Regions In Egypt
Holidays in Red Sea
Some believe it was named after the majestic crimson mountain ranges that line its shores. Or could it be from the strange phenomena that occurs every few years when rare floating algae give it a reddish-brown tinge? Whatever the reason the name can seem somewhat misleading when you witness for yourself the clarity of the bright blue waters that lap the pristine sandy beaches which are home to some of the world's most exotic underwater life, from spectacular coral reefs to the most unusual yet beautiful tropical fish.
It is undoubtedly a combination of the year round sunshine, endless soft, sandy beaches, the great places of historical interest to explore just a short excursion away, the warm clear waters of the Red Sea and all the underwater life to explore that it offers, the quality of the hotels in the region and surprising variation of nightlife to be found in its main resorts that make holidays to the Red Sea perfect any time of year.
Who holidays in the Red Sea?
Ideal for visitors looking for great beaches, modern hotels and fantastic climate or for anyone with an interest in marine life.
The Red Sea is known throughout the world for its clear blue waters, pristine beaches and abundance of spectacular underwater life. This habitat which is home to over 1000 different species of invertebrate and 200 different soft and hard corals, is the second saltiest body of water in the world-second only to the Dead Sea which lies between Israel and Jordan.
To anyone standing on its shore and gazing out across its heavenly waters, the Red Sea may seem to be a mislabelling. Its blueness is eternal and anything less red cannot be imagined. The Red Sea, located between Asia and Africa and where the desert meets the ocean, is truly one of the planets most exotic and fascinating natural seascape environments. At its most northerly point it forms the Sinai Peninsula and from there it stretches over 1000 miles south to join the Indian Ocean, between Ethiopia and Yemen.
Located on the western side of Egypt's Red Sea Riviera is the exciting and vibrant resort of Hurghada and with its high quality hotels, magnificent sandy beach and great nightlife it's easy to see why it has transformed from a small fishing village to a vibrant tourist hotspot.
The ever popular Sharm El Sheikh offers year round sun, perfect warm blue waters in which to take a dip or marvel at the marine life, soft sandy beaches and the comfort of luxurious hotels. There is also an abundance of opportunities for watersports, shopping and great nightlife.
Marsa Alma, on the other hand is an ecological paradise as yet off the radar of mass tourism. Considered by many a an up-market resort of luxury hotels where those in the know are drawn to its fantastic coastline of sandy beaches and warm clear waters in which coral reefs remain largely untouched.
The small town of Taba, is widely regarded as one of the region's main centres for diving. With its spectacular mountainous scenery and blue waters it's also a great base for visits to Petra, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, St Katherine's Monastery and Mount Sinai.
One of the great delights of holidays in Egypt are the shopping opportunities! However, there are many pitfalls: from learning how to bargain to knowing where the best places are to buy certain goods.
You will be truly amazed at the range of goods on offer, from souvenirs to treasures that can be purchased and packaged up for the plane flight home. Everything from exotic spices to exquisite jewellery; gorgeously textured shawls and scarves to brilliantly coloured papyri; handcrafted brass and copperware to quality reproductions of antiquities; and delicately glowing alabaster to fabulously designed carpets and rugs.
The souks and markets of Egypt have an excitement and flavour that is all their own and quite unlike anything that you will experience elsewhere. The range of wares on display is mind-boggling and the friendliness and hospitality of the shop owners is unrivalled. The sights, smells and sounds will overwhelm your senses at the same time that the exotic atmosphere created by the place and its people will dazzle your imagination.
Things To See
Red Sea Monasteries: Located in the Red Sea hills the monasteries of St Anthony and St Paul are the oldest in Egypt dating back to the dawn of Christian monasticism.
St Catherine's Monastery: Depart for St Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai. The spectacular setting of this Monastery, built in AD330 around the site of Moses' Burning Bush, has remained largely unchanged over the centuries. Still inhabited by monks, you will have the opportunity to see the library, museum and Chapel of Burning Bush.
