We rounded out our day with a little local window-shopping. Alas, if you came to Alexandria to shop, you were misinformed. Shopping isn’t one of the city’s strong points. Nonetheless, a friend advised me to stop by one of the traditional markets for clothes and leather just beside Alexandria’s Chamber of Commerce (Al-Ghurfa Al-Tugariyya). The market, situated in a small alley, has no name. Residents either call it Al-Ghurfa Market (referring to its location) or Al-Haramiyya (thieves) Market, because most of the goods entered Egypt illegally. Each kiosk offers different merchandise, and all the products are imported and reasonably priced. Still, prices are negotiable.
As we packed our things and loaded up the car the next day, I realised that our stay had been more of a foray into daily Alexandrian life than a typical tourist visit. While the ancient sites and the famous beaches on the outskirts of Alexandria are well worth visiting, the city itself should not be overlooked. Easily accessible from Cairo and only a few hours away, a taste of the Alexandria winter is a welcome change of scenery and a dip into this city’s distinctive atmosphere.
After a tour of the grounds at Al-Nozha, you’re going to feel pretty hungry. I was full of suggestions for seafood — the Fish Market, Sea Gull, Qadoura — We slipped along the winding backstreets over to Manshiya Square, to a no-frills local spot called Shaaban, near the famous coffee shop of Al-Borsa. The area was once populated with bars and famous in the time of World War II as the best place for British soldiers to grab a beer. For you, the spot is first-rate for Shaaban’s fresh fish and reasonable prices. Our meal of fried and grilled fish, calamari, shrimps and salads came to about LE70.
From Shaaban, we took our dessert at the Grand Trianon café — my favourite for sweets or a light meal. An ideal spot to sit and watch the world go by, the Trianon is situated at the base of one of Alexandria’s most stunning hotels, the Metropole. Recent refurbishments have restored the Metropole to its former glory, with sumptuous saloons and an elegant reception. The building was once the headquarters of the Division of Irrigation, where the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy worked.
After a generous and meticulously prepared buffet breakfast (one corner offered specially prepared foods for diabetics and those on a low-fat diet), we set out the next morning for Al-Nozha Gardens, lovingly set up by Khedive Ismail. Roughly three kilometres southeast alongside the Mahmoudiya Canal, the well-maintained gardens are joined to another park known as the Rose Gardens, as well as Alexandria’s zoo. Nearby are the gardens and palace of a wealthy Greek family built in the late 19th century. To visit all four places involves separate fees, but it is a mighty bargain: entrance to Al-Nozha Gardens costs 25 piastres, the Rose Gardens and the zoo cost 50 piastres each, and the Antoniaidis Gardens cost LE2.
We started with the Zoological Gardens, another turn-of-the-20th-century project covering some 26 acres. Unfortunately, most of the cages were empty and even those which were inhabited were in deplorable conditions. The place is a popular spot for locals, but the large area allocated for recreation was crowded and the noise intolerable. We made a quick exit and headed for the Rose Gardens, established in 1920. This garden is supposed to offer wonderful species of roses and flowers that are planted in 32 nurseries, but when the gardener found us profoundly disappointed, he explained that winter is not the time to find any remarkable flowers. In spring and summer, he said, the place is a botanical paradise.
Undaunted, we approached the jewel of the Nozha garden complex — the grounds of the Antoniaidis family. A billboard hung on one of the trees announced that the gardens were built by John Antoniaidis in 1860 and given as a gift to the township of Alexandria in 1918. The gardens house 350-year-old trees and classical Roman statues. The palace, built to host the royal friends and acquaintances of Antoniaidis, has sheltered such historical figures as Khedive Tawfik and the former Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, who honeymooned here with his Egyptian wife Princess Fawzeyya. Though the palace’s private gardens are both lush and striking, they are not open to the public.
A leisurely drive from Cairo to Alexandria takes about three hours. On reaching the city, we headed straight for its heart; to Saad Zaghloul Square, near the main downtown transport terminal Ramleh Station. This is the departure point for trips to Qaitbey Fort (where one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Pharos lighthouse, once stood) and Al-Mursi Abul-Abbas Mosque, as well as to the resorts of Montazah, Maamoura and Abu Qir. Perched on the corner of Saad Zaghloul Square and commanding an uninterrupted view of the eastern harbour is the grand old Cecil hotel, a Moorish style building established in 1929. The architecture is reminiscent of the eclectic style of Alexandria’s 19th- and 20th-century cosmopolitan period. I had long dreamed of staying at this former seat of lavish extravagance and fancied the idea of spending a few nights in a place that has figured prominently in modern Alexandrian lore.
