February 22nd, 2022
We had morning flights to “Sharm” and had arranged for our driver from yesterday’s West Bank tour to pick us up at 5:45 am. The flight was through Cairo so it was two one hour-ish flights to get there shortly after 11; both left more on less on time. Here in Egypt airports, you go through security twice; once entering the airport and then again before boarding at your gate. It’s a hassle for sure (first world problem) as we cannot use our “TSA pre check” here. After Fran passes through the metal detector she also gets a quick pat down by a female agent. At some airports, we even have to go through security in queues based on our sex!
Doug had arranged an airport pick up in Sharm El Sheikh and the driver was waiting for us with a sign. He took us directly to the Marriott Renaissance pointing out a few things along the way with his limited English.
Doug had arranged five free points nights for a standard room with a fridge and including breakfast. For some reason they think Doug has Gold status (when he believes he only has silver) but we’ll take it cause they gave us an upgrade to a full suite complete with kitchen including stove/oven and fridge (as well as a washing machine) with not only the garden view we expected but a view that included the garden, a pool and the sea!
We got checked in and took a taxi into town with the plan to have lunch at the Hard Rock Café then get groceries before going back to the hotel. The hotel does offer “an inclusive” option but that is outrageously priced so we’ll do the free buffet hot breakfast as late as we can and do our own dinner.
Turned out that the Hard Rock doesn’t start serving meals until three o’clock and it’s only one and we have not eaten at all today so we found a beach restaurant to eat with this view:
Food was okay and we walked out to the beach; sand was nice and water looked clear. Turned out the grocery store we wanted to go to was closed down but our taxi driver had shown us another Carrefour location so after getting him back to us, we had him take us there, we shopped and returned. We are trying to figure out how and where to go snorkeling around here as it’s a huge diving/snorkeling region here.
Doug asked the hotel personnel about kitchen ware – we have a full kitchen but totally empty cupboards! No dishes, plates, pots or utensils! Mohammed brought us a few plates, some silverware, a couple of pots and a pan and we figure we can make do with that. He also brought us some laundry soap. There is an electric kettle and a microwave as well.
Doug asked about the resort’s Dive Centre and was directed there. Turns out due to slow-ish tourism right now there are not trips out every day. They do have one on Friday but looking at the forecast, the wind is supposed to start picking up on Thursday and they do not have a trip going tomorrow, Wednesday, the calmest day. We began looking online with not much success. At five we both walked over to the Dive Centre again to find it closed but a young man who takes care of the jetty and beach there, helped us in the end. We have arranged a speed boat for tomorrow for three hours just for us to take us to three nearby snorkeling spots. It’s a bit pricier than we’d like but hopefully it fits our desires
We both slept pretty well in our “suite” and Wednesday morning enjoyed a big hot breakfast at the buffet before walking over to the jetty for 9 am.
Naturally, because this is Egypt, the speed boat we’d arranged was late but we enjoyed watching the fish in the reef right below the jetty.
When we got to our first of three snorkel spots that we’d requested, we realized he’d forgotten a snorkel for Doug! Doug has his own prescription lensed mask but told the fellow yesterday, he needed a snorkel and that we both needed fins and Fran needs a mask. Somehow that didn’t get relayed so back we went to the jetty.
The mask Fran got was one of those full face masks with the snorkel coming out of the top. It took a while to get it to a point where it didn’t leak (she has too much hair!) and it fogged up quickly. Before getting to our second spot, the boat driver hailed another boat and got some dish soap for our masks. As he was cleaning Fran’s, he realized it had a plastic protective film still inside so that wasn’t helping – must have been a brand new one. The visibility improved greatly after that.
The snorkeling at “the Temple” was not great; most of the coral was dead but there were several colourful fish. After a half hour in the water, we moved on to Na’ama Bay which was much better but still not world class in our opinion. We did a half hour there and then moved north to Shark’s Bay. Unfortunately, it was similar to the temple spot with fewer fish but more coral. We still did about a half hour in the water there too.
