Jay & Nicole Visit Egypt 
Sharm El Sheikh - April 2009

(click any picture for enlargement)

Nicole and I currently live in Israel and are half way through our four-year posting. We hadn't visited Egypt up to this point, so we decided to go over Easter.  Our aim was to visit Sharm el Sheikh, on the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula.

Even thought the distance from Tel Aviv to "Sharm" is only 500 miles (800km), it was a difficult place to get to.  Recent military actions in Gaza have increased tensions at the border and there were reports of militants hiding in the Sinai, ready to attack tourists.  This meant that driving our car over the border wasn't an option.

We looked into flying, but the flights had connections in Cairo or Amman ... which meant a night in transit each way.  We finally decided to drive to Eilat, park the car and walk across the border.  We would then meet a pre-arranged taxi to take us to Sharm; the hotel made the arrangements and we felt good about the plan.

Nicole's mother was visiting us at the time and she gladly joined us on the trip.  

We awoke early and got on the road before the rush-hour traffic affected us. The 4-hour drive to Eilat began without any problems.


Our route to southern Israel began on a brand new toll road.  We made good time, passing many fields and orchards.  This area is quite dry and requires a lot of irrigation.


2009-04-Israel005 2009-04-Israel007 2009-04-Israel004
We continued past the town of Beersheba, known for it's ancient ties to Abraham.  It got more arid and we no longer saw fields or orchards; the previously flat terrain also began to get more hilly.

After two hours we entered the Negev desert area; the road was only two lanes, with slow pokes!

The only signs of life in this area were small Bedouin villages and a few military bases. 

We passed an area with many armored tanks; it was probably a training area.  Sorry about the bad pictures; I had to take them without being too obvious!  

We came to an enormous canyon and took a rest stop to enjoy the glorious views. 

The road was down there somewhere ... we had to cross that large expanse!

As we descended into the valley, we could see some very steep cliffs; an unexpected delight!

We traveled through the valley and crossed many dry riverbeds; they must have flowed eons ago.

We were quite surprised when we came upon another canyon ... we must be dropping in elevation. 

From this vantage we are looking east, over the Jordan River valley; Jordan is in the distance. 

2009-04-Israel055 2009-04-Israel057 2009-04-Israel058
We dropped down into the Jordan valley; shortly afterwards we began to see the hotels of Eilat.

We didn't have a lot of time, so we quickly drove into Eilat, to look at the touristy hotels and the Red Sea beaches.  The hotels are very classy ($$$$), but the beaches are bland and there are few waves.

We dropped the car with a co-worker and he gave us a ride to the sea-side border crossing (above).

There were hassles crossing the border, but nothing un-expected.  On the Egyptian side we found the taxi rep and he set us up with a nice car and driver.

The route to Sharm would follow the Red Sea (Gulf of Aqaba).  Most of the trip would be in the mountains, but sometimes we'd be able to follow the coast. 

We passed some fancy resorts and then we entered a barren desert area. 

The road was in great condition.  The driver explained, in decent English, that it was recently re-done to attract more tourists.

2009-04-RoadTrip106 2009-04-RoadTrip109

There were very few cars on the road, even though this was a peak vacation week ... maybe it was due to the high security threat.

The road followed a smooth incline into the coastal mountain range.

2009-04-RoadTrip101 2009-04-RoadTrip102

2009-04-RoadTrip305 2009-04-RoadTrip111 2009-04-RoadTrip114

During the next hour, we saw no visible signs of life ... what a desolate place!

As we got into mountainous areas there were checkpoints.  The driver easily got us though ... but I bet if we were traveling by ourselves, it would have been much tougher!  Note: the police were probably there to help and to verify that we were not being held captive by the driver. 2009-04-RoadTrip317 2009-04-RoadTrip104

2009-04-RoadTrip301 2009-04-RoadTrip310
We stopped for gasoline in a very unique looking area.  Initially I thought the dark patches in the mountains were shrubs, but they were zctually streaks of different rocks and minerals.