How about being a sexy belly dancer this Halloween? turn heads and shine at the party with your oriental glamour!
We’ve searched through lots of tutorials and found an easy to do, yet impressive, Cleopatra inspired make-up and look tutorial for your Halloween costume. Being Cleopatra for a night is always fun and you never know… you might land yourself a Marc Anthony! Pair with a plain flowing dress and sandals for a simple and glamorous costume.
When I heard about the oasis at Siwa in the Egyptian desert, I visualised of a small patch of palm trees waving in the breeze, a few mud brick houses in the background and pools of water bubbling up gently from the earth. It was that image from old movies of the oasis in the desert, a halucination that shimmers in the heat but is never quite reached.
What I hadn’t realised until we drove across the desert on the excellent tarmac road from Marsa Martrouh is that Siwa is a large town of 25,000 people with a bustling central square, two freshwater lakes and plantations of date palms stretching into the distance. You could see all the major sites in two or three days, but there’s a seductive quality to Siwa that makes you want to slow down and just chill out, absorbing the relaxed atmosphere of the oasis.
Because of its isolated position in the middle of the desert, Siwa has developed a unique culture that is different from the rest of Egypt with it’s own Siwi language and traditions. Siwi women are fully covered when they go out of the house and you’ll normally see them being driven around town, sitting wrapped up on the back of a donkey cart that is driven by a husband or young boy. There are numerous springs around the oasis that have been made into walled pools where you can sometimes swim, although ladies need to cover up to avoid causing offence. I visited Siwa with a friend who lives in Alexandria and we so we were so seduced by Siwa that we stayed a day more than intended. Here are things we enjoyed while in Siwa;
Take a donkey cart ride
You can find a number of donkey carts waiting like taxis in the central square to take you around the lanes of Siwa and it’s an ideal way to travel on the narrow dusty roads. I didn’t have the opportunity to try a donkey cart ride as we had a car, but your accommodation will be able to arrange a donkey cart tour with a knowledgeable guide who can also tell you about everything that you’ll see on the way. Alternatively go to the square and agree your price for a ride around town.
The Temple of the Oracle
This temple complex is crumbling away but you can climb up through the mud brick building to the remains of the temple, set on the top, where you can see the stone pillars and carved reliefs. The temple was built in the 6th century and was dedicated to the God Amun. The Oracle of the temple was famous for being visited by Alexander the Great in 331BC, when having done much of his conquering he came to consult the Oracle and confirm his legitimacy. Without a guide it’s difficult to imagine the bustling complex, halls and holy sanctuaries, but you get a great view over the oasis from the top.
This is the largest and best known spring in the oasis and an ideal place to while away an hour or two in one of the small cafes, under the shade of the date palms, sipping a mint tea. Of course, it’s named after the Queen of Egypt, who probably never came here, but it’s nice to imagine her enjoying a cooling dip amongst her handmaidens.
There are some souvenir stalls there and we were even brought a dish of small local fruit the size of a cherry but with the taste and texture of an apple. There are steps down into the pool, if you fancy bathing like a queen, but the advice for ladies is to bathe covered up with a loose garment and certainly no bikinis.
The Shali is the old fortified town of Siwa, build in the 13th century of mud brick mixed with salt rock, known as karsheef, which is hardened by the sun. Originally there was only one gate in to the hill town, so that the Siwa population could be protected from nomadic raiders and control the admittance of any outsiders. In the 19th century, families started to move away from their houses in the Shali and it was further abandoned after three days of heavy rain in 1926 reduced many houses to ruins. Now the Shali has crumbled into a lunar landscape of broken down mud walls, but you can climb up to the top through the old houses that were once filled with families and get a great view over the town. From the top you can see that some of the houses in the old quarter have been restored and are being used as hotels or private homes where you can stay for the authentic Siwa experience. Standing at the top with the wind blowing it seemed like an alien landscape from another planet where you might come across a character from Star Wars or Doctor Who.
