After my friend had to pull out of our Egyptian holiday in the 11th hour due to last minute commitments in the British Army, I twisted the arm of one of my GBF’s, Stephen, to drop everything he was doing and come with me on a free holiday, courtesy of the Army. We had shunted the usual Sharm el-Sheikh for our Brits abroad adventure, choosing instead to try out, what was then up-and-coming, Hurghada, which seemed from the map to be a much better place to base ourselves on the Red Sea for easier access to Cairo and Luxor for a spot of sight-seeing.
Staying in the Hurghada Seagull Beach Resort, we were waterfront on the Red Sea, and everything was all-inclusive as you’d expect from such a resort. We were two of very few Brits that we encountered within the walls of the Resort, it was clearly a lot more popular with Eastern Europeans to venture over this side of the sea for a resort-style holiday back then.
By day in Hurghada, we roamed the El Dahar district, commonly know as ‘Old Town’. This is where you can see the traditional Egyptian coffee shops and souks, and get a real vibe for the culture here. At night we flocked to the Sekalla district, where you could dine and drink in many bars and restaurants catering to the international crowd, and the home of Hed Kandi and Ministry of Sound dance parties at open-air beachfront clubs like Papas. At least once during you stay, it is mandatory to head down to one of these beach clubs, kick back on a lounger, smoke a little Shisha, and sip on some exotic cocktail while the DJ spins the latest in house beats for you.
There is just one thing that I urge anyone to remember when drinking and clubbing abroad in Egypt – do not drink the water and ask for no ice in your drinks! Trust me, it is not worth Egyptian belly for a trip as short as a 2 week vacation. My poor companion, Stephen, actually ended up in the local clinic on a drip for an entire evening one night, after he came down with Egyptian belly from the ice in his vodka sodas!!
Hurghada is also very well-known for it’s excellent diving opportunities. Not far off the Red Sea shore, our yacht anchored down at a shallow-ish reef, no more than 12m to the sea bed. As Stephen and I were beginners, we were giving an instructor to share and, with one of us on each arm, the instructor took us down into this magical and colourful world under the sea. I was not expecting to see so much colour and so much life in this one little spot! I would hands down recommend the Red Sea for any diving enthusiast, it was absolutely stunning!
My favourite part was when we stood on the seabed and danced for the cameraman as he glided through a wall of hundreds of yellow and blue fish to provide us with a memorabilia video to take home with us, which I still watch every now and then to reminisce. My least favourite part was when I got out of the water after our second – non assisted – dive, only to get mocked by the (incompetent) Egyptian boat-owners who had “accidentally” sent me down without a full oxygen tank. “You’re tank’s empty!”, they laughed. “It’s a good job you came up when you did!”. Mortified…
On another day out of the resort, we joined one of the hotel’s organised trips that took us out into the baron desert. Lunching in bedouin-style tents in between quad-biking across the landscape, this fantastically organised trip was a brilliant day out, filled with culture, adrenalin and awe-inspiring views. As the sun set over the sand, we were treated to a banquet and a live show in-the-round. There was fire-breathers, snake charmers and belly dancers to keep you entertained all evening before it was time to be shuttled back to the resort.
All in all, Hurghada was a funny one for me. There were parts of the town that I loved, but I still look back on it without feeling much emotion, which is unusual for me. When the travel agent had told us Hurghada was up-and-coming, they certainly weren’t wrong in their statement. While half-finished buildings lined the streets, it was clear how much money was being invested in to bringing in tourism to the area, which I was happy to be a part of. And it did end up being a fantastic location for us to base ourselves from, for boat trips on the Red Sea, visits to the desert and the other great Cities, I’ll give it that!
It’s been eight long years since I was there. If you’ve been to Hurghada recently, please leave a comment and let me know what it’s like now? Would you recommend it? Is it on par, better or worse than Sharm el-Skeikh for resort holiday-makers?
Stay tuned for next time as I blog about my travel’s deep into Ancient Egypt; when I visited Luxor and Cairo, and walked in the footprints of Pharaohs!
Featured photo by Travelway.pl, All photo’s below are my own.
Sea Gull Beach Resort
Day Out in the Desert, Hurghada