The Gulf of Aqaba is a large earthquake fault, which has caused violent up-lifting of the mountains.  This has exposed various mineral deposits, which could be mined if this was a stable, secure area.

Wow ... a few trees!!!

Sadly, they look like they have been dead for a long time ago.  

We got back to the coast and took a break near a really nice looking cove.

There was an old fort and a couple traditional sailboats taking tourists for a ride.  There was absolutely no wind, so they were having to motor around.

After the cove we began to see Bedouin villages.  These people used to be nomadic, but now are subsidized by the government.  Caves where the nomadic people used to stay while in the area.

They take the camels to the road and then hitchhike; I wonder if they lock their camels up?  :)  Some of the homes are secluded and set back in the hills; obviously there are no utilities. This place was quite run down, but they must be wealthy since there were many camels around.

2009-04-RoadTrip724 2009-04-RoadTrip725
Typical modern Bedouins ... most with the latest fashion ... many with smiles ... and all of them with grandly decorated camels! This camel is available for hire; flies included at no extra cost! 

Some places look so-so ... but then they a nice truck appears! A mosque seems to be the first thing built; homes will follow. These homes are government provided; like Mandela homes!

2009-04-RoadTrip717 <== A goat farmer ... what do the poor animals eat?

Shacks built by a dump  ==>
There is a lot of poverty that 
still needs to be addressed. 


We passed the town of Dahab, which is a major resort area. The town isn't that great, as it only provides residence for the people who are working at the resorts.

The workers are usually 'imported' from the Cairo area during the peak tourist season.

2009-04-RoadTrip903 2009-04-RoadTrip901

2009-04-RoadTrip906 2009-04-RoadTrip909 2009-04-RoadTrip910
We came to a "new age" coastal area that was very interesting ... a place to return to visit some day? 

2009-04-RoadTrip916 2009-04-RoadTrip917 2009-04-RoadTrip914

This area was called a campground, but it was actually full of small chalets & beach huts ; quite nice! 

2009-04-RoadTrip927 2009-04-RoadTrip926 2009-04-RoadTrip925

We saw major construction projects ... but we could not tell if they were active or defunct for years? 

2009-04-SharmArea102 2009-04-SharmArea101 2009-04-SharmArea200

We came out of the mountains and entered a sandy desert area that became quite wide.

2009-04-SharmArea105 2009-04-SharmArea203 2009-04-SharmArea206

We could see a built-up area in front of us ... along with electric poles and lots of appalling trash.

2009-04-SharmArea208 2009-04-SharmArea205 2009-04-SharmArea213

The trees and fences just became trash collectors ... they must have strong winds around here! 

2009-04-SharmArea301 2009-04-SharmArea304 2009-04-SharmArea305

We took an exit, so we must be getting close; the general area was very dry ... no lush coast.

The Sharm area is actually very spread out ... along 6 miles (10 km) of Red Sea coastline.

The main tourist area is towards the left of the map; our hotel is near the airport on the right.  

2009-04-SharmArea307 2009-04-SharmArea308 2009-04-SharmArea309
Hotel Complexes in View Interesting Sculptures Government Monument

2009-04-SharmArea351 2009-04-SharmArea352 2009-04-SharmArea312

There was construction everywhere; this area has grown a lot in the past few years.

2009-04-SharmArea363 2009-04-SharmArea356 2009-04-SharmArea383

Many projects look idle; maybe the financial crisis has impacted to this area.

2009-04-SharmArea360 2009-04-SharmArea358 2009-04-SharmArea382

The completed projects looked quite nice ... each having their own private entrance and beach.

2009-04-SharmArea388 2009-04-SharmArea950

We passed the sprawling, but un-interesting, international airport and then came to our hotel.


The rooms were OK but nothing special.  They faced the pool area, which is one of the main attractions of this hotel complex.  

