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Sharm el-Sheikh

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Africa : North Africa : Egypt : Sinai : Sharm el-Sheikh
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Sharm el-Sheikh (شرم الشيخ, also transliterated as Sharm ash Shaykh and popularly known simply as "Sharm") is a well-known port and resort town at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, popular with package holiday makers and divers.

Understand

Sharm el-Sheikh is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Arabic world. But there are also some very good reasons to visit it if you are not the common tourist, who likes to lay on the beach all day. It is one of the finest diving spots in the world and a trip into the desert is an unforgettable adventure.

The Sinai Peninsula is a remote desert mountain range. The rocky mountains are parted from the deep-blue sea by a flat desert strip. This combination of desert and sea is an incredible sight and makes you believe you are on a different planet.

About 15 years ago, Sharm el-Sheikh was nothing but a small fishing village with about 100 citizens. The Sinai had been occupied by Israel and was a restricted military area. But shortly after they had left, the Egyptians started to build up a tourist destination with now a population of 10,000 people. There is now a nice promenade, a Hard Rock Cafe, one of the most modern hospitals in Egypt and so on.

Get in

See Sinai for information on the Sinai visit pass, which allows visa-free travel for up to 14 days.

By plane

Sharm el-Sheikh Airport (SSH) is the largest in the Sinai and receives planeloads of charter tourists daily in the winter high season. The only airline for local flights is EgyptAir [1] your travel agent may have trouble booking flights with them but they can be booked via Expedia.com

By boat

International Fast Ferries [2] runs fast boats to Hurghada on the mainland Red Sea Coast, currently running four times weekly. The ride takes 1.5 hours and costs 250/450 LE one-way/return for foreigners. Warning: this ride is notoriously bumpy and prone to cancellations.

By car

Sharm el-Sheikh can be reached by driving down the eastern coast from Eilat (Israel) via Nuweiba and Dahab, or via the western coast from Cairo. There are daily buses for both routes.

Get around

By Taxi

See

A visit to the desert is highly recommended. The hotels offer various trips to the Bedouins, the beautiful Coloured Canyon and beyond to Mount Sinai. The more adventurous should try to find a private guide, who takes them for a few days into the mountain desert with a camel. You will walk through hidden valleys, rest at secret oasis and during the night you sleep under a breathtaking firmament.

Do

The Strait of Tiran and Tiran Island [in the distance] seen from Na'ama Bay north of Sharm el-Sheikh [Photo: Rolf Palmberg]

Diving is the main activity in Sharm el-Sheikh. When you dive into the warm water of the Red Sea and leave the remote desert behind, you will enter a world full of life and colours.

  • The reefs of Tiran and Ras Mohammed are known as two of the best diving-spots in the world. They can be reached by boat from Sharm within two hours. Ras Mohammed is the name of the southern most point of the Sinai peninsula. There, the current of the Gulf of Aqaba meets the Gulf of Suez. Due to the increase of plankton in the water the amount of fish is incredible. Huge schools of Barracudas, Sharks and Murrays can be seen there every day.

The disadvantage of its popularity is that you may find up to 20 boats at the same reef. If you take a daily-boat you may enjoy your dive in the company of fifty other divers.

  • Smarter divers book a diving safari. This way you avoid the crowds at the popular spots and have the possibility to dive beautiful reefs way beyond the reach of any daytripping boats. All in all, the costs of a diving safari does not exceed daily diving and it saves you a lot of stress.

Reputable operators include:

  • Emperor Divers. [3]
  • Camel Dive. [4]
  • Enigma Charters. [5]
  • Oonas Dive Center. [6]

Buy

Money The local currency is the Egyptian Pound (EGP), often written as LE. In Arabic it's called "gnieh" (جنيه).

Egypt is a shopper's paradise - especially if you're interested in Egyptian-themed souvenirs and kitsch, of course. That said, a number of high quality goods are to be had, often at bargain prices. Some of the most popular purchases include:

Antiques (NB: not antiquities, the trade of which is rightly illegal in Egypt) Carpets and rugs Cotton goods and clothing Inlaid goods, such as backgammon boards Jewellery Leather goods Music Papyrus Perfume Sheeshas (water-pipes) Spices - can be bought at colourful stalls in most Egyptian markets. Dried herbs and spices are generally of a higher quality than that available in Western supermarkets and are, of course, much, much cheaper (up to 4 or 5 times cheaper, though the final price will depend of bargaining and local conditions).

Eat

Drink

Sleep

Get out

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