I haven’t taken a formal poll or survey, but for the most part, the biggest reasons you hear about people going to Egypt are either for the pyramids or to hang out in Sharm el Sheikh. The city is located at the very bottom centre of the Sinai Peninsula – that’s that piece of land that hangs off of Africa on a map that connects Egypt to the Middle East. In other words, it’s out there.
That’s probably the reason why most people tend to stick to their resorts during a day here – and no wonder, as most of them are great value for money, and you can eat your way through an entire week’s holiday. Next to that, there’s the diving, which is a huge draw; I’m not a diver, but those I know consistently rate Sharm el Sheikh as one of the best diving places in the world.
But if you’re tired of your chaise lounge, the buffets, the slot machines, and the diving trips, what’s one to do? Here are a couple of suggestions, should you fancy a change of scenery and perhaps a bit of adventure.
If you watch any Hollywood films, you’d think the only place to romp around on a bike in the desert is Dubai. But Sharm sits at the bottom of the massive Sinai desert, with lots of dusty dirt roads waiting to be explored. The tour operators will provide you with eye protection and a scarf – you’ll need that – and then you’ll head out. Once you’re away from the main roads you can explore areas like the Nabq Nature reserve, which is a wildlife haven and some of the most unique forestry in the world.
If you don’t want to ride bikes, there are also dune buggy’s or other types of transport. Just as your resort to walk you through the options and costs.
NOTE: I’ve heard a lot of stories of unscrupulous and unsafe operators, so be sure to research your choices thoroughly and get travel insurance that covers you if doing anything reckless.
It makes for a very long day, but this is one of those special places that has to be seen to be believed. Out in the middle of nowhere – as you can see here on the map – is one of the world’s oldest monasteries. It was built around the supposed burning bush from Moses’ story in the Bible. It has a library of old manuscripts second only to the Vatican in Rome.
As the picture illustrates, this monastery looks somewhat like a mirage in the desert. It’s hard to believe such a hidden place has lasted, untouched, for centuries.
One way to take advantage of Sharm’s remote location is to head out into the desert for some stargazing. There’s little light pollution and the relatively flat terrain means you can see some fantastic sights without telescopes or equipment, though most of the tour operators provide one for some up-close inspection of the planets.
The typical trip is to head out into the desert for those clear, uninterrupted views and then soak up the atmosphere with a traditional Bedouin dinner, complete with tea and bread. If you aren’t up for adrenaline adventure but still want to get off the resort grounds, this might be the perfect option for you.
Be sure to bundle up though – the desert can be chilly at night, even if it was a warm and sunny day.
Posted : Friday, November 19th, 2010 at 13:02
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not criss-crossing the world to have his next travel adventures, he is spending time hanging out on his own website, Sharing Travel Experiences.