Gebel al-Mawta (The Mountain of the dead)
On the edge of Siwa, this outcrop is the ancient burial ground of the Romans and Ancient Egyptians and is honeycombed with empty tombs. It’s possible to climb to the top of the of the mound and sit there with the wind blowing through your hair with panoramic views over the oasis. There is a small kiosk at the bottom of the mound where you pay your entrance fee and this will also allow you to see some of the tombs carved out of the rock which are beautifully decorated with wall paintings.
Sadly, no photographs were allowed inside the tombs but it was interesting to see the rock carved pillars and ancient Egyptian paintings.
We were lucky enough to have tour in English from the Curator of the Siwa House museum. Although the museum is open at specific times, it’s best to ask your hotel or the tourism office to telephone ahead to book a time to visit, so that you can be sure to find someone to explain everything about the house. The house was constructed specially to house the museum, using traditional Siwa construction techniques using the karsheef mixture of mud and salt rock, with palm trunks to make the beams of the house. Downstairs there is a display of traditional bridal dresses, made of different coloured silks decorated with embroidery and mother of pearl buttons; dark green for the wedding night, creamy white embroidered with the rays of the sun for the 3rd day after the wedding when the bride’s relatives come to call and black for the visit of the bride’s mother 7 nights after the wedding. Upstairs are other traditional costumes and furnishings as well as jewellery and household objects used in Siwa.
Sunset at Fatnas island
This small island on the salt lake is reached along a causeway road and the favourite time to visit is at sunset, when you can sit under the rustling date palms and watch the sun go down behind the rocky outcrop across the lake. Apparently the lake level has fallen somewhat in recent years, so that now the water in front of the island is full of reeds and the land more exposed. At the place where the road reaches the island there is a small walled spring which is very deep, where you can swim if you wish (ladies remember to cover up) or you can just peer in to the green depths and be mesemerised by the tiny bubbles of gas streaming to the surface. The island is covered with palms and there is a small kiosk where you will be served sweet mint tea while you sit on the wicker chairs and watch the sun go down. When we left Fatnas Island in darkness, the owner jumped on his motorbike and went home too, and we just had the stars to guide us back to the mainland.
Our Hotel Recommendation
We highly recommend the Siwa Safari Gardens Hotel where we stayed when we were in Siwa. It is in a very convenient location about 5 minutes walk down a side road from the main square but slightly away from the bustle and very quiet and relaxed. The rooms are on two stories, set around the lovely garden with shady date palms and grass, and best of all there is a small pool which has been made out of one of the natural springs with a stone terrace where you can sit and relax.
We stayed in the rooms on the upper floor which have an attractive brick domed ceiling and were nicely furnished with colourful quilts and traditional rugs on the floor. There is a pleasant reception/ sitting area next to the dining room where there is free wifi. The owner-manager, Mr Sami once lived in Germany and is exceptionally attentive and helpful – I would trust him to make any arrangements for me in Siwa and he phoned ahead to make an appointment for us with the curator of the Siwa House Museum. I felt that it was a big asset having a pool in our hotel, and such a nice one at that, because here you can swim freely, whereas it would considered disrespectful for women travellers to swim in the springs around the oasis unless they are modestly covered up. If I returned to Siwa I would love to stay here again.
Dusk was falling as we drove across the causeway onto Fatnas island, surrounded by reeds and the shallow water of the salt lake. This was reputed to be one of the best places in Siwa to watch the sun go down, in the middle of this oasis in the Egyptian desert. From the shadows a man emerged to welcome us to the small island. This was a place that his family had owned for generations, now turned into a means of earning some income by offering visitors to Siwa a place to come and sit a while under the date palms to watch the sunset.
We stood around the circular walled spring at the entrance of the island, mesmerised by the blue-green water and the continuous streams of tiny bubbles rising to the surface. Then we took our seats in the rattan chairs to await the main event of the evening. Our host brought us tiny cups of sweet mint tea and came to chat for a while about this and that; the celebrations for his daughter’s wedding, the new house that he was building beside the lake and how Prince Charles and Camilla had stayed in the eco-lodge just across the lake from where we were sitting.
Due to a drainage project by the local government, the water-level in front of us had dropped in recent years and turned into marsh, fringed by reeds and a great place for bird-watching. What a relaxing place to while away an hour or two.
