Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

 In Honeymoon Planning
Ahlan wa sahan (Arabic welcome) to Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.  Sharm is located on the southern most tip of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.  The Sinai Peninsula is a brutal desert encircled by treacherous mountains.  This region is the home to Table Mount – origin of the 10 Commandments.  This is the same desert that the biblical Moses got lost in for 40 years while leading the Jews  to Israel.   Modern day Sharm El Sheik is a bustling resort that sprang up on the beaches of the Red Sea.  While life is nearly non-existent in the desert,  the Red Sea is one of the richest ecosystems on the planet.   This year Scuba Travel’s list of the top 10 dive sites in the world included a whopping 4 reefs in the Egyptian Red Sea.  After consulting with the local experts at Camel Dive, Ras Mohammed was the best spot to try.
After chartering a boat, Ras Mohammed was  about an hour ride off the coast.  It was a typical winter day on the Sinai Penisula – 82 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.  The water was warm and extremely clear.  It is believed to be called the “Red Sea” due to the reddish, mineral-rich mountains that dominate the coastline.  We saw an amazing array of wildlife that day.  The variety of coral and fish was spectacular.  My most unforgettable moment was when a moray eel popped out of its hole and swam about a metre underneath me. The moray was longer than I was and you could see the razor sharp teeth up close.  I just stayed as still as possible and raised my rump as high as I could to avert a potential catastrophe. We had a video crew with us that day.  They shot us an amazing DVD that included up close footage of the menacing moray.
The nightlife on Sharm is intense.  The main streets are packed with outdoor restaurants (it never rains) and coffee bars. We had Swiss Fondue, Thai,  Italian & American while we there. It was delicious!  The locals smoke flavored tobacco out of a “nargila”.  A nargila is an upright ceramic pipe.  The tobacco is a special middle eastern blend that comes in apple, coconut, mango… anything you can imagine.  Its aromatic taste and smell make it a local custom in between meals.  There are huge open air clubs pumping house and club music  that hold thousands of tourists.  Hundreds of thousands of European and Australian visitors flock here each year for the diving, beaches and nightlife. The majority of tourist are Russian and German. Amazingly, we ran into one of Cass’s friends Kerry from England in the Hard Rock Cafe! We did eventually find some Americans.  After we finally found a bar that broadcast the NFL’s AFC Championship game, I saw two guys cheering for the Steelers.  We were stunned.  They were soldiers from a nearby base.  We  didn’t know we had a base there.  They said they tried to keep a low profile because they were targets for bomb and sniper attacks.  They drive Pepsi Trucks instead of military vehicles to avoid detection when they are off base.
There are some wonderful hotels in Sharm.  We stayed at the Cataract.  They offer plenty of exciting excursions for adventure travellers.  We opted for the evening Quad Biking tour.  They go at night because it is just too hot during the day.  We rented a quad and barrelled through the Sinai desert.  At night, we stopped for tea with a Bedouin (nomadic) tribe.  This was a real experience – you’ll never see a clearer sky than in the middle of the desert.  It was just us, the local Arabs and a few camels in the middle of nowhere.  The immensity of the desert is overwhelming.
Sharm El Sheikh is about a 13-hour flight from B.W.I.  You need to fly into Cairo to pick up the connecting 45-minute flight into Sharm.  From the airport, it’s about a 20-minute taxi into town.  The taxis pull up outside the town and drop you off.  Since the car bombings in 2005, the resort is closed off to non-essential vehicles.  We visited in January of 2006 and didn’t have any problems.  Despite the strength of the U.S. Dollar against the Egyptian Pound,  Sharm was a little pricey.  Locals here are the highest paid in the country.  Regardless, we got what we paid for.  This was the best aquatic wildlife we’ve ever seen.  The romp through the desert was priceless.  The hospitality was fantastic.  It was great to take a peek at one of the Middle East’s most exotic resorts.
– The Rox

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