We thought it was about time we updated Six Go Mad!
Sharm El Sheikh.
We stayed at the Coral Beach Tiran hotel. Its a very smart, new hotel but the Winter Palace it ain't! Its not really Egypt, that just happens to be the country its located in. Sharm el Sheikh is a huge development purely for tourists. There is no pretence at it being anything but that. The hotels, food and the shops are dedicated to an international cliental who want the sun, sea and/or diving. There is nothing wrong with this, one of my sons stayed at the Movenpick & loved it, plus Kath's sister stayed at an all inclusive hotel that sounded much better than ours. I guess its my personal choice of missing the real people & history of Luxor. This is real desert, no Nile, no farms, even the fruit juice at the hotel was not fresh. It's miles from Luxor on another peninsular and then four hours across the desert and its even further from Cairo. This is a world of new buildings, the Hard Rock Cafe and a hint of an old fishing village in the Old Sharm town, near a harbour.
Everything is shipped in. There are no local Egyptians, no families, no children, no donkeys, no real souks for buying things you need to keep your family alive. There isn't an Egyptian quarter as all the staff are on contract, without their families, to earn a living. I think the theory is, the money is good servicing this kind of tourist but I also think the cost of living is high, as its all brought from somewhere else. The food in the area was almost without exception, very good. You can choose from KFC, Pizzahut, Indian, Chinese even Egyptian. This was certainly not the same in the hotel. Except for breakfast, which was good, this rest was poor. A very nice guy in the Mocha cafe had the Egyptian food cooked especially for us, which was a saving grace. There were many places to eat in the hotel, but they all had the same choice of menu under another cafe name.
Everyone we met was really nice, the staff at the hotel were excellent, very good service and very willing. I realise that who ever you meet, would tell you that you were their favourite nationality but the invasion of the Russians has soured their attitude to them. I had a conversation with a very nice, very westernised Russian who told me that Russians only wanted fast, accurate service and had no need for smiles or pleasantries and they found the concept of "Egyptian time" intolerable. This was why they didn't tip & were very irritated by the laidback style of the Egyptian waiters!
I made a couple of mistakes with the choice of this hotel. First were the number of steps from the main hotel area to your apartment or the beach area. It was very steep and it's only advantage seemed to be, you were very fit at the end of the holiday. The second was the distance from Sharm or the Old Sharm town. Although there was a free bus twice a day, the timing was somewhat inconvenient and it only took you to the main area of Sharm el Sheikh. This meant a reliance on the taxi. Not that expensive and the cars were much newer but it added to the costs, especially if you needed to get to Old Sharm. Once you had been to either town a couple of times you knew it well. There was a pleasant walk along a road that separated the hotels from the beach at Sharm. There were few "normal" shops and at least I found a place selling Ritter chocolate! Obviously to satisfy the cravings of our German friends. Although the centre of Luxor is designed for tourists; furniture shops, plumbers & dress shops for Egyptians, are scattered all around. Here in Sharm its 100% tourism.
Which brings us to the reason to go to Sharm ... the snorkelling and the sunshine. Well the sun is there all the time! We went in January & the wind can be chilly and it can be overcast but its great. As for the swimming you are actively discouraged from swimming in the swallow water. I guess this was because of the sharp coral. Whistles were blown if you tried. You were expected to swim off the floating pontoons that took you to the reef's edge, where there were lifeguards ... and the chance to sell you deep water diving, which was another source of revenue. The shallow water was OK but we were spoilt by Fort Arabesque. There were very few fish in comparison. Pleasant enough, bits of coral and stuff to see. Maybe another hotel would have been much better.