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Red Sea
Egypt, North Africa

 

 

Red Sea coral and diver, Egypt, North Africa

Coral is alive and thriving in the Red Sea, Egypt.

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When to visit Red Sea

Best: September - May. It rarely (almost never) rains so humidity is very low; it'll be T-shirt days and sweatered winter nights.
Worst: Christmas and Easter school holidays (overpriced and overcrowded) June-Sept (heat).
The air temperature in this region ranges from about 30°C in May (26°C at night) and water temperature of 24°C, to 20°C in February (16°C at night) and water temperature of 20°C.
The hottest month - uncomfortably so, is August, 42 °C in February (33°C at night) and water temperature of 28°C .

 

The Red Sea

A mere five hours direct flight from the UK, the Red Sea gets almost certain sunshine all day long, some warmish waters, world-beating Red Sea coral and marine life coupled with modest prices, and some fair beaches - ironically in this country that's 98% desert the sand is coarse and beaches tend to be small. The best beaches are artificial and mostly on the mainland (Hurghada) side.

 

Red Sea Resorts

Sharm el Sheikh and other resorts in the area are now victims of their own success with the biggest problem being how to avoid being part of a milling, mooing herd from dawn to dusk.

wind surfer, Dahab, Egypt

Windsurfing off Dahab, Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea, Egypt.

 

 

Beach resorts line both sides of the sea, on the east side and part of the Sinai peninsula is the long established Sharm el Sheikh and its neo-hippy counterpart, Dahab. This side has activity options outside the resorts, such as trips to St Catherine's monastery, colourful rock canyons or even Israel and Jordan are not a huge drive away.

On the west (mainland) coast of the Red Sea lies relatively old and touristy Hurghada (not a pretty sight) and a cluster of new resort towns that are resolutely inward-looking and uncultured but nevertheless can provide good value, guaranteed sun, sand and sea holidays.

 

 

Red Sea beach at Hurghada, Egypt

Typical Hurghada resort beaches on the Red Sea, Egypt's mainland.

Hurghada on the Red Sea's west coast is a 30km string of resorts with no urban heart, unless you call a short parade of fast food joints, Sky TV pubs and tacky souvenir shops a worthwhile core. i.e. if you choose to holiday in Hurgada then accept that you'll be in your resort hotel, on the beach or in the sea, unless you take a tour or car hire to Luxor. On a comparison website like this one you'll find inexpensive Hurghada hotels that have good ratings and are considered decent quality by previous guests.

Hurghada, a fishing village just 30 years ago is now a chaotic mass of style-free cement blocks unless you happen to be staying in an exclusive resort in which case forget the town, enjoy your little paradise, it will be good value, the sun will doubtless shine all day every day and the diving/snorkelling will be superb, unless you bump into jellyfish.

The wreck of the Sha'ab Abu Nuhas is a famous dive nearby or the islands of Giftun and Abu Ramada are good for easier coral and fish gazing.
Hurghada is on Egypt's west Red Sea coast, more or less opposite Sharm el Sheikh which is on the south tip of the Sinai peninsula.

 

Sharm el Sheikh hotel and beach, Red Sea, Egypt

Sharm el Sheikh, the Red Sea.

 

 

Sharm el Sheikh, on the other hand and on the Sinai side of the Red Sea, more upmarket than Hurghada and with excellent watersports facilities does have a plausible, lively tourist centre in Na'ama Bay, though it's still short of laid-back Egyptness and the suburbs are a half-developed wasteland.

Apart from sunbathing Sharm's raison d'etre is scuba diving, with two prime sites attracting most of the dive boats - the Strait of Tiran in the north and Ras Mohammed in the south. The best dive locations may take up to two hours to reach though good snorkelling places are close by.

How to avoid the dive crowds? Start really early or spend a few days on a live-aboard dive boat that will anchor in just the right place at the right time. Live-aboards sail from Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada and newly developed Marsa Alam (south of Hurghada on the Egyptian mainland).

 

Red Sea's , Dahab village, Egypt

Dahab and the Sinai mountains, Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea.

Dahab, north of Sharm el Sheikh and heading up the Gulf of Aqaba, is the Red Sea's most relaxed and natural resort/village with some lovely small hotels and restaurants and clusters of neo-hippies to prove it, though as the place develops they will doubtless be exiled and the charm will be cemented over. Next stop Aqaba?

Dahab also offers great snorkelling and diving, including immediately offshore, but the beaches are miserable. Other activities available around Dahab are camel rides to St Catherine's monastery, visiting Bedouin camps and quad-biking.

 

Other newish, still developing Red Sea tourist resorts can be found in the Gulf of Aqaba at Nuweiba (picture below) and Taba, or north of Hurghada at El Gouna and south of Hurghada at Makadi Bay, El Quseir and Marsa Alam.

 

Nuweiba, Gulf of Aqaba, Egypt

Nuweiba beaches, Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea.

 

email from Henry:
We made one excursion from Dahab to the Greek Orthodox monastery of Saint Catherine which is built around the burning bush from where Moses supposedly heard God speak to him. The bush is still there even though much of it has been hacked away by zealous pilgrims.

The monastery continues to be inhabited by a number of Greek Orthodox monks so it is only open for visitors for a couple of hours a day. When we arrived there were already coach loads of impatient tourists waiting to go in. Eventually, the doors opened they barged their way in. We hung back waiting for things to calm down and entered when most people were already leaving. It didn’t give us much time, but at least we were left to walk around its cobbled streets relatively in peace.

Dahab is a very different from the rest of Egypt. Less than 30 years ago it was just a collection of huts and cabanas that the Bedouin used to rent out to travelers and young Israelis. Now it is much more developed with lots of hotels, restaurants, shops and scuba diving establishments. To be quite honest it is not really my scene, but my family loved it.

Sinai bedouin, near the Red Sea in Egypt

Sinai desert bedouin, Egypt.

 

 

Bedouin

Bedouin are nomadic desert people of different tribes spread over North Africa and the Middle-East and frequently found in the Sinai peninsula. They are courageous, self-sufficient and offer extreme hospitality to other desert travellers - unless of course they have a grudge in which case the unwelcome arrival will become dog meat pretty quickly.

A popular bedou saying is 'I against my brothers, I and my brothers against my cousins, I and my brothers and my cousins against the world'.

A common mistake: Bedou is the singular form of the Arabic noun, bedouin the plural just as fellah (peasant farmer) is singular and fellaheen is plural.

 

 

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