From the BBC by Raffi Berg:
“Arous on the Red Sea, a wonderful world apart,” the glossy brochure says, pronouncing it “the diving and desert recreation centre of Sudan”
Illustrated with pictures of putty-coloured chalets on a Sun-drenched beach, a smiling couple in scuba gear, and varieties of exotic fish, the advertisement boasts of “some of the best, clearest water in the world”. As night falls – “after the landscape colours have paled” – there are, it says, “breathtaking views of the heavens, aflame with millions of stars”.
Arous Village, on the fringe of spectacular coral reefs and the odd shipwreck, appears to be a diving enthusiast’s dream.
The pamphlets were printed in their thousands and distributed in specialist travel agents across Europe. Reservations were booked through an office in Geneva. And over time hundreds of guests went on holiday there.
It was a long trek. But once at the desert oasis, they enjoyed first-rate facilities, water sports, deep-sea dives and an abundance of fresh food and wine. The visitors’ book was a catalogue of glowing comments.
The Sudanese International Tourist Corporation was also happy. It had leased the site to a group of people introducing themselves as European entrepreneurs, whose venture brought some of the first foreign tourists to the country.
The only thing was, unbeknown to the guests or the authorities, the Red Sea diving resort was entirely fake.