Showing posts with label Somalia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Somalia. Show all posts

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cruising the Middle East: Preparing for Danger

No one skipped the Pirate Drill held on board our small cruise ship as we sailed from India’s waters into the area we’d been advised was an HTA, or ‘high threat area’ for piracy. It was mandatory.

Our ship, the Nautica, had been attacked by pirates a few years back. If it happened again, the crew – and we passengers – would be ready.

And no one on the ship’s tour from Egypt’s Safaga port city to Luxor, fought over the two front ‘view’ seats in the bus. We’d been advised they were for the armed guards that would be traveling with us. 

We also willingly submitted our hand bags for screening by Israeli security officers as we left the ship in Haifa, our entry point to that country. Usually bags are screened when you re-enter the ship – not the place you visit. But that is life in Israel these days.

Oceania Nautical anchored at Phuket, Thailand

Prior to booking our passage, we – and our nearly 500 fellow passengers – knew the routing of our Oceania Nautica ship from Bangkok, Thailand to Istanbul, Turkey would take us to parts of the world where ‘unrest’ can occur and accelerate on a moment’s notice.

Once on board we all seemed to share the same approach to the trip: what better – and safer – way to get to and through these areas than on a cruise ship that had a security plan in place?

One day at sea in the HTA - We had a country fair
The ‘fear’ we talked about was the ‘fear’ of having to miss a port of call if unrest broke out prior to our arrival which could result in the ship skipping that port and the ‘fear’ of having the cruise cut short if the attacks on Yemen should expand further into the Gulf of Aden – a waterway we sailed en route to the Red Sea. The Gulf of Aden is part of the Suez Canal shipping route and used by some 21,000 ships each year. About 11% of seaborne petroleum is transported on this route.

Pirate Protection

Think about it. How often in life will you get to participate in a pirate protection drill?

Pirate drill had us sitting on the floor in the hallway
The safety drill was really quite simple: go to an interior hallway, sit on the floor and stay put until further directions are given. (The person standing in this photo was our cabin attendant who was checking cabins of those not sitting on the floor).

Why sit on the floor?
Because in the event of an attack the ship might need to take quick evasive action and quick turns could knock people over. They didn’t want guests falling on the floor and hurting themselves.

Why an interior hallway?
You remember I said our ship had once been attacked by pirates. Apparently the guests – adults-who-know-better-guests – couldn’t resist snapping the ‘selfie’ and other photos from their cabin decks or windows. The temptation to capture the action was too great to stay out of harm’s way.

I am using two photos, taken during our very safe, calm days at sea to illustrate this point:  both were taken during Happy Hour in the ship’s lounge – on the left, the setting sun was a magnet drawing shutter bugs to the windows on a regular basis. The photo to the right was taken as word of a whale sighting filtered through the crowd – it was as if the window had sucked people from their chairs (with camera and phones in hand). Had it been a pirate ship sighting,. . . well, you get the picture (pun intended).

PicMonkey Collage
Shutter bugs aboard the ship
All puns and jokes aside, safety and security of marine vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea are taken very seriously.

Pirates to the left and war to the right during this segment of our cruise
For that reason, our cruise ship’s fire hoses were uncoiled and attached to high pressure nozzles mounted to the outside of the ship’s railings on both sides of the ship. Crew members stood watch.  The nozzles were not removed until we entered the Mediterranean Sea several days later.

PicMonkey Collage
Pirate watch and protection
We weren’t the only ship taking safety measures. We couldn’t help note this freighter which had their water system going continuously---perhaps as a warning to would-be pirates?

We weren't the only ones taking safety seriously
In certain areas along this stretch, our ship at night reduced its lighting to only essential open deck lights and we were requested to turn off cabin interior and balcony lights or to close our curtains if the lights were on.  None of which was alarming or an imposition, I assure you.

PicMonkey Collage
That is Yemen in the background - this is the closest we came to that war-torn country

We had wondered how close we’d get to Yemen and Somalia when we passed through the 20-mile wide opening that separated the two as we entered the Red Sea. It was actually so wide it was difficult to get photos of the land. The most danger we had was from the high noon sun, which in less than an hour of being on deck burned us both.

There was no security need to eliminate any ports of call in Egypt, Jordan or Israel; places so interesting and deserving of more time for exploration than we had allotted for them. We’d love to return for more land-based explorations. We’ll tell you more about them in upcoming posts. 

As always, your time with us is appreciated! If you are enjoying the blog we hope you'll share it with your FB friends.  Happy travels to you and yours until we see you back here ~

Linking up this week:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Mersad's Through My Lens
Photo Friday - Pierced Wonderings
Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gulf of Aden: Somalia to our Left ~ Yemen to our Right

With hummingbird speed and size, they skim the surface of the sapphire sea in which we are now cruising.

Flying fish, they are called.

Sometimes in small schools and other times alone, these tiny entertainers are providing a continuous show as we enter the Gulf of Aden -- yes, that, Gulf of Aden, the one making headlines in recent days.

It is the Gulf where pirates have gained notoriety and where war ships recently gathered. Somalia on the Horn of Africa is to our left and Yemen on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula is to our right.

We've not seen land on either side - yet. Today though,with increasing regularity, we are passing more and more freighters traveling on this shipping route to and from the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Aside from the freighters, we've watched flying fish on this our first of four sea days it will take to reach our next port of call, Safaga, Egypt - our gateway to Luxor.

We were officially introduced to the Middle East with Monday's stop in Salalah, Oman. The exotic sights, sounds and smells didn't disappoint. While we'd left the humid Far East we hadn't left the heat. The sun was relentless as we walked the city's streets - some shops providing an air-conditioned reprieve and others being small ovens with no cooling systems.

Although brain-numbing hot, the dress for both men and women is conservative in this Arabian country. I posted this photo of myself on Facebook following our visit in Oman as an example of the conservative dress required to enter a mosque: womens' ankles, wrists and head must be covered and men must also have long pants and conservative shirts. Feet must be bare (yes, those tiles were hot). The rules are much the same for the Buddhist wats we visited in Thailand and the Hindu temples we entered in India.

The cultural differences, the astounding history we are discovering, the religions we are being introduced to are simply overwhelming. We find ourselves in need of 'de-compression' time back on the boat - to process all the incredible experiences we are having.

I had The Scout pose with our wad of  Indian Rupees before setting off to explore Mumbai on our own last Friday. We'd exchanged $100US and in return had a stash that filled my purse. ($1 = 63.2IND).  Currency calculations and shopping has been an inexperience in itself as vendors offer their wares with machine-gun-like rapid fire persistence and enthusiasm.

We find it difficult to believe that we are already more than half way through this amazing adventure - we really are much richer, even without those Rupees, for the experiences we've had on this 35-day Oceania cruise on board the Nautica.  We thank you for being with us. I have many more tales to tell about the Middle East, so move over Scheherazade, I may just top your tales that filled Thousand and One Arabian Nights.

For now, we have some flying fish and freighters to watch!

Linking this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday
Weekend Travel Inspirations


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