Egypt – Sunshine in Sharm

Spice up your life

A sunshine break to Egypt topped up my drastically depleted melatonin levels this month.
Sharm El Sheik on the Sinai peninsula is a text book example of a well planned tourist destination. With fabulous weather, year round sunshine and an almost permanent cooling offshore breeze caressing the fabulous reefs of the red sea, it has multiple cheap flights and package holidays from the UK providing easy access for us pasty, desperate Brits. It is also VERY cheap compared with our oft favoured European destinations where our weak and disabled pound buys you less and less baguettes for your money.
Due to the fabulous undersea life of rainbow fishes, spotty rays and all things Jacques Cousteau, Sharm is a busy, popular diving and snorkelling centre (if you don’t mind getting your face wet) The resort of Naama Bay where we stayed has lots of dive centres and also lots of night life on the beach and in the streets surrounding the many hotels, if that is an essential element to your holiday experience..

Bedouin Bingo

Sharm El Sheik employs a lot of young Egyptian men and one or two women (belly dancers mainly). They are sent from their rural villages to work in the hotels, bars, restaurants and shops. You will see young men dancing the Macarena, charming snakes, riding photogenic camels and proclaiming happy hour to the hapless visitor at any time of the day or night. Once you are identified as English you may well be assailed with phrases such as ‘Lovely Jubbly’ or ‘Cheap as chips.’ If you admit to a Newcastle connection you will be promptly asked about the health of Alan Shearer. The Egyptian’s somewhat out of date cultural reference points can be viewed as very irritating or conversely just part of the job, trying to make you feel at home. ‘Old’ Sharm the next village along (nothing here is old) features a large display of plastic rocks with a water fall cascading down them and here you can find the Hard Rock Cafe with a pink cadillac outside it and a McDonalds and a KFC, if that’s what floats your boat. It is a weird mixture of authentic Egyptian stuff and Western naffness, and yet it somehow manages to retain a certain crazy charm. You can smoke a hubba bubba pipe with fruity tobacco and watch the stars through a giant telescope in the desert while enjoying your chicken swarma and hummus. Or you can play Bingo and smoke yourself to death with cheap cigarettes.

Fags ‘R’ us!

You can shop for spices, handmade recycled glass and beautiful local Agate jewellery. Or you can drink dubious cocktails and go to a foam party. You can watch an astonishing whirling Dervish whirl dervishly, or take in every football match from around the globe on a giant TV screen in the street while drinking Stella Artois. It’s up to you.

That boy can spin!

The whirling dervishes incidentally are pretty impressive. It is thought that the Dervishes originated in turkey but it is common in Egypt and was a kind of Sufi worship. There is still something mesmerising about their amazing spinning round at high speed in their colourful outfits and soft leather boots. First they whirl their skirts up and down and overhead, then they whirl decorated pans. In the show that we saw, the Dervish must have somehow been carrying a hidden battery in his pants and lit himself up like a Christmas Tree for the grand finale. I think that’s a more recent addition to the Dervish display though.


Lobster liaison

The food and drink in Egypt have improved but it’s still no gourmet paradise. Lots of seafood and lots of restaurants trying be Italian or Indian of Chinese or Mexican but never quite making it. The best food is the Egyptian or Lebanese food. Lots of kebabs and hummus, baba ganouche (aubergine) hot bread and chicken. The wine is something else. I tried a bottle of Obelisk wine once (the modern Egyptian wine) and it tasted like a bottle of drain cleaner. Whatever you do DO NOT drink it unless you want to feel very ill indeed. Omar Kyham and Sheherzade wine are new on the block and taste more like normal wine if you can’t drink the local beer. It’s odd to me that some of the first wine ever made in history was made from grapes grown on the banks of the Nile and they still don’t seem to have got the hang of it.Cairo Capers

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