12 things to do and see in Sharm el-Sheikh and 3 not to do
Sharm el-Sheikh seems to be stronger than everything. Stronger than the prejudice of those who consider it an inflated tourist destination; and stronger than some press that in telling what happens in Egypt does not always distinguish places and circumstances. In fact, despite the capital Cairo in recent years has experienced several moments of political instability (the dismissal of Mubarak, the short season of Morsi, the rise of Al Sisi) the tourist numbers of Sharm el-Sheikh have always remained flattering. The merit is first of all of sea and Sun to which we must add, however, the dense network of air connections, and especially the extraordinary hotel offer with solutions suitable for all budgets and all types of travelers. Below we see together the main attractions of Sharm el-Sheikh, for years among the most popular destinations for tourists. Happy reading.
PS: Before leaving for Sharm el-Sheikh and the other tourist resorts of the Red Sea, it is always advisable to consult the place “Traveling safe” del Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as register in the place “Where we are in the world” always within theCrisis Unit of the Farnesina.
1 Naama Bay
The opinions on the bay of Naama are conflicting: there are those who recommend staying away from it and those who, on the contrary, appreciate the lights, shops, bars, restaurants and the typical nightlife of a seaside resort. Of course, the truth lies somewhere in between. Naama Bay is the most modern part of Sharm el-Sheikh, emblem of the impetuous tourist development that we mentioned at the beginning. But despite the commercial saturation, the territory retains its authenticity. Proof of this is the insistence of the traders who have maintained a bazaar style of sale (it is important to know this in order not to be overwhelmed) and, above all, the crystalline sea which is the main reason why people come to these parts. The turquoise waters of Naama Bay, in fact, are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. From this point of view, the presence of divers from all over the world is the best tourist visiting card for the locality. To be seen!
2 Nabq Bay
Nabq Bay is one of the 5 districts into which Sharm el-Sheikh is divided (the other 4 are: Naama Bay, Ra’s Nasrani, Umm Sid and Sharm El Maya). The proximity to the airport has favored, over time, the birth of numerous hotel structures. Nonetheless, the marine landscape has remained intact to the delight of recreational divers present in the area since the dawn of tourism. To attract them, the coral reefs from Nabq Bay to Tiran Island. A fantastic stretch of coast also due to the presence of numerous wrecks which, precisely because of the aforementioned barriers, have settled on the bottom. Therefore snorkeling e diving the main activities, closely followed by birdwatching. The climate and the desert environment, in fact, have always represented the ideal habitat for the transit of various species of birds. In short, an environmental unicum that has only one true contraindication: the wind. Yes why Nabq Bay is a bit windier than the other coastal resorts of Sinai and this aspect must be considered when choosing your stay (can also be positive when temperatures are too high). That said it is a dream vacation, even more so considering the attractions in the surrounding area: from Soho Square to the beautiful beaches of Ra’s Nasrani e Shark’s Bay. To be seen!
3 Sharm Old Market
Among the unmissable stops of a holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh there is certainly theOld Market, the old part of the locality. A stimulating visit for at least two reasons: because it allows you to make a comparison between the tourist Sharm and the traditional one (although the latter, inevitably, has adapted to the new course of things) and secondly because it offers an alternative to lights, clubs and nightlife in the rest of the city. Generally villages and hotels provide shuttle service to and from the Old Market but nothing prevents you from moving independently by hiring a taxi. The concern, in this case, is to negotiate the cost of the ride in advance (return included). Especially worth seeing are the boutiques and shops selling typical products where you can buy the classic souvenir to take home. Again, according to tradition, only after negotiating the price with the seller. The suggestion increases in the evening when the hills all around light up, giving the town an exotic atmosphere. Atmosphere to which both contribute Al-Mustafa Mosque that the Heavenly Orthodox Coptic Cathedral. The evening lighting, in fact, enhances the majesty of both buildings. To be seen!
4 Ras Um Sid
The appeal of a trip to Sharm el-Sheikh cannot fail Ras Um Sid. It is located in the southern part of the city, not far from the city port and, albeit a little smaller than the others, is inserted in one truly remarkable naturalistic scenery: surrounded by a small promontory, in a sheltered position and with the coral reef easily accessible from the beach. Features that make it suitable for all types of tourists: from the most sporty, who love diving and snorkeling, to families with children in tow. In short, the ideal not only for the sea, but also for the living room, since it definitely is quieter than Naama Bay and less windy than Nabq Bay, respectively 10 and 20 minutes away by car. To be seen!
