotten as she is back to her fearless best.
Adam jumping off the pontoon

Adam jumping off the pontoon

The Hilton Waterfalls resort is huge and beautifully landscaped

The Hilton Waterfalls resort is huge and beautifully landscaped

The Hilton Waterfall resort

The Hilton Waterfall resort

Soon Yasmine and the rest of our crowd had joined us on the pontoon. Yasmine, Fatma and Meena went snorkeling along the reef. I sat and chatted with Amr about the resort and his new job in Cairo.  The heat was quickly too much for us though and we soon joined everyone in the water. After an hour on the pontoon the kids wanted to play in the swimming pool. With the large pool being salt water this meant a trek back up the resort to the lobby where we were told there was yet another swimming pool.
Meena jumping into the pool

Meena jumping into the pool

Seif by the swimming pool

Seif by the swimming pool

Yasmine and Meena in the pool

Yasmine and Meena in the pool

We found the pool after covering every square inch of the resort and the kids were in the water before the towels were on the beds. With three areas in the pool and one being a jacuzzi everyone, finally, was happy. Discussion moved to what we were doing later and a trip into Naama bay was suggested. This is not really ideal with children but we said we would go early before the crowds of party goers would appear. The trip started out ominously with Amr and Fatma having trouble with their kids falling a asleep. Our group headed to Naama Bay agreeing to meet with Amr and Fatma at a restaurant in Naama Bay.
Adam having a snack with Suzy

Adam having a snack with Suzy

We found our usual parking space in Naama Bay. This consisted of bribing the policeman on the barrier to let us park our car in the empty street behind. You have to love this country! Crossing the road proved even more a challenge than usual due to having the kids with us. Suzy, Yasmine and Adam nearly got hit by a car that changed lanes or at least left the lanes and nearly mounted the curb where they were stood. The interesting thing was the driver was a policeman! That didn’t bode well. Finally getting across one side we were now stuck in the middle of the road. We saw a gap in the traffic and decided to cross. I was carrying Meena and was in front when a taxi came from a side street and he was not looking and I moved out the way just in time but he still managed to hit my arm. It sounded worse than it was as it actually didn’t hurt but Suzy, incensed by this, took out her frustration on the nearest policeman. Unfortunately no one had got the taxi number so that was the end of that.
Fatma, Yasmine, Seif, Shariffa and Meena in the pool

Fatma, Yasmine, Seif, Shariffa and Meena in the pool

Into the street in Naama Bay which is filled with shops, restaurants and people trying to hustle you into their place. The lights were more dazzling, more decorative and brighter than oxford street at christmas. We finally found an italian restaurant and sat down. Amr and Fatma finally arrived but their children were still both asleep. Then the comedy of errors continued. Francis the nanny got lost in the shops, Adam fell asleep in his pasta and my stomach was doing turns like a washing machine on super cycle!
Adam having a rest after hours of fun in the pool

Adam having a rest after hours of fun in the pool

At home I spent the evening in quite a lot of discomfort from my stomach. The kids were already excited about the fact that tomorrow would be a trip to the aqua park which they had been begging for since we arrived. Amr had made arrangements with a friend of his and we would be going in the morning. Suzy would be taking a day out of the sun because she was beginning to feel crispier than a rasher of bacon and I was praying stomach is up to it by tomorrow!
 
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Posted by on July 13, 2009 in Blog, travel

 

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The morning after the night before.

Meena helping Adam get his shoes on

Meena helping Adam get his shoes on

Today we were heading to Sharks Bay for two dives. Four hours sleep we actually both felt quite good. I guess the air here helps. Ken had finished his exam so he would not be joining us but Mohamed would so it deemed to be an interesting dive. After collecting Rami and passing by the dive center we headed towards Sharks Bay. The drive took about thirty minutes to arrive. As Sharks Bay is a dive centre for another area the place was quite busy with people in the midst of getting changed to go diving. We suited up for our first dive with Adam and Meena accompanying us into the shallows. They stayed with Suzy whilst we submerged to thirty meters to check our tolerance to the Nitrogen narcosis that some people get at that depth. We had already done a few basic mathematical calculations and simple tests on the surface and now we had to attempt them at thirty meters. After completing the test we slowly swam around the coral reef making our way to the surface.
Still trying to get Adams shoes on!

Still trying to get Adams shoes on!

There was something different with the coral here. Although Sharks Bay is a well known dive area in Sharm El Sheikh the colors were not as bright and the fish were quite sparse. The coral seemed to be coated with a thick slime that would turn out to be pollution from the cruise ships. It has to be said in such a beautiful place that it is being tarnished due to this kind of careless attitude. Rami and Mohamed went to pray while we spent some time with Suzy and the children. Suzy was feeling a bit delicate from getting burnt the day before. The children found an old peddle-O which they played on for a while. The smell from the boats was quite strong and pretty soon we were all feeling a little tired of the place.
Sharks Bay a popular site for Divers

Sharks Bay a popular site for Divers

Fortunately Rami and Mohamed returned so we suited up for our second and final dive. This time we were doing navigation which we had to practice on the surface before entering the water. There must be nothing more funny than watching someone in a wetsuit frogmarching around the beach arms outstretched staring into the compass on a beach full of people wearing practically nothing. Mohamed who was surprisingly good on the first dive also breezed through the beach humiliation. Once in the water Yasmine had trouble with her mask that plagued her the entire dive. Either fogging up or leaking water she became quite frustrated although she still managed to do the navigation test with no problems. During the exercise Rami swims behind you checking that you are on the right angle and with the compass and your arms in the right direction. Unfortunately when it came to Mohamed’s turn he lost the plot completely.
Adam not happy that Meena has the best seat

