I’ve been in Sharm el Sheikh in 2002, for a good vacation, but never expected to return – once seen… it’s seen. I was wrong! I went there again, for a very different but still good holidays, that I will describe in several tips. However, I keep thinking that… it was my last visit.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Corals and fish
Cons: Too touristy
In a nutshell: Why getting out of the water?
Going to Sharm-el-Sheikh without snorkeling is worse than going to Rome and not seeing the Pope, because… Rome is beautiful. You may rent all the equipment, but if you stay more than a couple of days it’s cheaper to buy it, even if you decide to leave it behind.
After that, you have to choose the spots, with the best largely advertised in all beaches – Blue Hole, Ras Mohammed, Tiran Island, at the top.
Scuba diving is also great, and available everywhere, and we did it, but I think that the wonderful colors of the reefs are better appreciated from above.
One of the featured snorkeling places in Sinai is this one, close to Dahab. The reef is not a wall, as everywhere else, but a sort of carpet, wide, rich, wonderful, with a deep hole in the middle. There, the dark blue and cold water create a vertiginous sensation. Indeed, a unique experience. Unfortunately, the supporting touristy structures are poor and bad – even a toilet is something… well, they said that there were one, the ladies went there, and… gave up.
This trip to Tiran island has one and just one purpose – snorkel. We visited three different spots, all with different characteristics. We were a large group, and we really had fun, in a new, clean and well maintained boat, where even the lunch… was good.
Bargain! With a list price of 25£, we paid… 17€.
The lively center
Na’ama bay is the center of all action in Sharm-el-Sheikh. Everything lives to tourism and from tourism. The beach is segmented in several private concessions, with a band of less than 20 meters considered public beach, which means that you don’t pay the access to a restaurant or hotel, but… to… them!
During the day it’s a sleepy town, awakening at sunset to fill the bars and restaurants. Each night, the program is the usual – strolling, drinking, listening to loud music.
Go to sleep – tomorrow there will be more fish to see!
I enjoyed the visit to the “old market” though clearly understanding that “old” means not so new as the rest. The ambiance gets closer to what we should expect in that area of the world, and commerce more diverse. The kitsch use of a natural hill deeply transformed helps to enhance that ambiance, and the animation was interesting.
We don’t imagine the dust that it is permanently in the air, until the night when we decide to use flash..
This was my second time in Sharm-el-Sheikh, and also the second visit to St. Katherine. In the first one, I wrote a tip in Egypt page, now I got a different impression.
In the first visit I went there expressly, using a taxi – this time it was a stop in the desert safari. Better idea! Paying the same (or less) we had moments of fun in the desert, the visit to the colored canyons and snorkel in blue hole. A great full day.
St Katherine now looked smaller, but still impressive. Of course, its importance comes from what it means, more than from what it looks. There was less people, and that allowed more time for details.
It was a great day! St. Katherine, Colored Canyon, Blue Hole, were the highlights of a day trip that included the usual performance of a jeep bogging in the desert, with tourists pushing it under a shower of sand – that’s the “Desert safari”.
We were 9 which means that we filled the jeep, allowing to negotiate a specific program (Blue Hole was not initially included).
We all had so much fun (including the guide and driver), that the trip ended two hours later than scheduled, with the Russian in the other two cars desperate to “reorganize their bones”.
Our desert safari ended in a Bedouin settlement prepared for tourists, to a final camel ride. Having done it a few times elsewhere, we skipped, but for great part of our group it was a funny experience. The camel’s movement is rather uncomfortable, people take time to adapt, which means… some laughing.
The ride was made at night, hiding the dust until the flashes denounced it, and adding some emotion to the desert’s loneliness
Al Mustafa mosque
Organized trips have these inconveniences – close to the mosque there was a big church with byzantine look that I would have seen… if possible.
It was not in the program, so, maybe we didn’t miss much!
The colored(?) Canyon
After visiting the Grand Canyon (and Brice Canyon, and Zion…) this “miniature” named “Colored canyons” is not an impressive visit. The solution is to turn it in a funny experience, walking a few hundred meters in a very difficult way. We had fun, in a very good trip that included driving in the sand and snorkeling in Blue Hole. That’s my advice – you may go, be prepared to slide and stumble in sculpted rocks, but try to negotiate your trip, choosing the adequate package from the several solutions that “will come” to you in the beach.
Eating in Sharm-el-Sheikh – Moonlight
Being in an all-inclusive package in Sharm-el-Sheikh, we decided to have a single meal out of the hotel, to taste grilled fish by the beach. This restaurant was our choice, and the conclusions were contradictory – the place is pleasant, the menu is interesting, the prices acceptable, but the grilled fish a disappointment.
I know that we were coming from Portugal, where fish is special and generally tasty, but even with lower expectations, the result was negative.
The fish was too big to be grilled without being opened, and it tasted almost as a sweet water fish. No, our experience out of the all-inclusive was not the big lunch that we planned.
Address: In the beach of Na’ama bay
Sol Verginia: Acceptable
We were a large group and came with very different ideas. Some of my friends found the hotel awful, with bugs in the rooms, lousy food and the all-inclusive basis only a metaphor to say full board, complemented with the chance to drink the poison that they call “local drinks”, presented in three different bottles supposed to have whisky, gin or rum, but all of them having the same… that!
I don’t totally agree – I had a good room without bugs, the food was poor as expected in four stars in africa, and the poison, mixed with the occidental poisons called Coca-Cola, Fanta or Sprite, something not fatal.
The beach is far to walk, close using the free shuttle, that runs only four or five times a day. There’s a bar, but the all-inclusive doesn’t go so far, so the water is charged at touristy prices.
Back to the hotel, the pool is good, and the animation team is amusing.