A few glasses of mint tea and one great sunset later, we were so soporific, we could barely prise ourselves out of our chairs to leave. We listened to the silence and the rustling of palm leaves in the warm evening air, with the curling cigarette smoke of our driver chasing away any mosquitos.
As we drove away, our host jumped on his motorbike and passed by us to go home, having served his only customers of the evening. We stopped the car on the causeway and lay on the tarmac gazing at the stars while my friend who is a star-gazing enthusiast pointed out the planetary landmarks, the Plough and the Great Bear and we giggled at our silliness. The sun had set on another relaxing day in Siwa.
Venture down to Aswan this weekend to experience the Characters of Egypt festival. The event offers a rare opportunity to link diverse cultures and to ‘inculcate values of mutual respect, understanding, tolerance and equality.’
Under the auspice of The Ministry of Tourism and the Egyptian Tourism Authority, the Characters of Egypt Festival will be organized from 27-29 October 2011. The festival is an annual event that has been organized for four consecutive years
This year, the festival will take place in Aswan in the Island of Heisa on the River Nile. Aswan was chosen by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as a successful case study to showcase the theme of the 2011 World Tourism Day: “Tourism – linking cultures.” The World Tourism Day was celebrated last year in Aswan on 27 September in this same location.
An estimated 33 tribes are expected to participate in the festival coming from South Sinai, North Sinai, El Ababda, El Bashareya, Nubia, El Hassayba and Siwa. The tribes are divided into seven groups. Besides the music and dance shows that characterize each tribe, poetry and stories telling and a number of informative workshops displaying indigenous practices, beliefs, cuisines, clothing, music, art, literary traditions, friendly sports competitions and conversations will take place during the event. The Characters of Egypt Festival provide guests with the chance to catch a glimpse of life as it exists in the different areas of Egypt’s extensive deserts.
The objective of Characters of Egypt festival is to create a platform of awareness of cultural variances amongst different ethnic and tribal groups and Nile River valley inhabitants. The event offers a rare opportunity to link diverse cultures from all corners of Egypt, experience cultural exchange and connect over their common bonds. Egypt has a rich history of tribal heritage shown in their many dialects and languages.
The island of Heisa is one of the oldest Nubian villages comprised of six Nubian tribes totaling 1,000 habitants. The objective of organizing this year’s festival in this Island is to promote it as a touristic destination. In fact, during the past three years, Characters of Egypt Festival was organized in the south area of the Red sea, which resulted in improving the cultural exchanges in this area, and promoted tourism in Wadi El Gemal protectorate, placing Marsa Alam as one of the prime eco-tourism destinations worldwide.
Check out this amazing video, showcasing some of the most premiere waves on the Mediterranean coast of Marsa Matrouh. Calling all world-wide surfers to connect with the boys from Alexandria who are the local surf community. Come visit this gorgeous place to support not only Egypt but them by making surf history!
posted by Gulliver on Daily Scuba Diving
Crystal clear water and red hot desert sun enriches each dive with beautiful play of colors, and perfect as precious stones coral walls and reefs running from the shore are breathtaking. Discover for yourself hundreds of varieties of corals, mysterious ship wrecks and some of the most beautiful reef walls in the world.
Sharm El Sheikh
Sharm El Sheikh has quick become an ultra-modern diving site for a short period of several years. 65 km long reefs are among the richest and most famous in the world. Mile after mile hard and soft varieties of coral reefs and fish abound in the dazzling display. There is no place in the area, which is not hide a small miracle, but, due to inaccessibility and inconvenience, diving is usually limited to a few sites. Here you can read more about Sharm-El Sheikh dive sites
Straits of Tiran
Little straits of Tiran Island are like closing the Gulf of Aqaba from the 12 miles to the north-east of the port of Sharm El Sheikh. These straits are formed in the east of the island of Tiran and the Sinai coastline to the west. Deep water, the continental plateau and a narrow corridor create a kind of bottle neck through which a strong, dense flow of plankton is literally thrown out on the coral reefs. Circulation of food chain of the plankton brings coral organisms and reef fish together with predatory sharks, which find here easy prey. Of course, this is the place where you can still encounter the shark actually during each dive.
This is a 70 meter canyon cut from an edge of a plateau at a depth of 15-20 m. Sharks and big fishes are around here; dangerous currents. Wrecks of Lara ship.
