Lonely Planet describes the resort town of Sharm el Sheikh as a “sterile enclave… sanitised for Western consumption, having all the charisma of a shopping mall”. Expats I’ve met in Egypt have called the town “Sharm el $hit”.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know this before I arrived, because this is usually the type of place I try to avoid staying in for a long time in unless I’m taking a vacation from travel.
Luckily, my snorkelling and hiking trips with Egypt Excursions Online rescued me from the tourists hoards. Thanks to Hostelbookers, I even stayed at a charming bed and breakfast at a Bedouin village 5km away from the city.
If you ever find yourself in Sharm el Sheikh and want to escape the mass tourist crowds, here are a few ideas to consider.
1. Snorkeling at Ras Mohamed National Park
Ras Mohamed National Park is a protected area on the Red Sea about 30 km south of Sharm El Sheikh. On my Ras Mohammed National Park Day Trip by Boat trip, we left from the marina in Sharm on a dive boat with about 20 divers and snorkellers and spent the entire day under the sun and looking over vibrant blue waters.
On the boat, one of the crew members briefed us on fishes we might see and fishes to be careful of, like the beautiful but venomous lionfishes. I haven’t developed the photos from my disposable underwater camera yet, but I can tell you that the visibility was incredible – even more impressive than in Koh Tao, Thailand which is hard to beat.
2. Day trip to the Coloured Canyon
This was my first time in a canyon and was impressed by both the view from above and the view of the towering rocks from below while walking through the snaking path. The canyon had layers of yellow, peach and brown colours; we occasionally came across shrubs of green vegetation and most of the ground was sand and rocks.
The hike was relatively easy, although there were sections with no steps or that required squeezing between rocks/boulders. After we started encountering these tight spaces, I spent the rest of the hike thinking about the movie 127 Hours, which is based on a true story about a solo hiker in a Utah (USA) national park who gets his forearm caught under a large boulder, and after 5 days finds the determination to self-amputate his arm with his utility knife to escape. Luckily no such incidents happened on my visit ;)
The day trip I took was Safari Trip to Coloured Canyon and Dahab and was 41 euros at the time of writing.
3. Bedouin dinner & camel ride
The evening started with a camel ride, followed by a delicious and plentiful dinner of rice, roasted eggplant, chicken, peppers, and more. The show during dinner included belly dancing, fire twirling and other traditional Bedouin dances (see photos below). There were probably 50 other travellers there and a relaxing way to spend the evening.
See Bedouin Dinner and Camel Ride in sharm Desert for the full description of the trip.
4. Do nothing
I really have to thank Hostelbookers for finding me the charming guesthouse in the Bedouin village 5km outside of Sharm el Sheikh. Not only did the guesthouse made me feel right at home, they helped make my stay extra smooth by providing me a mobile phone to use during my visit.
I wasn’t planning on doing lots of “nothing,” but the warmth of this bed & breakfast reminded me of old apartment in Toronto. I ended up spending hours with the company of large mugs of tea, using WiFi and catching up on reading from my birthday reading list.
I’d definitely consider visiting Egypt again and wouldn’t hesitate to come alone. I found the area more comfortable to travel in than I expected, especially when compared to travelling in India. I’m not sure Sharm el Sheikh would be a high priority place to return to, so a big thank you to GetYourGuide and Hostelbookers for making my visit in this city more enjoyable than it would have been if I planned it on my own.
>> Do you spend a lot of time by the hotel when you visit a new city, or do prefer to venture out and explore?
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External resources on Sharm el Sheikh
- Sharm el-Sheikh on Wikitravel.org
- Ras Mohammed National Park Day Trip by Boat
- Safari Trip to Coloured Canyon and Dahab
- Bedouin Dinner and Camel Ride in sharm Desert