Normally, the drive from the Stella to Amigo resorts on the Red Sea coast near Ein Sokhna takes a little over 15 minutes. So when we finished a lovely afternoon with family and friends yesterday (Eastern Easter Sunday) it was 8:15 pm and Rebecca and I fully expected to get back to Amigo by a little after 8:30 pm.
What we had not known was that an extremely popular Egyptian singer, Mohamed Mounir, was having a concert at a resort half-way between Stella and Amigo.
What we experienced last night is very hard to describe. However much I try to explain it in words you will not be able to imagine the scene. As we began driving we felt something was wrong. The wide divided highway we were on had two lanes and sometimes three on either side. We had never seen it crowded since that area of the Red Sea is sparsely populated. Last night, however, we began noticing much heavier traffic than ever. We soon stopped in bumper to bumper traffic which was hardly moving. On either side of the road buses, vans and cars were parked sometimes three deep on each side of the road. Having parked their vehicles hundreds of young men were walking to the concert which was still several miles ahead. It was scary to see an unending flow of young men pass us and to know that nearly all the moving vehicles ahead and behind us where themselves looking for a place to park!
No traffic police was in sight (we never saw any) and the scene last night looked like a disaster ready to happen.
As we inched forward on our side of the highway we realized to our horror that the opposite side of the highway was completely stopped! Resourceful drivers who realized that our side was very slow decided to drive the wrong way on the opposite side resulting in all the traffic on that side coming to a complete standstill! A friend who was going in the opposite direction told us it took him 7 hours to get through this traffic jam!
As we gradually inched our way forward extremely slowly for many hours we were sure that the young people hurrying on their feet to get to the concert in time were in the hundreds of thousands. Without any security whatsoever and with the frenzy of excitement such events seem to elicit in young people, the atmosphere was potentially explosive.
We were worried when we saw a few families making their way to the concert some carrying small children and even babies. There were also a few women, but 99% of the fans were young men.
As the evening progressed we would pass by people attempting in vain to leave but realizing that there were one or two rows of parked cars blocking them in!
It took us nearly four hours to get from Stella to Amigo. A record we hope to never repeat.
Today on the news we heard that the concert was supposed to have started at 7:30 pm but the singer actually began at 11 pm and seeing so many rambunctious young men – many of them inebriated or stoned – he only sang for an hour and left. This resulted in great anger among the crowds who had spent many hours and a lot of money coming from a great distance away to hear him.
We thank God for having been safe last night and for living in a country were the people are basically peace-loving and relatively law-abiding. Somewhere else the lack of police and the volatile atmosphere may have turned violent.