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The Egyptian Revolution:

So the last few weeks have certainly been a dramatic period in recent Egyptian and to be honest, Middle Eastern history. Inspired by recent upheavals in Tunisia that eventually resulted in the toppling of the president, the Egyptian people also decided enough was enough and a force began to gather momentum. A facebook page was created named 25th Jan encouraging people to gather in protest at the current regime, their corruption and lack of legitimate democracy. Ironically the 25th January is Police day, an apt day on which to demonstrate against them I guess. Anyway, here in Sharm we braced ourselves halfheartedly having heard on the news that it was highly unlikely that the Egyptians would gather in the same kind of numbers as did in Tunisia. Well how wrong was that? Egypt remained almost the sole item on the news for the next couple of weeks as hundreds of thousands of people raised their voices against the government.

Over the initial days, the protestors gathered in incredible numbers, chanting for the removal of their president and his regime. Amazing views were shown of Tahrir square, right in the centre of Cairo, absolutely packed solid with protestors inspired by the facebook page, twitter, text messages and of course the original protests in Tunisia. The police tried and failed to contain them all. The government at first blocked the social networking sites, then blocked the internet completely, along with the mobile text messaging service.

Protests continued for days, culminating in a battle with the police for the Nile Bridge on the first Friday, as more protestors tried to join forces with those already in Tahrir Square. Amazingly our manager witnessed this whole event unfold as he had hapened to choose this week for a family holiday in the capital staying in a hotel overlooking that very bridge! They watched as the police pushed back, only to have to retreat again as the protestors pushed forward. Tear gas clouds streaked across the crowds as they fought, one of the few violent periods of the protest. Eventually the protestors won out and pushed through to join their fellow demonstrators in the square. It was at that point that the police disappeared from the scene completely.

We sat in our little bubble of calm here in Sharm and watched transfixed as these events unfolded. In a completely bizarre twist, Sharm remained untouched by it all. Every morning we went off to work as usual and every evening we sat and watched the news open mouthed at the events. I would be lying if I didn't say I was impressed by the demonstrators, with their faces on full view, shouting but only using force in self defence.

The hard core protestors turned the square, coincidentally Tahrir actually means "liberation", into a small tent town, with clinics being set up to deal with injuries, market stands and toilets all being organised by themselves. Every day these guys would be joined by more people joining their cause, from all parts of the community, from the very poor, to the pretty middle class doctors, accountants and teachers. Women and children even joined in once the police were out of the way.

Tragically lives were lost in these weeks, most on the days when suddenly out of thin air, a horde of pro Mubarak protestors (some say police now in plain clothes) turned up on horses and camels beating into the crowds. Live amunition was used and many were killed not only in Cairo but in many of the cities around the country also involved in the uprising.

Of course by this stage, countries around the world were quickly withdrawing their tourists from the whole country, although as British nationals, we benefited from our Foreign Office's more reserved advice to stay out of the major cities, we were able to stay put. Of course we did start looking around our home and wondering what we would take with us should things turn nasty and we have to leave our paradise quickly. Sharm became very quiet, as all the tourists headed back to their rsepective countries. Already very quiet after the events of December, the reefs were almost silent. Well, they say not every cloud has a silver lining...

I don't wish to sell the demonstrators short, however to cut a long story short, after a couple of false alarms, finally on the 11th Februrary, Mubarak finally stepped down as president (having hung on to his power tooth and nail, right up until the last minute) and the country rejoiced. Wow, what an amazing feeling to see the announcement as we sat in the bar, depressed at the plight of the situation that had seemed to hit a stalemate. Even then, the reaction was slow to filter through, and people were a little unsure that this could really be true. But true it was, and the celebrations went on in the square for days. Even here in Sharm there was a little celebration outside the police station with people waving their Egyptian flags in victory.

So we awoke to a new, Egypt. Don't get me wrong, there is a long way to go, and currently the army is in charge, which is not exactly the most democratic of situations, however it is a step towards true democracy and the people finally got what they wanted.

As for Sharm, we are still the only foreigners in town, the dive sites are unbelievable as it is so quiet. We generally have the reef to ourselves on most dives, and as a result are seeing so much amazing sea life it is untrue. Eagle rays and milk fish have returned to the local sites, with less boats and divers scaring them off. And I guess at the end of the day, the reef will get a bit of a rest too, a chance to regenerate after being snorkelled and dived so intensively for the last few years. Having said that, of course we do have rent to pay and mouths to feed, so I guess a few more divers over here would be a good thing hehe...




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