As you can see from the photos there’s really not much real beach here – it comes in small sections mostly; it’s a rocky shoreline with openings mostly for access to the water and most resorts have a pier/jetty that takes you out to deeper water. Since we did not book a trip through the Dive Centre here, we did not have snorkel gear to keep for the duration to use on our own time.
All in all it was an expensive three hour outing and not great but the water was warmish (Doug got cold at the second stop but managed to stay in the water). He was pretty cold most of the way back to the Marriott though.
On the positive side it was great to be snorkeling again and having picked the least windy day of our stay here, the water was very clear and not being all stirred up. But we can now say, we’ve snorkeled in the Red Sea. We were back around 12:30 and after showers, spent the afternoon chillin’ and had happy hour on beach chairs at the shore. Fran made pasta for dinner in the room that night.
Thursday morning, Doug went for a run and we both did some exercise before going for a late breakfast. Since we normally don’t eat breakfast (unless it’s free!) we went at 10 before it shut down at 10:30 hoping to be able to skip lunch and then have dinner in our room. Fran did a load of laundry that day and then went for a walk.
For such a dry place, there is huge water park a street off the main beach drag- we assume the water comes from the sea but it’s not open in winter. There are palm trees everywhere.
In the early afternoon we went down to read at the “beach” but after an hour it was getting too windy to be comfortable without shelter. It was still warm but sand began to blow around at times. The temperature so far have been in the mid 20’s / mid to high 70’s and the sun is out most of the time (sometimes a bit of thin clouds). It’s supposed to cool slightly by the weekend but the sun will continue to shine down on us.
In the late afternoon we heard from EuroCampingcars: all to ready for 2nd. Need another doc signed in order to attend to registration but we can do the day we arrive. So we booked our flight sto Paris; arranged chauffer pick up from CDG to EuroCampingcars in Sens – about 100km / 60 mi southeast of the city.
Friday we chilled at the resort; it was rather windy so another day of not using the pool or the sea although many, many are – mostly Russians we figure. We tried to go out for dinner at one of their restaurants but they don’t open until late.
Fran did a second load of laundry and we’re all caught up on clean clothes before heading back to Cairo. Saturday was another quiet day – probably the last for a while – it hasn’t been exciting here but we’ve loved being by the sea, reading with a view, happy hour with a view and even if it wasn’t hot (many Russians were going in the water a lot – only one pool was heated) so we never used the pool and our only swim was during the snorkel which wasn’t too bad except the first jump in.
Sunday was windy once again with lots of waves on the ocean. We had a taxi pick us up for the airport which was super hectic. It took forever to get through security; they have two lines: one for men and one for women and the female agent there was a *itch! Then we had to go through security again two minutes later – WTH? There were screaming kids running around and even on flight some kids not buckled in!
Our hotel driver was ready for us and we got back safe and sound. We decided to be bad and went out to Hardee’s for burgers – they were barely okay which is not really a surprise.
Monday morning our Cairo guide, Sayed met us and took us to try and see the Suez Canal. As you know we saw the Panama Canal back in 2017 (wow was it really that long ago!?) and Doug really wanted to see this one. There were many roads closed or being worked on enroute and this was pretty much the view the whole way:
Now you can’t get close to the canal for security reasons (they say) but we were able to see the canal from the edges of a small park – couldn’t go in the park though (?). We also saw a tug boat but no ship. We could see a road on the map that paralleled the canal northward and we tried to drive to it but it was blocked off by security pretty quickly.
The Suez Canal is a human-made waterway that cuts north-south across the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt. The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, making it the shortest maritime route to Asia from Europe. Since its completion in 1869, it has become one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes. The Suez Canal is important because it is the shortest maritime route from Europe to Asia. Prior to its construction, ships headed toward Asia had to embark on an arduous journey around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. Because of its strategic location, the canal is both heavily used and heavily protected. The original canal did not permit two-way traffic, and ships would stop in a passing bay to allow the passage of ships in the other direction. Transit time then averaged 40 hours, but by 1939 it had been reduced to 13 hours.
