Sharm El Sheikh
The Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh is a beautiful leisure village perching on the most southerly point of the Sinai peninsula. It lies snugly between the Red Sea one side and the mountain range of which Mount Sinai forms a part.
It has a broad selection of superb-quality hotels, world-class restaurants, energetic water sports and fabulous golf courses. It’s a place to explore the exotic marine-life of the Red Sea and for families to have a fantastic amount of fun.
Na’ama Bay is the where most tourists find their accommodation and nightlife. It’s home to the main international chains of hotels and sparks into life every evening.
The pedestrian promenade is choked with small cafes, exciting night clubs such as Pacha or Space, excellent restaurants and authentic bazaars selling local products and enchanting souvenirs.
Slightly less developed but still worth consideration when it comes to planning a vacation are the areas of Hadaba and Ras Om El Seed which have grown from two separate areas into one.
Hadaba is where most of the locals and ex-patriots reside. Ras Om El Seed has a decent selection of hotels dotted along its coastline and is home to the shopping mall Il Mercato where you’ll find outlets for familiar brands such as Timberland, Levi’s and Adidas as well as fast food names like McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC.
The old town of Sharm El Sheikh is situated at the western end of the resort and is known as Old Market. It is here where you’ll find cruise ships docking and ferries that transport people to other destinations along the Red Seas coastline. There are a few hotels and developments here but this area is mainly for the local inhabitants.
Sharm el-Sheikh Airport is the largest in the Sinai region and easily the best way to get to the resort. It receives hundreds of tourists every day from all the largest airline services.
Once you’ve settled into the holiday routine, it is well worth your while to take a guided trip into the desert. You’ll find guided tours to the Bedouins, the incredible Coloured Canyon and breath-taking Mount Sinai. You can even take a camel trek through the desert valleys, staying overnight near an oasis and sleeping under skies that will literally take your breath away.
Sharm el-Sheikh is one of the most popular spots in the world for diving. The calm and clear Red Sea conceals under its surface a diverse and colourful world of marine life that has to be witnessed to be truly appreciated. You can see the reefs at Tiran and Ras Mohammed and the wreck of SS Thistlegorm. Make sure you book your diving experience early though as these areas are tremendously popular.
For your children and the child in you, you visit Cleo Park, the self-dubbed Pharaonic Water Park, the first themed water park to open in Sharm El Sheikh. It’s the perfect location for those you enjoy the thrill of huge slides such as the ‘Scorpion’s Attack’ or a lazy float down the ‘Nile Discovery Cruise’. There are special areas for very young children as well.
Sharm el-Sheikh has grown in a spectacular fashion over the past twenty years to become one of the most popular holiday destinations in Egypt. Book your vacation at this resort and you’ll soon appreciated why.
Exciting and Energetic
Hurghada, on the western side of Egypt’s Red Sea Riviera, has seen itself make a stark transformation in recent years from a small fishing village to become one of Egypt’s most popular holiday destinations. Despite this change into a tourist hub, Hurghada has succeeded in retaining its traditional charm, making it an enchanting place for a vacation.
In Hurghada you will experience year round sunshine, making this destination popular with sun-seekers.
The resort has now gained the most fame for its opportunities for scuba diving, from first-timers to experienced divers, all of whom marvel at the startlingly clear Red Sea waters, underwater reefs and unforgettable marine life.
If you’re not in scuba-diving, you can still see the sea-life that Hurghada has to offer at the Red Sea Aquarium.
First and foremost, what chiefly attracts tourists to Hurghada are its splendid beaches with fine, white and memorable coastal views. Many hotels are handily located on the seafront. Aside from the beaches, also worth an exploration is the bazaar in Hurghada’s old town, El-Dahar. This colourful and vibrant market gives visitors a taste of the old Hurghada, where merchants haggle and donkeys wander unattended. You’ll be able to pick up a souvenir such as traditional Egyptian fare like Papyrus or Shisha Pipes.
If you want to get closer to the marine life a day trip to Big Giftun Island and Small Giftun Island is the best way to go about it. Within the amazing corals, deep pools, caves and canyons you’ll to see white sharks, white tip sharks or barracudas.
These islands are now a protected marine park, meaning they should stay unspoilt for generations to come.
Accommodation in Hurghada usually means a hotel, and there are an incredible amount of options for every taste and budget. The best range of hotels run for over twelve miles along the magnificent sandy beach, but more hotels have been built deeper within Hurghada to cater for increasing tourist demand. If five-star accommodation is not what you are after, search for a traditional Egyptian guesthouse and you’ll probably unearth a bargain.
If you like to spend your nights partying, then don’t sweat, Hurghada really comes alive at night. Nearly every hotel has its own disco, whilst there are a huge amount bars and nightclubs. Two of the most renowned are Calypso and Papas Beach. If you prefer an evening of traditional Egyptian entertainment, check out the belly dancing at Alf Leila Wa Leila, a massive open-air arena where you can dance until the stars come out.
Hurghada is now home to every kind of cuisine you can comfortably think of. French, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Indian … you name it and someone will cook it. If your palate is not very adventurous you can rely upon international chains such as McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut which you’ll find in the Village Road area of Sekala Street. If you’re of a mind to eat like the locals do, take yourself to El Dahar where you’ll find plenty of traditional Egyptian eateries.