Lies between the reefs Gordon and Jackson, is a long, narrow reef running from the north-east to south-west. Its shallow peak drops sharply on all sides by a sharp angle.
Sharply cut reef is composed of several sections, the plateau and a very deep canyon, stretching from the south reef. This is the smallest of the 4 reefs, and because of its location in the chain, the most exposed to the strong currents.
This reef is a 10-20 m wall extending down to 70 m. Sharks and other fishes around here. Strong flows and wrecks of Loullia ship.
Sand Canyon is next to a sandy plateau, and then goes down to the abyss. Barrier reef and coral slopes.
A small canyon, extending to a depth of 10 – 15 meters. Entrance is from a sandy beach.
Based in the Port Ghalib marina with classroom, equipment room and a training pool next to the jetty at the Marina Lodge Hotel. An established operation and part of the Emperor Divers group…
Popular dive site minutes south of the Port Ghalib marina. Large bay offering excellent training facilities since it offers a number of dive routes ranging from only a metre in depth upwards. Sandy…
- “An excellent dive centre with outstanding service…” Sep 10, 2011
- “Best divecentre i have been!” Aug 9, 2011
- “Excellent diving.” Aug 7, 2011
Spinner dolphins are often (but not always) seen at this reef, as a result it is one of the most popular attractions in the area. Access is managed to help protect the dolphins, boat numbers are…
A beautiful large offshore dropping reef offering a range of dive options and certainly providing some great photo opportunities on the right day. Popular with both liveaboards and day boats due to…
Watch this interesting video to get a glimpse of Marsa Alam’s water sports. The video is fun and there are interesting shots so you can enjoy it even if you do not understand Spanish. The interviews discuss the great wind conditions and the sport of Kite surfing in Marsa Alam, and about the wealth and uniqueness of the marine life in the Red Sea.
Once a tidy merchant port on the coast of the Red Sea, in recent years Safaga has developed into an attractive and popular resort town known for water sports, relaxation and rejuvenation. Sun lovers and sportsmen are attracted to its magnificent bay, islands and beautiful beaches.
It has also become one of the most popular wellness destinations in the region due to the therapeutic and curative powers of its mineral and saline rich springs and sea water, and an amazingly pure atmosphere. Nightlife consists of a good meal at a local restaurant, catching a sunset and maybe an impromptu beach party organized by local divers and surfers.
Safaga has become synonymous with watersports. Whether you want to sail, snorkel, surf, kayak or take a banana boat ride, this beautiful seaside resort has it all. With its large bay, ideal wind conditions and calm water, it’s also a favorite with windsurfers. In fact, the Red Sea World Windsurfing Championship was held here in the ’90′s. And if that isn’t enough, Safaga is also known for its spectacular SCUBA diving. Highlights include the coral garden at Sha’ab Saiman and great drop-offs at Panorama Reef, home to big game fish and stingrays.
Given that Safaga is a harbor town on the Red Sea, it’s no surprise that seafood is a local favorite. Almost every restaurant and café offers a wide variety of fresh seafood, including jumbo prawns, lobster, salmon steaks and Red Sea delicacies like Bouri (Mullet Fish), delicious Barboni and boneless Eshr Bayad. Of course no trip to the Middle East would be complete without trying some grilled lamb or beef kabab, tehina (a sesame paste mixed with spices), baba ghanoug (grilled eggplant) salad or fresh falafel (meat or vegetables wrapped in pita bread) from a street vendor.
Check out how to spend a mediocre day in Safaga…..
Interestingly, Marsa Alam, Egypt was once a small fishing village in Egypt. However, ever since officials decided to focus on tourism, it has become one of the most popular locations on the Red Sea Riviera. Why, this little city has even opened its own airport!
Why is Marsa Alam earning such a following of satisfied surf-worshipers? First understand that Marsa Alam is located near the Tropic of Cancer, the Arabian Desert and the Red Sea. These physical factors cause Marsa Alam to be a very attractive tropical paradise with beautiful palm trees, shining seacoasts and brilliant coral reefs. It is very popular with scuba divers for its high and well-defined diving sites. Tourists have also been very excited to see exotic marine life swimming about such as spinner dolphins, dugongs and hammerhead sharks.