Adam not happy that Meena has the best seat

The exercise consisted of two tests. Firstly swim away on one direction for five kicks and return on the exact opposite angle so you end up in the same spot you started. The second is you go in a square making ninety degree turns after every five kicks. Immediately Rami was pissed off as swimming behind Mohamed it became clear that Mohamed had put the tank on backwards! Also the regulator was not attached properly and was leaking a steady stream of bubbles. His first test proved quite a challenge as he floated all over the place forcing Yasmine and I to constantly have to reposition ourselves under water. Rami finally managed to get Mohamed in a straight line but then came a bigger challenge with the square test. The first attempted saw Mohamed head off as if he was swimming home, Rami returned him to the start position. The second attempt had him going left instead of right on the first corner meaning he crashed into another class that was also under water, Rami returned him to the start position. At this stage I was just couldn’t stop laughing and nearly dropped my regulator. The third attempt was no better as Mohamed just went to pieces. Rami took him to the surface and gave him a right roasting!
Adam keeping his mask on in case of a freak wave

Adam keeping his mask on in case of a freak wave

Finally cracking the test, sort of, we made our way back to the beach along the reef. We stopped at a couple of clown fish and Rami showed us how they act. Mohamed, Yasmine and I sat and watched as Rami hold half an old crab shell displayed the defensive nature of the clown fish. As they danced around Rami’s hand Rami showed us the anemone that they call home. Now I still can’t work out why he thought would be okay but Mohamed decide he would join in by sticking his finger into the anemone. Again the expression and actions of Rami were just complete disbelief and frustration. That was lesson over and we made our way to the beach. Exiting the water I began to feel very sick as the smell and pollution were just unbelievable. Also tiredness was beginning to set in from the night before. By the time we got to the beach Suzy was also feeling rough so me quickly got changed and headed home.
Adam and Meena having fun

Adam and Meena having fun

On the way back our friends, who we knew from Kuwait, had arrived from Cairo where they live now. We stopped in their hotel for a while and caught up on old times. They joined us back at the villa in the evening for a really nice meal. They have two children as well so it was nice that Adam and Meena would have some company for a few days as well.
Meena looking for something

Meena looking for something

Back on the beach getting ready to leave

Back on the beach getting ready to leave

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2009 in Blog, travel

 

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Meena’s back!

How big is that smile?

How big is that smile?

Yes, after two days solitary confinement (or at least with the nanny Francis) Meena is back out with us. With a smile bigger than the grand canyon she joined us back on the beach at Sharm beech. SO Adam and Mena were back being friends one minute, arguing the next, getting into trouble and spilling drinks. Things were back to normal! Meena seemed as though she wanted to make up for lost time with the snorkeling so we spent most of the day in the water.

Adam was happy that his partner in crime had returned

Adam was happy that his partner in crime had returned

Both the kids now are very comfortable with snorkeling but I seem to spend more time watching them than the amazing sea life that is below. The current was quite strong this day so we entered on the far steps and drifted quickly around the reef. At the final ladder we exited and walked back along the side of the rocks looking at the fish. Meena enjoying every minute of being back.
Before the trouble got started

Before the trouble got started

Holding on to them was harder than it looked

Holding on to them was harder than it looked

During the afternoon a loud beat started to be felt rather than heard from across the sea. Gradually getting louder we could make out a boat with many people on board. As it came close we realized that the flags along the boat were for PACHA the famous night club. People on board were dancing to the house music and they were quickly joined by Meena. Loud cheers and waves from the boat seemed to spur her on. You could tell how happy she was to be back on the scene and we were equally happy. Yasmine and I exchanged looks and we both knew where we were going tonight.

Suzy keeping an eye on Yasmine who was snorkeling

Suzy keeping an eye on Yasmine who was snorkeling

Yasmine heads back to the beach

Yasmine heads back to the beach

With Yasmine and Suzy taking a nap I took Adam and Meena for one last snorkel around the reef before it became too dark. The water was a little colder but due to the sub setting the water was a little darker making all the colors seem that much richer. It was lovely just floating around with both Adam and Meena getting over excited. That was until a barracuda came whizzing past and Adam released more bubbles than he should. He was on my back and waited until the barracuda was long gone before returning to the open water. Meena on the other hand had completely missed the experience and was trying to catch a jellyfish! We made our way to the last ladder on the far side of the bay and climbed up on to the pier. The sea had come in by this time which meant the walk back along the coast was quite eventful. The waves were coming in and making quite a thunderous noise against the rocks. Every time was met but squeals and screams from the children. Yasmine and I then went for a dive on our own. Yasmine got circled by a barracuda which made her a bit wary but otherwise it was a really nice dive.

A few bumps and scrapes but she was still very well behaved today

A few bumps and scrapes but she was still very well behaved today

The party boat from Pacha

The party boat from Pacha

That evening Yasmine and I went to little buddha earlier and sat chatting for an hour or so. Yasmine was enjoying chatting to the bar staff while I watched the place slowly fill up. We made friends with a guy from Jordan who owned one of the hotels in Sharm. A nice guy Fadi invited us into the VIP section and we spent a few hours with him and his friend who is an actor in Egypt and his russian companion. The Egyptian actor and his friend left the club at about 2pm and we headed to Pacha. It turned out that Fadi was best friends with the owner of Pacha and we got in free and into the VIP area in Pacha as well. It was right with the DJ and and we dance for an hour or so. Bleary eyed we left the club saying goodbye to Fadi and ventured to an all night McDonalds. A great night but we knew we would pay for it the next day as it was 4:30 by the time we got home and we had two dives in the morning started at 9:30!
The Pacha boat slowly made its way around the bay

The Pacha boat slowly made its way around the bay

Dancing for the crowd!

Dancing for the crowd!

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2009 in Blog, travel

 

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