Before going on holiday all I ever heard for months was ‘be careful out there… the heat is unbearable… make sure you wear sun cream’ and in all honestly I thought that these people were just being rather hyperbolic and were trying to scare me. I thought I had been abroad before, to places like Turkey which on a bad day went above 40 degrees – so I thought I’m an experienced trooper I’ll be fine. Gosh was I wrong! The first thing I remember upon landing in this exquisite country is that the concept I had of ‘heat’ could not match up to what was actually surrounding me.
We arrived at our hotel, The Four Seasons, around midnight and it was, to my surprise, still around 36 degrees and the humidity was increasing in its high percentage. I can’t say if this was common for the time of year (mid July – mid August) but this temperature was continuous throughout the month I was travelling there.
For the first part of our trip we were staying in The Four Season Hotel (and then we moved to a cheaper Savoy hotel – cheaper in price but not in facilities and standards), located on the Soho Square in Sharm el Sheikh. This is an area full of shopping (both of the conventional touristy shops and more traditional shops full of Middle Eastern rarities), an ambitious nightlife centre, home to an ice-skating rink, a bowling alley, a Culturama centre and many top-end restaurants (most of which had a dress code – flip-flops and swimming costumes were not allowed).
I quickly found that this area was the perfect destination for all generations and for every kind of holiday – be it one in search of adventure, culture, activities or merely one of soaking up the sun. During the day, each hotel offered a range of activities such as scuba diving, swimming with the fish (which I couldn’t recommend enough as the crystal-clear waters and the incredible variety of exotic fish moving in and out of the colourful coral reefs allowed you to enter a unique underwater paradise), tennis, etc. that all ages could participate in. In the evenings, there were entertainments and activities in Soho Square (and in each individual hotel) that accommodated everyone, from pantomimes to music concerts. It even provided a private and more significantly quiet area for those adults who wanted a break from their children as there were areas where under 18s were unable to go.
Despite this being an exciting location, for me, it wasn’t these immediate proximities that was so fascinating but rather the desert that engulfs the square. It is simply breath-taking! It is easy when you are caught up and consumed by the opportunities and possibilities presented to you that you forget that you are actually holidaying in a very small section of a very large, dry, sandy desert.
It is located on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aqaba at the northern tip of the Red Sea, east of the Sinai Peninsula. This area was occupied by the Israelis from 1967 – 1968. It translates to ‘Solomon’s Bay’, the name is an allusion to King Solomon’s fleets which passed through the adjacent Strait of Tiran on their way from the port of Ezion-geber, at the head of the Gulf, to the land of Ophir, which has been identified as being India, Ethiopia or Arabia.
Throughout most of history, Sharm el Sheikh, was uninhabited until the importance of commanding the narrow entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba became known. This entrance is 14 miles northeast of Sham el Sheikh’s bay, at the Strait of Tiran which is blocked by islets and coral reefs. The development of the area as a tourist site began under the Israeli administration and was continued by the Egyptian government. Consequently, becoming an ideal destination that foregrounded its rich, cultured and historical background in order to provide and combine an exotic, traditional Egyptian experience with the ease and enjoyment that the tourist site and activities had to offer.