Getting to Hurghada is best done via air. Hurghada International Airport has grown to handle the endless amount of traffic that comes to it and services over two dozen major airlines.
Discover Egypt’s rich history
Luxor brashly but accurately claims to be Egypt’s greatest and most-visited tourist attraction. Visitors have been journeying to discover Egypt’s unique history since the times of the Greek and Roman empires. The city is built on the ancient site of Thebes, which has been largely preserved since the Egyptians were the most advanced civilisation on the planet.
The city is split into three distinct areas, namely Luxor City, Karnak and the West Bank. In the City of Luxor you will discover the magnificent temple complex located on the east bank of the Nile, designed by Amenophis III and built between 1408 and 1300BC.
The complex consists of six temples, and was used as the seat of government in the area during Roman times. Also worth a perusal are the Mummification Museum where you can learn all about the mummifying process, and Luxor Museum, where many of the relics of the Theben area are preserved.
Karnak is north of Luxor City, an expansive area built over fifteen centuries that was the most important place of worship for the Egyptians for all that time. It houses sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons and obelisks all erected in praise of the ancient Egyptian gods, and is thought to be the largest surviving religious complex in the world.
Across the Nile to the west of Luxor City is the necropolis of the ancient city of Thebes. Here you can visit the awe-inspiring Valley of the Kings, where most of the pharaohs of the ancient Egyptian world were buried and monuments erected to them.
Not all the tombs are always open to the public though, so it is best to check if you hope to take a complete journey back to ancient times. At the southern end of the necropolis you will find the Valley of the Queens, where the queens of ancient Egypt and their children were buried. Make sure you also take a look at the Colossi of Memnon, two giant statues on the edge of the necropolis.
Getting to Luxor is usually done by air. Luxor has a small but serviceable airport. Another option is to fly into Cairo airport and take transport down to Luxor. This is best done in an air-conditioned bus as Luxor is 400 miles south of Cairo.
Most of the accommodation in the area is in the City of Luxor. The standard of accommodation ranges from luxury hotels to rustic guest houses. It should be easy to acquire a decent hotel with a pool without it costing the earth. There are also places to stay on the West Bank, but this area is considerably less built up.
The weather in all of Egypt between April and September can be unremittingly hot, so if you are not used to baking in the sun it is best you avoid Luxor during these times. The best time to visit Luxor is perhaps during the months of October and March. Even then you’ll meet blistering heat during the day, so make sure you keep water, sun protection, sunglasses and hats with you at all times, especially if visiting the tombs.
There are barely any places on the planet as untouched and preserved as the ancient city of Thebes. If you want to see the world how it was centuries before you were born, then Luxor is as good a place as any to start.
The new kid on the block
Located a few miles south of Hurghada, Makadi Bay is a fairly recent addition to Egypt’s Red Sea Riviera. Influenced by the success of Hurghada in transforming itself from a small town to a major tourist destination, Makadi Bay has similarly shaken off its status of an unassuming village and turned itself into a small but peaceful resort with tourism as its main source of income.
As it names suggests, Makadi Bay is a small cove less than three miles in length that is home to around two dozen major hotels and other tourist facilities, backed by the expansive Arabian Desert. A visitor to the bay will also discover the usual souvenir shops, popular restaurants and the Madinat Makadi Championship-standard golf course. The course is part of the Madinat Makadi Golf Resort complex.
Getting to Makadi Bay is best achieved by flying into Hurghada International Airport and taking a shuttle down to the cove. This is usually a 20 minute bus drive.
Makadi Bay is perfect for families as many of the hotels and resort complexes are expressly tailored for young children with toddler pools and activities suitable for the under fives. Central to the bay is a long, sandy white beach and the calm waters of the Red Sea.
For your retail needs you’ll find the Souk Makadi shopping arcade convenient. It contains nearly 150 outlets, including a supermarket, playground, pharmacy and perfume and clothing stores. You’ll also discover a few small bars and cosy restaurants.
The cove is a tranquil place anyway, but to take your relaxation to even calmer levels, you can pay a visit to the Makadi Serena Spa, where traditional Indian wellness treatments will help soothe any remaining strains or stresses away.
For the more adventurous, you can book a snorkelling trip to Giftun Island where you can relax on the magnificent sandy beaches and take a swim in the clear water of the Red Sea. Don your snorkel and explore the fabulous coral heads that can be found surrounding the island. This region is home to many exotic fish species and you may even be lucky enough to bump into a friendly dolphin. If you’re feeling really energetic your chosen hotel is likely to organise trips to other sites on the Riviera where you can try your hand at Kite or Windsurfing.
Makadi Bay is the place to chill as it remains peaceful 24 hours a day, but if you want to sample the party life at night you can catch a bus up the coast to the more energetic Hurghada. Your hotel may offer a few late evening activities but Makadi Bay prides itself on maintaining a calm and relaxed atmosphere.
