The Salem Express was a 100 metres roll-on/roll-off cars and passengers ferry that connected the ports of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia with Safaga in Egypt. Launched in France in 1964 by the Seyne-Sur-Mer shipyards, the ship went through many names and property changes before being acquired by Hussein Salem, Egyptian businessman and confidant of former president Hosni Mubarak. In the early hours of the 17th of December 1991, the Salem Express collided with the Hyndman Reef off the coast of Safaga and quickly sunk, taking with it the life of over 400 passengers and writing one of the darkest pages of Red Sea’s history.
Today, the Salem Express lies on a 30 metres bottom on its starboard side, at a depth reachable by most advanced divers. Despite the tragic events related to the sinking, and repeated rumours of a possible interdiction of scuba diving activities, the Salem Express was never closed to the public. The salvage team organized by the Egyptian Navy retrieved most of the bodies and sealed some of the compartments, but divers can still visit the wreck provided they are respectful of the site.
The hull is well preserved, and the wreck’s interior is technically still accessible. However, wreck penetration imposes extra caution, and can only be done safely with the right training and equipment. If you limit the exploration to the wreck’s exterior, head to the deeper points at the beginning of the dive. The port side propeller is intact, with its considerably-sized drive shaft. Two ridged lifeboats rest between the smokestacks towards the stern. On one of the smokestacks, an embossed logo with an “S” is still visible despite a slight coral growth.
At the stern, the large car door allows for easy access to the holds. Venture inside the wreck if you have the required training and with a local guide, as the wreck’s inclination could be disorienting. In the wreck interior, and scattered on the bottom, the luggage and personal belongings of the passengers stand to remind of the many lives ended on the last journey of the Salem Express, providing for an eerie sight. Be warned: this is not a dive for the faint-hearted. Diving on the Salem Express requires total respect and care, as well as a good dose of cold blood.
Proceeding towards the bow, divers can observe the weather deck, its walkways and equipment. The coral is timidly starting to grow onto the wreck; however, compared to other places in the Red Sea the Salem Express remains relatively intact and coral-less, contributing to an even eerier seascape. Schools of goatfish and fusiliers are slowly starting to colonise the wreck; this will, in turn, attract larger predators. But it will still take some years for the Salem Express to become part of the ecosystem. It seems like even the marine life is still in mourning for the heavy toll on human lives taken in this unfortunate accident.
This text is for information purposes only. It has been written by members of the website and can be inaccurate. Always contact local professional divers before diving.