I think there were 6 swimming pools in total.  Since this was an all-inclusive resort, the drinks at the pool bars were free!

There were no restaurants in the area, so we were happy to have our meals included ... the food turned out to be excellent!

2009-04-SharmArea623 2009-04-SharmArea624
The hotel complex was long and skinny.  Our room was in the new section near the top; the original section was nearer to the beach. 

The beach area is the main attraction for these resorts.

The water was a brilliant dark blue color, in contrast to the brightly light sand.

The only trees or vegetation were planted by the resorts.


The hotel beachfront was quite skinny; they made more space by terracing the cliffs.

2009-04-SharmArea626 2009-04-SharmArea628 2009-04-SharmArea627
We split our time between the pools and the beach area. Reserving a hut required getting up early and putting towels down.

The beach bar was popular, 
but never too crowded!

The floating docks provided access to the many water activities.

Even the military had fun!  :)

If you looked down the coast, you could see the beach areas of the neighboring resorts.  

Each hotel made the best of their small beachfront by cramming in as many little huts as they could. 

The coast was actually quite rugged and wasn't very good looking.  The huts looked like little hats and added an artistic touch.

2009-04-SharmArea700 2009-04-SharmArea718 2009-04-SharmArea702

The shoreline was rocky and had a great reef for snorkeling ... but no swimming from shore!

2009-04-SharmArea705 2009-04-SharmArea711 2009-04-SharmArea716

In this series, Nicole and her mother head out to the end of pier to snorkel and swim with the fish.

2009-04-SharmArea769 2009-04-SharmArea774

There are many dive sites in this area, which meant the amount of activity during the day was unreal.


During our stay we had a full moon night that began with a picturesque sunset and moonrise.

2009-04-SharmArea689 2009-04-SharmArea686 2009-04-SharmArea661

That evening we had our first water-pipe experience, with mint flavored tobacco ... and a great moon!

We didn't feel like leaving the hotel complex, since it was quite comfortable and there were many things to do.  

We only made one venture into the main tourist area of Sharm ... by taking the hotel shuttle on a 20 minute ride down the coast.

2009-04-SharmArea800 2009-04-SharmArea805

2009-04-SharmArea801 2009-04-SharmArea803 2009-04-SharmArea802

The shuttle driver had to make the obligatory stop at the local mosque ... anyone need to pray?

We were dropped off at another Hilton hotel.  As at our hotel, it was quite a walk from the road down to the beach area.

In this area the beach is more public.  There is a nice promenade for people to walk, which separates the beach from the resort areas.

2009-04-SharmArea810 2009-04-SharmArea807

The coast was flatter in this area and was packed with hotels and shops ... a tourist mecca!

The beach here was sandy, with no reef ... which meant you could swim from shore ... watch for boats!

The hotel areas were filled with new umbrellas and chairs ... it looked like a story book.


The in the background you can see nice boats and yachts ... there is no shortage of money for many people who stay here!

2009-04-SharmArea832 2009-04-SharmArea831 2009-04-SharmArea830

We didn't feel like shopping, so we just walked until we were tired.  It was hot and we picked a cute place to rest and have a drink.  Most places were Arabic and had many pillows and cushions.


The sun was setting as we returned to the hotel.  The traffic was minimal, as there isn't much night life.

Basically this ends the story.  We enjoyed our days at the pool or the beach ...
 ... with cool drinks and nice meals.  It was a great place to kick back and relax !

2009-04-SharmArea954 2009-04-SharmArea953 2009-04-SharmArea991
The same taxi picked us up for the ride back to Eilat.  As we left, there were police and security people all around ... even standing in the desert!   We never found out why ... but we got out safely! The drive back to Tel Aviv was long and tiring, but after 5 days of relaxing ... no problem!

In summary, the Sharm area was a great place to visit ... mostly for it's access to the Red Sea. 
There are so many other places we'd like to see in Egypt, so it may be a while before we return!

Return to Jay's Main Page