Travel back in time
The locals will tell you that Sharks Bay gives you a taste of how Sharm El Sheikh used to be before tourism moved in and transformed it. This small resort will promise you a laid back and welcoming atmosphere with magnificent views of Tiran Island, the place where some theologians claim Moses parted the Red Sea as recorded in the Book of Exodus.
Despite its name, you’ll be unlikely to view any sharks at Sharks Bay, so don’t let that possibility put you off. Locals argue that years ago fishermen did unload their catch of sharks at the bay, whilst others claim the name comes from tourists mistook mantas for sharks and so the name stuck. Whichever is true, rest assured that there are no sharks in Sharks Bay these Days.
Sharks Bay has over the past three decades become synonymous with snorkelling, scuba-diving and other water activities. There are many diving centres on hand, suitable for novices and experienced divers alike. You simply cannot leave the Red Sea Riviera without sampling, first hand, the magnificent coral reefs and the colourful marine life that call them home. If you don’t fancy donning the gear, you can book a trip in a small submarine so you can see what’s under the sea’s surface. You can also book donut and banana-boat rides from the quay.
You’ll find a handful of restaurants in Sharks Bay. You’ll find all types of cuisine catered for, but there’s no real reason not to at least try the local fare. Favourite dishes include Falafel, which are fried and mashed chick peas made into burger-like patties; Shish tawook, a kebab made from chicken meat; and Koshery, a mix of rice, lentils and noodles topped with fried onions and a tomato-based sauce.
From Sharks Bay you can take excursions to the Sinai desert with its breath-taking landscapes consisting of dried-out river valleys and colourful rock formations. You can examine the fascinating culture of the Beduoin, the nomadic tribes who make the desert their home. You’ll get to drive miles across the dunes then react with surprise as a sumptuous oasis pops out of nowhere. You can explore on your own, with care, by hiring a 4×4, or for the more authentic experience, enjoy a camel ride as the sun sets.
Many hotels will also offer trips to Dahab, a small but treasured town on the southeast coast of the Sinai Penisula, a few miles north of Sharks Bay. You can find a beach café or restaurant for a relaxing drink or meal whilst local children come up to you and encourage you to buy woven bracelets or other Beduoin crafts. You can travel even further north and visit the Blue Hole, a turquoise bay in which divers can travel to a depth of one hundred meters.
Sharks Bay offers a little more peace and quiet than the nearby Sharm El Sheikh. If scuba-diving or snorkelling are amongst your passions, then a vacation at Sharks Bay should be just what you are looking for.
The Egyptian resort of Taba Heights is situated in the Sinai Peninsula on the Red Sea coast. It lies between the mountain and the sea, close to the town of Taba, the busy border crossing with Israel. It is a prime holiday destination for Israelis, and offers luxury accommodation and the fantastic watersport and diving opportunities.
While recent civil unrest has hit the Egyptian tourism industry hard, occupancy rates at Red Sea resorts are also dramatically down, and now is a good time to take advantage of special offers at Taba Heights, which is effectively isolated from the rest of Egypt.
There is a small international airport at Taba, which is not served by Egypt Air. A number of bus companies offer transport from Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh. The bus companies will drop passengers off at the local petrol station in Taba Heights, from where they are easily transferred to local hotel and tour company shuttles. Inside the resort regular and free buses provide a convenient means of transport.
There is a wealth of activities for holidaymakers at Taba Heights, most centring around water sports such as scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming, windsurfing and sailing. Marine life includes whale sharks, dolphins, smaller fish and sea horses.
There is a golf course which has been ranked among the top 100 golf courses in the world. Quad biking in the desert just outside Taba Heights is also very popular. Hiking in the Coloured Canyon – a 70 km hike – is an option for those who are fit. Day trips can be arranged to Petra in Jordan, Eilat, Jerusalem and Cairo.
Taba Heights resort offers a weekly street festival with free entertainment, and there is a variety of restaurants and a bar along the shopping promenade.
There are various luxurious 4- and 5-star hotels at Taba Heights that make the most of the spectacular setting and offer breathtaking views of the location. The 5-star Hyatt Regency Taba Heights occupies the prime location in the resort and has a unique architectural style resembling a Nubian village. The hotel also hosts Bedouin theme nights.
The Taba Heights Marriott Beach Resort has its own private beach, a full-service health spa, a business centre, a limousine service, banqueting facilities and a ballroom. The 4-star Belgian-owned Three Corners El Wekala Golf Resort is close to the beach and also to Pharoah’s Island, the tiny isle topped with a 12th century citadel built by the Crusaders.
The 5-star Intercontinental Taba Heights Hotel also has a private beach, a restaurant, a poolside bar, a golf course, an outdoor pool, an indoor pool, a health club and a spa. Other amenities on the premises include a casino and a rooftop terrace. The 5-star Sofitel Taba Heights offers three restaurants, three coffee shops and a poolside bar. Recreational facilities include an outdoor tennis court, an indoor tennis court, a sauna, an outdoor pool and a fitness facility.
The 5-star Radisson BLU Resort in Taba is close to Taba Heights beach. Its features include an outdoor pool, a sauna, a steam room, a health club, a children’s club, a rooftop terrace and barbeque grills.