Mount Sinai: Located just south of the Monastery of St Katherine, Mount Sinai is of great religious importance to Jews, Christians and Muslims. According to the Old Testament this is where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Throughout the centuries the mountain has drawn thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. You can ascend to the summit (2285 m, 7497 ft) to experience the ultimate spiritual high; either by climbing some 4000 steps built by monks or by following an easier but longer path. Both lead to an open area known as Elija's Basin where you walk up the remaining 750 steps to the top. At the summit you will find the Chapel of the Holy Trinity that was built in 1934 on the site of a much earlier chapel built in 363 AD. The climb takes about three hours but the view from the top is truly breathtaking, especially at sunrise.
Boat Trip to Ras Mohammed National Park: For the joy of those who love uncontaminated nature, Ras Mohammed is without doubt an ideal spot. This is a fabulous boat trip with the opportunity to snorkel in one of the world's most amazing coral gardens.
Cairo Excursion: No visit to Egypt is complete without a visit to Cairo. The pyramids at Giza are the world's oldest tourist attraction and the Great Pyramid is one of the wonders of the ancient world. The day will include a tour of the Giza plateau to visit the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Also, just as famous is the Egyptian Museum which houses Tutankhamen's treasures. An Egyptologist will be on hand throughout the day to guide you around the museum and explain some of the history and legends behind the famous boy king and the other Egyptian pharaohs. Don't miss the chance to explore the souk area of the Khan el Khalili bazaar in the centre of Cairo and enjoy lunch overlooking the river Nile.
Bedouin Evening: An evening not to be missed! Enjoy a spectacular sunset in the Sinai desert from the back of a camel. Arrive at a traditional Bedouin tent, relax and get ready for a typical Bedouin dinner including entertainment, aromatic tea and soft drinks. This is a great opportunity to discover the real local life of the Bedouins.
Things To Do
Scuba Diving: Sharm el Sheikh, along with Hurghada, is where it all started. These were the first two destinations of the 20-year-old diving history of the Red Sea. Diving sites in Sharm are world famous. A paradise for a perfect Red Sea diving holiday. Sharm has it all: hard and soft coral, turtles and dolphins, mantas and moray eels, napoleons and tuna, hammerheads, barracudas, reef and pelagic sharks and much more, including the legendary World War II wreck of the Thistlegorm.
Snorkeling: Snorkeling is the watersport par excellence in the Red Sea. With the wealth of underwater life in all destinations, snorkeling is an easy and very enjoyable way to spend some time and discover the wonders of marine life. Whether launching an expedition from your resort beach or you spend half a day or even a full day on a snorkeling boat, you will no doubt collect memories that will last a lifetime.
Watersports: The Red Sea Riviera is not only renowned for its world class scuba diving! The sea here is a paradise for watersports enthusiasts also and some destinations are particularly famous because of its perfect conditions for a particular activity. Think of board sports, such as windsurf and kite surf, and you will think of five main destinations: Dahab in Sinai, and El Gouna, Hurghada, Safaga and Marsa Alma on the Red Sea coast. Sandy beaches, constant wind and professional centres give these resorts the perfect ingredients.
The intercity bus service in Egypt is good offering reasonable comfort at a reasonable price. The network is extensive making it very easy to get where you want to go with little difficulty or expense. Advance booking is advisable on the most popular routes, or those with few runs timetabled. Local buses in Cairo and Alexandria (the only cities with their own bus systems) is chaotic, however. Don't expect a seat.
An alternative is the minibus which leaves once full. Standing is not permitted in theory, though this is frequently ignored.
Cairo is the only city which has an underground system. It is, however, clean, efficient and a good value way to travel. The front carriage is for women travellers only.
You can get to Giza, Manial and Misr al-Qadima (the old part of Cairo) on a leisurely 50-minute ride on a river bus. There are three departures daily from downtown Maspero: one at 8am, one at 2pm and the last at 9pm.
The old, unmetered black and white taxis which can be hailed street-side now face competition from pre-orderable yellow taxis which a bit more expensive, and which are metered. Hold on tight for a nerve jangling experience. Tipping is expected at around 10%.
An international driving permit is required for hiring cars in Egypt. You'll also need nerves of steel and sharp reactions to drive in the centre of Cairo, however. If you do decide to hire a car, keep your ID papers on you and your permit, as it is quite common to be stopped and, if without them, fined.
- Crystal clear blue waters
- Undiscovered dive sites and reefs
- World class hotels
- Restaurants and nightlife