Popular Attractions in Marsa Alam
Speaking of wildlife it’s always fun to swim with dolphins. You can head over to Samadai Reef (or Dolphin House) and swim with about a 100 spinner dolphins. These dolphins are shy but even so happy to play with nice visitors for many hours on end.
Wadi Gimal is nearby Marsa Alam and offers guests the chance to see a National Protectorate full of wild gazelles. It should be well-advised to new travelers however that this is an unmapped area so it is best to take a local guide with you for escorted tours.
Other popular attractions in Marsa Alam, Egypt include the Emerald Mines and the Temple of Seti I at Khanais.
The best thing about being in this part of Egypt is that you can take some adventurous desert tours. There are also nature treks, historical rock carvings and camel rides. Visitors speak highly of various Bedouin oasis located nearby which serve Arabian tea. You can also entertain the gang (whether your family or a group of friends) with horseback riding activities and even motorcycle riding.
Nightlife in Marsa Alam
For nightclubbing activity travelers can find several bars, a few of which are disco clubs. Popular spots include the Mexican-themed disco Ciao Marsa as well as Planet Bedouin, which is a tent set up offering Oriental drinks, water pipes and belly dancing.
As you can see, Marsa Alam is a very nice mix of adventure, fun and sightseeing. Make sure that Marsa Alam, Egypt is on your land tours list this vacation season!
Scuba Diving Highlights:
Marsa Abu Dabab - A world famous selection of dive sites boasting an unbelievable number of Giant Turtles as well as the chance to spot Dugongs and Guitar Sharks. A must for anyone visiting the Southern Red Sea.
Elphinstone Reef - A large cigar-shaped offshore that offers wall diving that is both exhilarating and spectacular, with regular sightings of Napoleons and Turtles as well as large Pelagics including Manta Rays, Grey Reef, Hammerhead and Oceanic white tip Sharks, Tuna and Barracuda; all drawn to the reef by its strong current and abundance of fish life.
Sha’ab Samadai - A short ride by bus and boat from Port Ghalib is Sha’ab Samadai, a horseshoe shaped reef known locally as Dolphin House. Offering truly spectacular diving including the awe inspiring Cathedral swim-through and a remarkable collection of hard and soft coral, anemone cities and a resident Napoleon Wrasse. The reef is also used regularly by a pod of Spinner Dolphins and there may be an opportunity to snorkel with them between dives.
Marine Life - Parrotfish, dolphins, angelfish, butterflyfish, clownfish, emperorfish, barracuda, tuna, turtles, napoleon wrasse, moray eels, stingrays, reef sharks, guitar rays, whale sharks and, occasionally, manta rays and dugongs.
From Red Sea Dive News
“Touring and Diving Post-Revolutionary Egypt” by David Hartman
April 20th marks the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The event is one to forget for tourism in Florida and the Florida Keys because overblown and exaggerated news reports kept travelers away for months while no oil affected most parts of South and East Coast Florida. I witnessed the frustration of tourism industry first hand as a resident and local dive instructor in Key Largo, Florida. A year later, I am witness again first hand to frustration of a tourism industry but this time the country is Egypt. The recent revolution in Egypt that ended the President’s 30 year reign was dramatic, poignant and indeed a landmark event in world history. Egypt’s revolution was quick, decisive and officially over a month ago with resignation of Hosni Mubarak. The protests in late January and February that filled Tahrir Square captivated the world for weeks but were also limited to a small part of Cairo. Most of the day to day affairs of Cairo and the rest Egypt, especially in the Red Sea resort areas, were amazingly unaffected by the protests in Tahrir Square. There are parallels of the Gulf Oil Spill’s affect on Florida Tourism and the Revolution in Cairo’s affect on Egyptian tourism. Both events cost a tourism industry billions of dollar in lost revenue, were portrayed to affect areas that were unaffected and continued inaccurate and misguided reporting by media kept travelers away long after the extent of area affected was long determined. Tourists are beginning to return to Egypt with numbers growing everyday but the state of Florida is an example where recovering from major events that affect tourism may be a long road.
