Hopping about with
glee, for all his 90 years, he produced his gear: a great meat hook, 12 feet of
chain and a coil of ship's rope. He rigged a bunch-of-bananas bait just as they
do in the Mediterranean: half a dozen mackerel, hooked through the eyes. When
all was ready he laid it out carefully on deck. No chuck-and-chance-it for
Ahmoud. He was going to wait for a shark to make an appearance in the chum
It took less than
15 minutes before a black fin and a gray back swirled 50 yards behind the boat,
and Ahmoud gently fed the bait out to him. There is a convention in salmon
fishing that it should take about a minute a pound to land a fresh-run fish.
For Red Sea shark, fishing by the Ahmoud method, the ratio is nearer one second
a pound. There was a huge, white, frantic, thrashing turbulence behind the
boat. We all strained and held grimly onto the rope, and the boat began to move
slowly under shark power. It didn't last long. Within 10 minutes a tiger that
couldn't have been much under 300 pounds was at boat side and getting the
treatment from Mustapha's iron cosh.
We made a big
impression that afternoon when we tied up at the hotel jetty. I suspect that a
few of the more sensitive members of Neckerman Tours gave up undersea fishing
there and then, but Rudi moved toward the shark gesturing and talking in
German. I wasn't going to give him away. Mr. Sabreez brought his wife and the
six little Sabreez girls down from the village. They all inspected the shark,
and Mr. Sabreez spoke Arabic, saying the same-thing, possibly, as Rudi had said
in German. At least he kept looking over his shoulder to see if Ahmoud was
within listening range.
night the three of us went back to the Desert Fox beach to collect some of the
magnificent pink conch shells that were there, but suddenly the stillness was
shattered by the roar of powerful motors. Three big Mercedes came bouncing up
the track. A dozen men poured forth, Europeans. The first one reached me.
"It is Herr Gammon!" he said, all out of breath. This, then, is fame, I
thought complacently. Nothing of the kind. They were German engineers working
in Cairo, down for the weekend. They had called at the hotel, and there was a
cable for me, which they had brought at once, such things being rare and
ill-omened in Hurghada.
I opened it.
REPORT TO SENEGALESE EMBASSY CAIRO FOR VISA DAKAR TRIP, it Said. HAPPY
CHRISTMAS AND LOVE WHERE IS THE GARAGE KEY QUERY. It was from my wife, a clear
indication that it was time for me to move on.