It’s hard to imagine that twenty years ago, this thronging resort town was a windswept desert settlement, populated by nomadic Bedouin tribes and dominated by a vast, starred sky. The sky remains in Sharm El Sheikh and so do the Bedouin, but it takes a bit of digging to get past the tourist bars, entertainment complexes and shopping malls. Here are a few of the best ways!
Na’ama Bay is the place to start for most holidays in Sharm El Sheikh – large portions of the resorts area are commercial, with a combination of souvenir shops, nightclubs and a few chain restaurants you might recognise. However, there’s also an abundance of independent cafés where you can sit on cushions with a shisha pipe, Middle-Eastern style, and watch the rest of the world go by.
It’s also at Na’ama Bay that you can indulge in activities including world-class scuba diving in the famous Red Sea reefs, wind-surfing across impossibly blue waters or enjoying a round of golf. You could spend your days exhausting yourself on every activity, but one you shouldn’t skip is the desert safari.
Bus or car transport is easy to arrange from the resort, and on arrival you can swap the wheels for a camel and enjoy the sunset over the African dunes. Package deals provide a meal and traditional Bedouin entertainment, so you can get much closer to the authentic pleasures of the Sinai Peninsula while staring at countless stars through a telescope, far from the crowds of Na’ama Bay.
Image credit: Claus Rebler on Flickr
In fact, Sharm El Sheikh has blossomed near incredible sites of religious and cultural significance. Make the pilgrimage to the famous Mount Sinai and follow the carved rock stairway known as the Path of Moses for spectacular views across the desert. See the spiritual monument of St. Catherine’s Monastery, said to be built at the very spot where God appeared before Moses, a UNESCO World Heritage site for its beauty as well as its history.
When you want a break from the day trips, explore the lesser-known highlights of town. Sharm El Sheikh’s central area may have gleaming modern architecture, the fountains of Soho Square and even a self-styled ‘British’ pub called the Queen Vic, but bypass these forgettable sights and discover a feast for the senses around the bazaar in Sharm El Maya. Here, you can haggle with the locals at the Old Sharm market and relish the renowned seafood restaurants in what’s easily the most Egyptian part of the resort.
For those who are content to just catch up on some relaxation by the pool before heading out to the bright lights of an evening, Sharm El Sheikh is perfect. But it’s also versatile enough to make your own experience, whether it’s absorbing local culture and stargazing in the desert or chilling in a Bedouin café. This is one Red Sea resort which has more layers to offer than it might first appear.