I am proud to be one of the first Americans to visit the new Egypt. As the dive travel specialist and marketing consultant for Learning Through Travel (LTT), a New York based destination tour operator for Egypt travel, I have both the enjoyment and challenge on educating tour group leaders and travel professionals on how to sell dive travel to Egypt and the Red Sea. Learning Through Travel had a previously scheduled familiarization (FAM) trip for March 5-19, 2011 that was in jeopardy of cancellation due to the recent events in Cairo but was put back on schedule once affairs in Cairo stabilized after the resignation of President Mubarak. After in depth analysis of the post revolution status of Cairo, Afifi El Shimy, Head of Egypt Operations and Cairo Office Manager, assured the safety of our FAM trip travelers and approved moving forward with the trip. One of our FAM trip travelers, American dive shop owner and PADI Course Director, David Valaika of Indian Valley SCUBA in Harleysville, Pennsylvania was committed to make the trip to Egypt in lieu of a group trip he had booked with LTT for April of 2012. I planned to meet Afifi and David Valaika in Cairo and see for my own eyes the status of post revolution Egypt and why travel warnings were still in effect.
My trip began March 4th on a direct flight from JFK airport in New York City to Cairo on Egypt Air. I had the pleasure of sitting next to a wonderful Egyptian tour guide on the flight who was returning from promoting Egypt tourism for a Cairo based tour operator. The American based tour groups the woman presented to were hesitant but receptive to traveling to Egypt. I enjoyed sharing stories with the tour guide and we both found a common ground in our passion for travel to Egypt and our frustration with continued bias news coverage and unneeded government travel warnings. My delightful experience on my flight to Cairo was a precursor to a similar theme I would experience throughout my week in Egypt.
Upon arrival in Cairo, my mood was both positive and curious. I had questions and concerns but none involved safety. The LTT FAM trip was my fourth visit to Egypt and safety was never a concern and I know Afifi always takes good care of our customers. (100% escorted travel is the only way to effectively navigate Egypt). My concerns were mostly about tourism in the country. Were tourist sites open? Had travelers returned to Egypt and in what numbers? Were sectors of the government critical to tourism still operational under the new military interim government? The answers to all my questions were quickly apparent as affairs in Cairo operated normally just as my last visit in September 2008 only now there was a calmer mood and a more aggressive attitude by all Egyptians to make tourists feel welcome. Tourist sites were open including the Pyramids of Giza and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities but low attendance at these sites made touring a breeze. The military has a stronger presence in Cairo but on only few occasions was army personnel visible during our tours of the city. Life in Cairo was moving along on its everyday fast paced including the usual snarls of Cairo automobile traffic. With first impressions of Cairo in hand, I headed toward my hotel to start the everyday obligation to our followers on Facebook who eagerly awaited updates on travel to Egypt and the Red Sea.
I arrived at the Le Meridian Pyramids Hotel in the early afternoon on Saturday March 5th. I immediately ran into a couple of nice ladies who I met in the Egypt Air check in line at JFK airport. The two women just booked a trip to Egypt on Monday to return to one of their favorite countries and to support the Egyptian people who they love so much. We discussed the future of Egyptian tourism over a couple of cocktails at the pool bar and we were all concerned but optimistic. David Valaika arrived on a later flight in the early evening which gave me a chance to set my theme for the trip on Facebook and our blog. The goal was to have fun with this trip and to show interested travelers and even naysayers that travel to Egypt is fun and the people are warm and welcoming especially to American tourists. I took some nice photo opportunities by our pool overlooking the Pyramids and announced to all of our followers that I was in Egypt safe and sound and ready to tell the real story on the post revolution Egypt.
David Valaika arrived in the evening and it was time to welcome him to Egypt the appropriate way with a few Egyptian beers at the hotel bar. David V. was excited for the trip, his first time in Egypt, and to check out the legendary diving in the Red Sea. An early start on Sunday morning brought us to the foot of Pyramids of Giza to tour the most famous antiquities of ancient Egypt. David V. was riding a camel in front of the Great Pyramid before our tour guide Manal could brief David V. on how to handle the local merchants and camel tenders and their aggressive sales tactics. I have been to the Pyramids of Giza twice previously and each time the immense structures appear more impressive. My task on the LTT FAM trip was to take numerous pictures and video of David V. enjoying his travels in Egypt and to discover new experiences myself. My third trip back to the Pyramids brought me to the South side of the Great Pyramid which provides an entire different perspective on the last remaining ancient wonder of the world including the granite floor of the now missing mortuary temple and a chance to enter and view the Solar Boat of Cheops Museum.