As it was noonish, we went for lunch to a Greek place on the second floor with view of the Red Sea. We could see large freighters out in the distance. There was a resort down below the restaurant:
So we went back to Cairo faster than getting there but hit bad traffic the last half hour or so; we had Sayed drop off us close to the hotel and said our goodbyes. We then tried to buy beer but for some reason the all of the shops we knew of were closed in the afternoon.
We relaxed in our room a bit before going out and getting some beer and snacks for dinner. At the beer store (a shop called “Drinkies” where they only sell alcohol) we met an Aussie couple, Steve & Liz, who have been sailing around the world and currently reside in Turkey. We chatted for a bit and went our separate ways.
Tuesday was our last full day in Cairo. The only thing we hadn’t done yet was the Khan el-Khalili bazaar – the largest “souk” in Egypt. We didn’t need to buy anything but just wanted to check it out. It was just over 3km / 2mi from our hotel so we walked.
We arrived early so the crowds were not bad but within the hour, it was chaotic! We thought about what we might need to buy in Europe for our new “home” and although much of it would be too heavy to pack with us, we thought an extra fleece blanket for us each would come in handy and be cheaper here. As usual many people greeted us, welcomed us, tried to get us into their shops but we managed to get passed them. One fellow offered to help us find a couple of things but of course, he then wanted us to come see his silver jewelry shop.
and a large Coptic church:
We have done an Amazon France order that should all arrive by tomorrow with bedding and a few electrical appliances but we’ll need lots of kitchen stuff. At the Marriott in Sharm we snagged a couple of huge beach towels (sshhh!) and we brought a bath towel and face cloth each from our trailer. We hope to find a second hand shop to get some basic supplies and get these as we need/want them ie camp chairs.
We stocked up on Egyptian dried dates and then Doug looked for a pair of cheap walking shoes. We are also trying to make sure we spend all our Egyptian pounds but have enough left to get dinner!
We stopped for falafels and drinks and returned to the hotel to pack up, weigh our bags and enjoy the afternoon. Today the temps are supposed to reach 27C / mid 80’s so it’s warming up but it seems spring is coming in like a lamb cause then it’s going to cool off again in Cairo so we’ll enjoy one last warm day before we land in Paris tomorrow afternoon.
Thoughts and notes on Egypt:
- A fascinating country full of ancient history and some well-preserved/restored sights
- It’s sunny ALL the time – because it’s a desert and they get virtually no rain
- Not that expensive unless you make it so
- In a country that has ONE water source, there does not seem to be a concern about water.
- Highway and road lanes are just “suggestions” but we did not find Cairo as chaotic as Mumbai; signage is nearly nonexistent and rarely in English – even locals struggle
- Highly recommend the dahabiya cruise – was definitely a highlight for us both and exceeded expectations!
- WhatsApp and Skype do not work for calls in Egypt since the 2011 revolution and has never been reinstated – difficult for the average citizen.
- It’s too bad they don’t make the Suez Canal more of an attraction to tourists – it could be a money maker and create jobs – there isn’t even a museum dedicated to it.
- There is a great sadness, desperation and hopelessness in the people; it’s been ten years since the revolution and things are worse than before it; politics is taboo, the government is not at all concerned about the people. It’s so sad to see a country with so many people suffering under the leadership it has; the 2011 brought about change including an election but all was taken away two years later. The people feel the corruption in the government.
- People are friendly; never felt unsafe; heard nothing about pick pocketing
- Sidewalks are taken over by vendors or are in disrepair so pedestrians often use the street instead
- Lane markings are mere suggestion
- The dates here are fantastic – you just have to be aware of the various qualities
- The pita bread is king here – it’s used at almost every meal
- The government is building a “new capital” moving people and offices outside Cairo in effect to make it hard for protest