Sharm el Sheikh - plastic fantastic
Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
235Trip End Nov 30, 2009
Show trip route
This part of the Sinai peninsula is characterised by rocky mountains, crags and the occasional wadi (dry river bed in local parlance). It's where Moses wandered about for a time checking out burning bushes and receiving commandments from God (covered later in the month I expect). It's a bitch of a place to get around - the tallest mountain is upwards of 2,700 metres in height, insurgents like to hang out there (ensuring there is any number of roadblocks and checkpoints) and generally there's not a tree in sight (burning or otherwise). I got a photo or two from the bus window but it was so grimy they're not worth posting. You'll have to wait a few more weeks for a concerted foray into the wilds.
Anyway, on to Sharm. There's not a great deal you can say about this place other than it's a package tour type resort, subsequently very expensive, and that there are a lot of Russian tourists about. This seems to be charter flight destination numero uno for them to escape the -30C temperatures of winter (like I just did). The travel agents seem to have booked the place out and they all fly directly to Sharm. Oh well, fair enough - it's a pretty pleasant place for a two week vacation.
The focal point is a place called Naama Bay (where I stayed) - its beach with attached and quite tasteful shopping/dining pedestrian boulevard in particular, 6km from Sharm to the east. A resort strip extends further up the coast from here, with all your major hotel chains staking claims and herding sun lounges as far as the eye can see along the beach. This makes public access quite difficult, unless you're willing to pay $US5 a day just to sit on a piece on moulded plastic (which I'm not).
The old town of Sharm El Sheikh (originally developed by the Israelis after the 1967 war) has been passed over as it is on an oddly shaped harbour surrounded by high cliffs that makes getting to the water difficult. As you can see from the above, new developments on Naama Bay are a lot more sensible and aesthetically pleasing.
Still, there is an old market in Sharm itself which is colourful and lively for those who would like to pay a better price on souveneirs, and some other rather run down attractions that only someone who is lost would find (i.e. me) as they wandered the back streets. I spent an afternoon trying to find the 'centre' of Sharm, only to find that the centre of Naama is now it, but the odd pigeon house with mountainous landscape in the background was worth the hike.
So what did I actually do here? Apart from getting lost I was here to check the weather and the diving (pricing and options). The weather was on and off - it's still a little chilly - so in the end I thought it best to leave the diving until the end of my Egypt experiences, coming back to the Sinai when it is a little warmer all along the coast (including neighbouring Dahab) and in the mountains, when I check out St Katherine's monastery and climb Mount Sinai.
Still, I got a feel for the place (pretty bland and expensive - only come for the diving), sort a plan and also get some surprisingly good snorkelling in, so all was not lost. Check out some underwater pics of the pretty fishies in the next short entry.
Next entry -> Underwater Gardens
Prices in Sharm:
Cheapest single room: The Pigeon House - $US12.50 (no bath attached)
Typical coffee price: $US1-2
Typical beer price: $US2.50
Typical meal range: $US5-10
Diving: 2 dives in one day = 60 euro + 25 euro equipment rental
Probably looks ok on paper but on a backpacker budget dollars literally flew out of the pocket. The only cheap thing was transportation - avoid the taxis and pay 1EP (Egyptian Pound or about 15 cents) to ride from Naama to Sharm Old Market in an ubiquitous microbus that ply Peace Avenue. Don't think I've seen cheaper anywhere!
Where I stayed