With a renewed sense of comradeship, Egyptians are mobilizing to meet the challenges lying ahead. In both Hurghada and Marsa Alam for instance, there have been over a dozen clean-up events since the start of the year, with more planned for the coming months. Over 3,000 members of the Red Sea diving community are came together this summer to set 2 Guinness World records for the largest dive at one time, and the biggest underwater clean-up.
In the region of the southern Red Sea is a whole different set of challenges. Encouraging tourism back to the south, as well as supporting and representing the industry locally and internationally have been our immediate objectives. Stakeholders in the Marsa Alam tourism industry have now formed an NGO (MAITA – Marsa Alam Investment &Tourism Association), with the stated goal of re-positioning the overalltourism performance and competitiveness of the southern Red Sea region.
One of Egypt‘s greatest natural assets, the Red Sea, lies against stark mountains and a breathtaking desert landscape. It’s crystal clear water provides an excellent diving spot as well as the ideal locations for a resort or vacation home! Check out this video that showcases the beauties of the waters of the Red Sea Rivera!
Take a look at this travel crew that hit Sinai earlier on a road trip starting from Taba passing by Nuweiba, Dahab and Sharm Al Sheikh, where they were introduced to the concept of eco-lodge tourism.
Besides Sinai’s most beautiful road along their path, it had so many great sights to visit:
The travel crew had such a great time sightseeing the shore that faces huge coloured mountains one of which is ” The Coloured Canyon”, surrounded with enormous,huge and uniquely drawn mountains , you could never ask for more!
And when you think it couldn’t get any better ! they set off to Dahab where they had the greatest snorkelling experience of all at the Blue Hole of Dahab which happens to be one of the most famous dive sites in Egypt. Well known to be chillingly awesome for snorkellers and definitely mysterious for divers.
Since Dahab is remarkeable for its interesting night life, at night they enjoyed the authentic oriental food in one the local restaurants around the Coast’s aisle.
A Surprising Tour by the Red Sea
One very remarkable thing about Sinai is its beautiful rocky formations that run parallel to the Red Sea. Throughout the second half of your road trip to Sinai, you will be amazed by the magnitude of mountains that surrounded the road, but no matter how grand they are, the master of all rocky formations that will take your breath away, literally, is the ‘Coloured Canyon’ sightseeing tour in Nuweiba.
Off the beaten track Safari you will take, and deep into a lot of desert dryness, will lie the wide spread Coloured Canyon. The scenery is…. so strong, so lofty, so empowering, but shocking at how it makes you feel small and weak. For the next -give or take- hour and a half, you will be put to one of the toughest tests that you will have to endure; its more a test of will than a physical test. But its sure worth it!
Winding Paths of the Coloured Canyon Adventure
Through the tight and wide cracked paths of the Canyon are wonders to see; the greenest of plants that grow in between the rocks, and you will endure one of the funniest of challenges such as having to slip through holes and jumping down your way, but most of all… you will get to find why it’s called the ‘coloured’ canyon.
Apart from the beautiful shades of brown that top the yellow sands, and embrace the miraculous greens, are the colours that run through the rocks, some of them even forming shapes like a face or a Pharaonic eye. And that’s why you won’t initially see the colours from above, it only reveals itself to the worthy who ventures into the bosom of the Canyon.
By the end of the tour route, despite how tired and thirsty you will be, it is such an amazing feeling that the primary obstacles you usually place before yourselves are no more that mental obstacles. ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ and we are that you will realise that you will come out of this experience a lot stronger, and more confident in the distance you can go….
One thing better than flying to Sharm El Sheikh, is travelling to Taba, Nuweiba or Dahab by car! Southern Sinai‘s indescribable winding mountains..that’s where this video shows during a road trip, which is anything but boring. Far from being dim, plain or unchangeable yellow desert, with a couple of scattered palm trees to rest every hundred miles, the road scenery is very diverse. Check it out!
One part of the video shows the most exquisite sightseeing part of the Red Sea, the natural site of Fiord bay. It is a pool made on the turn of a mountain, a sort of disclosed round lake that forces its way inland. Tens of meters high, the road shapes a turn on a mini-lagoon, which is the spot, famous for diving and snorkeling! Enjoy…