5 Ras Mohamed National Park
About half an hour’s drive from Sharm el-Sheikh (but the site can also be reached by boat) is the beautiful Ras Mohamed Nature Reserve, a protected area at the southern tip of the Sinai. The reserve is located at the point where the waters of the Red Sea divide into the two gulfs of Suez and Aqaba. Therefore an area of great interest not only for tourism, but also for commercial purposes, which the Egyptian government, however, had the foresight to preserve, establishing the National Park in 1983. Over the years the town has become a paradise for lovers of snorkeling, diving and birdwatching. Hidden Beach, Bereika Beach, Main Beach, Yolanda Beach (so called from the name of the cargo ship sunk in front of its coasts) are real naturalistic jewels able to make the memory of a holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh indelible. It must be said that in some points the play of currents and the great variety of marine species suggest not diving except in the presence of qualified diving instructors. Apart from this precaution there are no further drawbacks. Also present a salt lake and long expanses of mangroves, whose roots prevent the erosion of the coast line, making a decisive contribution to preserving the park’s habitat. Unmissable.
6 Monastery of Santa Caterina
There are just over 200 kilometers that divide Sharm el-Sheikh from the Monastery of Saint Catherine. The geographical distance, however, is little compared to the spiritual one. What is most striking about this excursion, in fact, is the passage from the relaxed dimension and enjoyment of the hotels, beaches and shops of Sharm, to the pure spirituality of this monastery which – it should be remembered – is the oldest in all of Christendom. So ancient (it dates back to the XNUMXth century) that it is simultaneously sacred to Orthodox, Catholics and Muslims. The excursion includes an overnight transfer from Sharm el-Sheikh to the foot of Mount Sinai (Horeb). Here begins a steep climb with steps that leads to the top of the mountain just in time to see one of the most beautiful sunrises in the world. A show so great that it abundantly compensates for the effort necessary to get to the top even if those who want, from a certain point on, can continue on a camel back (for a fee). The monastery, on the other hand, is visited during the descent phase. Considering the sacredness of the place (we are talking about the place where, according to the biblical account, Moses received the tables with the 10 commandments), the visiting times are rightly limited. The site, a UNESCO heritage site, boasts a huge collection of liturgical vestments, icons, manuscripts and ex voto. In short, a magical place, one that should be visited at least once in a lifetime. For more information on history, treasures, spiritual activities and general guidelines of behavior, please consult the place: www.sinaimonastery.com.
One hundred kilometers from Sharm el-Sheikh there is one a place a little off the beaten track but of great charm: Dahab. It is a former fishing village of just over 1000 inhabitants which, despite the building expansion due to the recent tourist popularity, has kept the architecture of its historic center unchanged. Stroll and shop for Assalah, as the old part of the city is called, is an experience that remains strongly impressed, even if it is not the main reason for coming to these parts. The reasons why Dahab is chosen by tourists are windsurf, snorkeling e diving. Windsurfing because it is a very windy location, especially during the winter months; snorkeling and diving, on the other hand, due to the wonderful seabed of the coast. Some sites (the best known is called Blue Hole), however, are particularly difficult, suitable for experienced divers and in any case never alone. To be seen!
8 Pharaoh’s Island
After the Monastery of Santa Caterina another site UNESCO heritage: Pharaoh’s Island, on top of the Gulf of Aqaba. Unanimously recognized as one of the most beautiful places in the entire Red Sea, thePharaoh’s Island it is famous for two reasons: for having been, during the Middle Ages, one fortress from which the Byzantines protected the traffic between Cairo and Damascus; secondly for the extraordinary beauty of his backdrops which attract thousands of divers from all over the world. From the top of the fortress you can see a stunning panorama that embraces Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel. In short, a place to visit absolutely whether you are in Sharm el Sheikh or – a much easier solution – in Taba, which we will talk about more fully in the next point.
At the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba, practically attached to Jordan and Israel, and just over 200 kilometers from Sharm el-Sheikh, Taba is a growing tourist destination. The nearby airport (Taba International Airport) undoubtedly contributes to the fortunes of the territory but, for the rest, the “ingredients” that explain its success are identical to those of the other destinations of the Red Sea: pristine beaches, and above all the sea. It is the sea, in fact, that offers the strongest emotions to those who come on holiday in these parts and the proximity to a place with wonderful seabeds such as the Island of the Pharaohs is there to prove it. Perhaps another added value of Taba lies in the (relative) closer proximity to Jerusalem and a spectacular archaeological site like Petra in Jordan. So, coming to the things to do and see here are also snorkeling, diving and excursions. We report in this regard the spectacular Zaman Castle, 40 kilometers south of Taba. For more information on this fortress, which is located on the ancient route from Jerusalem to the Monastery of St. Catherine, see the place: www.castlezaman.com.