Address: Motels Street, Hadabt Om-El Sid, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
We stayed in this hotel in 2002 for a week, and we “used” it so intensively that we had no time to see… Sharm-el-Sheikh. That´s why only after the second visit I decided to write this page.
This second time I only saw it from the sea, but… remembered with nostalgia the good moments lived there.
Unique Qualities: Good facilities, next to the reef, with the only drawback that you must be careful with your room location. The hotel is excellent, but they have some villas atop the hill, that require transportation to the main building and the reef.
The transportation is easy and free, and there are pools in the village, but, in the severe hot, we struggled hard to remain in the main building, with success, and lots of reasons to believe we did right.
If you keep in mind that you are in Africa, which means that time is not important, the service is good.
Eden on the reef
The Sheraton Hotel in Sharm-el-Sheikh is the perfect place for diving novices.
Having no beach, the hotel stands right on the reef, where an artificial platform is the perfect launching place for diving, snorkeling, bathing or only watching the fish fraternize with humans.
I saw it again when passing by boat to Tiran island – still great, still perfectly located, still full of people. It was a pity that some people in my group couldn’t afford it!
To go or not to go to Ras Mohammed National Park?
The national park is, officially, the best place to see the reefs, but… will it really be?
Flocks of tourists interact each day with the reef, causing erosion and damaging the natural balance. They try to relief the pressure, finding other spots, and spreading people. We did, visit a couple of other places with marvellous and unspoilt reefs. Furthermore, Ras Mohammed is, I don’t know why, the only place in southern Sinai where Sharm-el-Sheikh travellers need a Visa. That’s up to you, but…
There´s two ways to visit – by boat, or by land. We heard that by land was better – cheaper, faster, and visiting more diving places. Do check for yourself before booking.
Hard Rock Cafe: Heavy publicity
We live in a fun world!
The most expensive t-shirt that we found in Sharm-el-Sheikh was the one advertising this bar.
Why would we pay more than for the same shirt with no commercial references?
Shouldn’t it be the opposite?
Shouldn’t they make a discount to the customer that, back home, accepts to keep advertising their business?
We didn’t buy. Of Course!
Three lines of shades form… the public beach.
Even if you don’t want to use the chairs, you have to pay the entrance (10 Egyptian pounds).
Public? Well, I don’t know the conditions to enter the private ones, but “beach” is not exactly the best in Naama bay.
Not available along the coast of Sharm-el-Sheikh, (the reefs are not a convenient place for them, the usual water sports are largely explored in Naama Bay.
Fernanda chose a sliding sofa (she noticed that in never turned as happens usually with the banana boat) and… she went, but the newness for me was an individual or double boat, propelled with the feet, prepared to watch the sea, as the bottom glass boats.
Ingenious, but the problem is that the bottom of the beach where they are available is not as attractive as elsewhere.
“You’re crazy… you never touched a quad bike, how do you risk to drive one in the desert?”
There were no reasons to Fernanda’s doubts – the ride is prepared to people of all ages, in all conditions, and it is absolutely safe… And funny!
After spending all day negotiating in the beaches, close to sunset thousands of tourist, in small groups, flock to the edge of the desert, in a cloud of thin dust, with the bike bumping in the irregular soil, but always advancing. It´s a couple of hours to release the adrenaline and laughter.
Prices will go from 17 to 25 €, according to your negotiation skills.
… And then, the group stopped, sat, and prepared to a shisha smoke. I don’t smoke, but, being a Roman in Rome, I had to taste it.
It is so awful as all the other tobacco, so I could concentrate in the tea, and laugh with my friends comments.
Na’ama Shopping: In the Centre
Right in the center of the lively area of Sharm-el-Sheikh, this shopping was a mandatory visit each, night to the females of our group.
We followed them and could notice that it has a clean and organized view, with well-presented shops, but I don’t know how the prices behave, in comparison with the small shops around it.
Il Mercatto: Big Mall
A big shopping mall in Hadaba was in our way to and from the beach, but, too hot during daytime, and a little bit out of the way at night, we only visited it once and quickly.
Well, it has all that you may expect, and the ladies had fun trying several exotic cosmetics.
Nameless shops: small street shops
Though too modern to hold a typical souk, we may find in Naama Bay a few areas where commerce follows the local standards and traditions.
A few narrow streets in the modern construction of the touristy city, have some small shops and stalls, with the flavor of Muslim way of trading.
Browsing those dark and narrow streets is a relaxing contrast to the organized and kitsch display in the touristy avenues.
Nights in Sharm-el-Sheikh
The nights in Sharm-el-Sheikh can be limited to a pleasant walk in the cool of the night, among the crowds, or use one of the universal resources to bring the youth together. We knew some.
In Sharm-el-Sheikh we had a free entrance to Pacha Sharm and used it. Maybe because we arrived and left early (past 2 AM!) it was almost empty. I saw that the room is adaptable, and though a large space was out of use and wisely covered the sensation of emptiness was dominant.
The music is… the usual electronic hammer, and the space to dance was small, what didn’t matter because people kept dancing in corridors or by the counter, to keep drinking without interruptions.
Funny decoration, it really may be hell in the featured parties, where the pool (one of the out of service parts) may play a strong role.
Hard Rock Cafe
Restaurant during the day, bar-discotheque after hours, I had a drink there. We were a very animated group, and for some minutes we had fun, dancing… I mean… moving in the repetitive rhythm of the electronic noisy music.
After that time, it became boring and tiring, the drink was over, and we moved away, giving space to the kids that kept… moving until… I don’t know.
There’s a shop where you may buy clothes to promote the brand “Hard Rock Cafe”, in the actual marketing concept – instead of receiving anything for that promotion, you will have to pay for the chosen article the double or triple of its regular price. How long will it last, this silly “culture”?