June 20, 2024

Sharm El Sheikh – Desert and Sea

In March, Vitaliy and I visited Sharm El Sheikh, located in the South of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Despite the travel advisories from countries like the US and UK against non-essential travel to the Governorate of South Sinai, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs had no official guidelines at the time, so we went ahead with our trip.

Safety Concerns

Before planning a trip to Egypt, it’s important to consider safety. While some areas are advised against travel, Dahab and Sharm El Sheikh continue to welcome tourists daily, protected by military checkpoints. Although the presence of armed military might be unsettling for some, we felt safe throughout our stay thanks to the tourist police. If you exercise common sense and trust your instincts, Egypt offers incredible experiences in history, desert adventures, and the beautiful Red Sea.

Accommodation in Sharm El Sheikh

Our experience with the hotels in Sharm El Sheikh was disappointing. We stayed in an all-inclusive 5-star hotel that didn’t meet our expectations. If I were to visit again, I would opt for a villa instead. However, our main purpose was to explore the Red Sea and the desert, not the resorts.

Exploring Beyond the Hotels

Most hotels in Sharm El Sheikh are located on the side of Nabq Bay with piers built over coral reefs. On our first day, while sitting at the end of a pier, I noticed that the chain of hotels along the seashore ended at a certain point. Curious, Vitaliy and I decided to take a long walk towards the end of the hotel line.

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We walked past the hotels until we reached a place where the rocky desert met the sea. There, we discovered hay shacks and old fishermen boats. We met a Bedouin named Sayed who ran a small café. Sayed invited us for tea and shared stories about his life. He used to be a tourist guide but now lives in his café with his cats and spends time with his family in Dahab. He invited us on a desert tour, but we decided to head to Cairo instead.

The Red Sea

The Red Sea is a paradise for diving and snorkeling, with its clear waters and extensive coral reefs. Due to the absence of rivers flowing into it, the Red Sea’s water remains exceptionally clear. We found a peaceful spot away from the noisy hotels, where we could enjoy snorkeling among colorful fish in the reefs.

One of the highlights of our trip was finding the ethnic lounge café Farsha, located on a rock cliff. It’s perfect for enjoying a drink or hookah with a stunning view. By heading down to the water and exploring the rocks to the right, we found the best place in Sharm El Sheikh for a peaceful day at the beach and snorkeling.

Encounter with Dolphins

The Red Sea is home to many dolphins. While snorkeling near Farsha café, Vitaliy suddenly spotted dolphins. I turned around to see two couples of dolphins playing just two meters away. Seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat was an unforgettable experience. Please avoid dolphinariums where dolphins are held against their will.

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Underwater Photography with Lenzo

I always loved the underwater world but found underwater photography challenging. Before going to Egypt, I bought an underwater case, Lenzo by Valstech, for my iPhone. This case allows full control of the phone underwater and can go down to 100 meters. Here are some tips for using it:

  • Shoot during the golden hour to capture rays of sunlight underwater.
  • Practice focusing underwater, as it’s more challenging due to constant movement.
  • The case floats, so don’t worry if you drop it.

Sinai Desert

On our last day, we met Sayed again, who took us to explore the Sinai Desert. The rocky desert features a mountain ridge in the South and rare vegetation. As we ventured deeper, we saw small gardens maintained by Bedouins. Sayed recommended wearing a traditional women’s dress to show respect to the Bedouins we might meet.

Nabq National Park

We returned to the sea at Nabq National Park, stretching from Sharm El Sheikh to Dahab. The park is home to over 130 species of plants, bays with azure water, and diverse wildlife, including turtles, squids, colorful fish, birds, gazelles, and hyenas. The ethereal landscape during sunset, with views of an abandoned ship and Tiran Island, made us feel like we were in another world.

Sayed introduced us to his Bedouin friends from Dahab, who were fishing. We shared tea and launched sky lanterns together, creating a memorable end to our adventure.

Conclusion

Sharm El Sheikh offers a unique blend of desert adventures and marine beauty. From exploring the Sinai Desert with a knowledgeable guide like Sayed to snorkeling in the clear waters of the Red Sea, the region provides unforgettable experiences. Despite the safety concerns, our trip was safe and enriching, filled with encounters with friendly locals and breathtaking natural wonders. For those willing to venture beyond the resort walls, Sharm El Sheikh is a destination worth exploring.

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