In the Red Sea off Safaga, right on Shab Sheer, lies the wreck of the Salem Express at a depth of 30 meters. It is the watery grave of hundreds of pilgrims from Jeddah.
It was my first dive in the Red Sea and it was the highlight of my diving vacation for me. The crew Ducks Dive Center, Safaga runs one of the best dive centers in Egypt in my opinion. The handling is professional and friendly, and the instructors, guides, and boatmen all know exactly what they are doing. So the procedure was well organized this morning and you ran out relatively quickly towards Shab Sheer.
It happened in the night from 15.12. to 16.12.1991. Why is captain Moro in this night now exactly this route selected has many rumors. Some tell that there was a “race” with another ferry and he wanted to take a shortcut, the others speak of a navigation error because Käpitain Moro is supposed to have been drunk. In any case, it is certain that the Salem Express left Jeddah on 15.12.1991 with pilgrims and had the destination of Safaga. At shortly before 02:00 at night on 16.12.1991, the RoRo ferry, built-in 1966, rammed Shab Sheer, which was equipped with a beacon. “RoRo” stands for Roll-On / Roll-Off and means that this special type of ferry has a flap at the front and at the back and the transported vehicles can thus enter and leave the ship in the direction of travel. The impact with the Shab caused a hole in the bow and the bow flap was deformed and no longer closed properly. The car deck, which was loaded with 120 cars, filled up. Many of the pilgrims were surprised by the incoming water masses while they were sleeping. Those who managed to get on deck and save themselves by jumping into the sea were driven out into the open sea. Even if the passenger lists speak of 800 passengers, the number is probably much higher. Today it is assumed that about 1100 people were victims of this accident. Since Safaga is not far away, help could have arrived quickly. However, the authorities did not declare the ship overdue until 5 hours later.
An hour after the collision with the Shab Sheer, the Salem Express sank at today’s position along with its captain Moro, who, according to tradition, locked himself in his cabin to await death.
Even today, a large boulder field can be seen where the Salem Express rammed the reef off Shab Sheer in 1991. The Salem Express lies on its side at a depth of 30 meters and is easily dived today by all levels of divers. However, the ferry is only dived from the outside, as it is still declared a mass grave and the peace of the dead should not be disturbed. It was said that the Salem Express was filled with concrete to prevent diving into it. However, nothing of this was to be seen during my dive. In the meantime, life has developed again on the former ship. The Salem Express can be dived with compressed air or Nitrox. It reaches up to 10 meters below the water surface.
Dive guides say it may eventually slide into the depths because it is on a sandy, not the flat bottom.
|Wreck Type:||Ferry||Year Built:||1966|
|min. Dive depth:||10 m||Loss date:||16.12.1991|
|max. dive depth:||30 m||Loss reason:||Navigation error|
|GPS data:||26. 38,367 N||Location country:||Egypt|
|34. 03,665 E||Location region:||Red Sea, Safaga|
|Dive Site:||Shab Sheer||Personally dived?||Yes|