10 Marsa Alam
Like Sharm el-Sheikh, Taba and Hurgada (which we will talk more about in the next point) too Marsa Alam owes the high increase in its tourist flow to the inauguration, in 2003, of the nearby airport (approx. 70 km). Until the end of the twentieth century, in fact, this coastal town was nothing more than a small fishing village dedicated to an economy of prevalent subsistence and small trade. Then the tourist boom that led to the construction of villages, resorts and hotels close to the coast. Fortunately, however, the underwater landscape has remained almost untouched to the delight of the thousands of diving and snorkeling enthusiasts who choose the area for their holidays. In short, the activities that can be practiced are the same as in the other places described so far, including the possibility of incredible excursions to some of the most beautiful archaeological sites in Egypt. In the case of Marsa Alam, the “Kings’ Valley”, one of the necropolises of ancient Thebes, today Luxor. It is not over, because, about forty kilometers south of Marsa Alam, there is also the Wadi el-Gemal National Park famous for its wonderful coral reef and for the presence of a Bedouin community belonging to the Ababda tribe. Not to be missed!
Hurghada or Marsa Alam? This is one of the most common questions found on the various travel forums around the net. The two locations are almost 300 kilometers apart but this is not the fundamental difference. On the contrary, there are two aspects that need to be evaluated: Hurghada is a district of 100.000 inhabitants and tourism started long before Marsa Alam. This means more crowds, but also more chances to go out in the evening, go around shops, clubs, restaurants and familiarize yourself with the local culture. The other aspect to consider, however, is the wind. Marsa Alam is windier but, as already mentioned for Nabq Bay, in periods of strong heat the greater ventilation can prove to be a cure-all, without forgetting that just choosing a resort a little more sheltered to minimize the inconveniences. Having clarified these points, we can focus on the city. Among the unmissable stops there is certainly the historic center El Dahar, while Sekalla and El Korra Road are two more recently built neighborhoods with almost nothing typical. Unmissable, however, is the Giftun Island National Park even established in 1955. The timing is important as it reveals the attention of the Egyptian authorities to balance the tourist expansion along their coasts by protecting the areas of greatest naturalistic interest. A virtuous compromise that has endured over the years, helping to preserve the tourist appeal of the Red Sea. In Giftun National Park there are almost all the most beautiful beaches in Hurgada, including the very famous Al Mahmya (Mahmya Beach) which in Arabic means “protected area”. Finally, particular mention for the bay of Sharm el-Naga, about sixty kilometers south of Hurgada. Here too, as with Giftun, snorkeling and diving are the main activities. Not to be missed!
12 Outdoor Activities in Sharm El Sheikh
Among the activities that can be practiced in Sharm el-Sheikh there are not only snorkeling, scuba diving and windsurfing. Experiences such as the ride on the back of a dromedary are also absolutely worth the trip; quad bike excursion and star gazing in the desert. All activities that almost always include thetasting of tea or a dinner in a typical Bedouin tent. In short, despite the large turnout, Sharm manages to give that exotic touch that enriches the journey. To do!
1 Don’t dress in skimpy clothes
The three main monotheistic religions have coexisted in Egypt for centuries: Jewish, Christian and Islamic. Very ancient belief systems which, net of the differences that exist, have in common a certain reluctance towards behaviors considered a little too licentious. Indulging in public purring and wearing skimpy clothing are things not to do. Obviously inside villages and resorts there is much more freedom but outside, it is better to adapt.
2 Beware of what you eat
Egyptian cuisine is very tasty, the result of the centuries-old mix with Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and African cuisine. The dishes are generally low in fat to allow the organism to adapt better to the environmental conditions of the desert. However, dysentery and indigestion are possible disturbances, due, in most cases, to the great heat that acts in different ways: accelerating the deterioration of food; inducing bad behaviors such as drinking iced drinks to find relief; and finally through the sudden changes in temperature between the air-conditioned interiors of residences and villages and the outside where instead they often exceed 40 ° C. Therefore, be careful not to eat raw foods and drink non-bottled water. More generally, it is preferable not to overdo the quantities. Get notified.
3 Better not to come in summer (for those who suffer too much from the heat)
This is only a dispassionate advice, since the choice of when to go on vacation is almost never completely free. It should be known, however, that from May to October temperatures in Sharm el-Sheikh are scorching. Not so March, April, November and December. In fact, in the spring and autumn months, the climate is decidedly more acceptable, ideal for those who are planning a holiday full of sea, sun and relaxation. Finally, as for January and February, the maximums drop a little further, which on the one hand makes the stay even more pleasant; on the other hand, however, it could make diving in water difficult.