Wednesday, 28 February 2007
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At the southern end of the Sinai peninsula, overlooking the Gulf of Aqaba sits Sharm El Sheikh. Like most of the country, this part of Egypt is steeped in history. There’s St. Catherine's Monastery, which although small is very old and has lots of bits of bones to look at, including part of St Catherine's finger. Of course there is Mount Sinai too. It was on Mount Sinai that Moses came down with the Ten Commandments, which makes them sound a little bit like an unfortunate disease. We all know there were supposed to be 15 anyway, but he could only carry the two tablets, so buried one assuming no one would be any the wiser. Hence the world was spared 'thout shalt not pass comment on a neighbour's unpleasant looking children', 'thou shalt not take video tapes back to the blockbuster without first rewinding them', and so on.
The pyramids are within reach of Sharm, although it’s a long and uncomfortable journey at five hours by bus. A much more pleasant day trip could be had by flying to Cairo in about an hour. However, Sharm El Sheikh is the place to be for relaxing in the sun and enjoying some of the best diving you are likely to experience anywhere in the world. There are loads of diving sites along the 10 miles of beach, some busier than others so if you want to see something more interesting on the other side of your face mask than Wigan Rugby Club's annual outing to the Red Sea, do a bit of forward planning and track down the diving sites that aren't going to be as overpopulated and make sure you get the best from Allah's Aquarium.
Sharm El Sheikh is divided into three regions: Na'ama Bay, where you will find many shops, restaurants, bars and cafes; Ras Um Sid Cliff, the cliff top area that links Na'ama Bay and the bay of Sharm El Maya. The third area, Sharm El Maya, is the bay area old town of Sharm El Sheikh. The beautiful sandy beach has only recently been developed with five star hotels, the old town only a short walk away.
Sharm El sheikh is one of the cheapest places in the world to pick up a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) qualification and there are plenty of diving courses at all levels are available. Sharm El Sheikh is a great place to enjoy sun, sea, sand, and the nearby protected areas of: Ras Mohammed Natural Protected Park, St Katherine National Park, and Nabq Protected Area.
There are plenty of local restaurants and lots that you’ll recognise from your UK high street too, but do dive in and eat the local food. The Egyptian people are tremendously hospitable and friendly and will appreciate your efforts to sample their culture and cuisine.
Don’t worry about not diving – it’s not compulsory! Even the weakest of swimmers can take a short stroll into the sea and find themselves looking down on a coral reef in complete safety.
If you do want to get the bus to the pyramids, make a two day trip and spend the money you saved by not flying on one of the more posh hotels with a view of the pyramids for a night you’ll never forget.
Ladies don’t forget that this is a Muslim country so dress accordingly in town. You will attract attention from locals either way, but don’t worry as Beat the Brochure’s visitors to Egypt don’t describe this as intimidating at all. Security is very high in Egypt and you don’t see the locals reeling about drunk, that’s our job.