On 13.03.13 the day of departure came and I managed to get onboard the ship “Aqua Herculous” under a British flag. As I entered the ship I met the manager of the ship, Mr Murat Gulfidan www.almakrani.com.tr and I thanked him and his wife, as they and Mr Gefisi Sabony and especially Mr Yeman Alanbari www.cefizi.com all very kindly helped me to get on the ship.
I admire the kindness and courage of the Syrian people that I have met on my journey, first in Iraq and then in Turkey. Despite their country being in a state of war, in my experience they have always been very open-minded and helpful.After being onboard the Aqua Herculos for about 24 hours, finally the ship started moving. After another 30 hours at sea we got into the port of Damietta in Egypt. There they asked me for a visa and I said “I am on a peace pilgrimage on foot from London to Palestine,” and I showed them my Occupy letter and also my board displaying my message of peace (translated into Arabic). Then Mr Nagy Ziada of the Ziada Shipping Agency did kindly pay for my visa, and I could enter the land of Pharoahs; my first visit to the country of Egypt and my first entry into the continent of Africa.
Here I would like to mention something that I saw onboard the Aqua Herculous at 10.30am and again at 20.30 on 15.03.13. I was outside my cabin and I saw members of the kitchen crew throwing rubbish into the sea. I spoke to the manager of the kitchen and she denied anything like this would happen, she told me they take all the waste back to Mersin. This didn’t convince me at all, as I had just seen it happening, so I tried to speak to the captain of the ship but was told he was busy. The amount of waste on the ship was saddening, hundreds of plastic cups and plastic sticks being used just once. I spoke to the manager of the kitchen about this and she said that with 200 people on board they don’t have the resources to give all these passengers real cups and they don’t have washing up facilities. I suggested they could just give every passnger one cup and then it would be their responsibility to use it and take care of it, but she said that wouldn’t be hygenic. I didn’t continue to argue the point, but clearly I didn’t like the idea of all this stuff being used once and wasted, and at least some of it being thrown out into the sea.This is the kind of thing we all could take responsibility for, try to make sure we are not part of bad management systems like this, and I would like to see the dumping of waste into the sea from boats like this one investigated, and better systems put in in place. If anyone can help with this – perhaps the EEE (Energy, Equity and Environment) group from OccupyLSX – I would be glad.
Back to the Egyptian port of Damitta. After my entry, the investigation by all sorts of police branches did start. “Why are you here on this peace mission?” “Why are you doing it in this way?” and so on, but after few hours they found out that I don’t have anything to hide, I am a genuine peace pilgrim. Then I was welcomed to Egypt by them, and after my first cup of Egyptian tea I start walking towards Port Said and Al Arish, which are near to the border crossing of Rafah in Gaza.