In March Vitaliy and I visited Sharm El Sheikh, that is located in the South of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.
You may have heard that Egypt has often been in the news recently and governments of some countries including the US and UK advise against all but essential travel to the Governorate of South Sinai, with the exception of the area within the Sharm el Sheikh perimeter barrier and the area west of the Nile Valley and Nile Delta regions, excluding the coastal areas between the Nile Delta and Marsa Matruh. Back in March (2017) our Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not have any official guidelines about visiting the Sinai Peninsula so we went.
Safety – the first thing we need to talk about before going to Egypt
Even though it is advised against all travels to Sinai, in practice, Dahab and Sharm El Sheikh, the two most popular resort areas in Sinai keep working and accepting tourists every day. The areas are protected by military at numerous checkpoints. If you are looking for the safest and most peaceful getaway, then visiting Sharm El Sheikh might not be the best option for you, because you will be seeing armed military from time to time. And they are there for a reason.
However, we are experienced travelers, and we have been seeing armed military in different parts of the world, and we accept this side of how things are. We were fine and felt safe and loved it there.
Other than that, we felt safe all over, tourists are very well protected by the tourist police. If you decide to visit Sharm El Sheikh and Egypt, use your common sense, trust yourself and you will be fine. Egypt and Sinai are amazing destinations to visit for history, adventures in Sahara or Sinai deserts and the beautiful Red Sea.
Hotels in Sharm El Sheikh
The hotels in Sharm El Sheikh were more of a disappointment for us. We stayed in one of the many «all-inclusive-5-star-hotels» that just don’t correspond to their rating so I really can’t recommend any. If I ever go to Sharm El Sheikh again, I will stay in a villa instead.
To be honest, we were not going to Egypt to experience a stay in one of the resorts. We were going there to experience the Red Sea and the desert. Those are the two beautiful contrasts of the region.
The majority of the hotels are located on the side of Nabq Bay and have piers built over the coral reefs in the sea. On the first day, I was sitting on the end of the pier in our hotel and I noticed that at some point the chain of the hotels along the seashore ends.
It seemed like nothing was there. But I know that if it seems like there was nothing, something should definitely be there.
I went back to our hotel room and asked Vitaliy to take a long walk with me towards the place where the hotels ended.
We walked pass the hotels until we reached a place where the rocky desert met the sea. Further on we saw some hay shacks and old fishermen boats. We went further on to see if that was a village, but we saw one Bedouin wearing a white галабея who was sitting on a handwoven rug on the sand. We greeted him and asked what was that place. It was his little cafe that used to host tourists back in the days when traveling to Egypt was more popular and safe. The Bedouin’s name was Sayed and he invited us for a tea and a friendly conversation that we gladly accepted. Back in the days, he was a tourist guide, but because not many tourists come there nowadays he lives in his cafe with his cats and in Dahab with his family. He invited us to go on a tour to the Sinai desert but we decided to go to Cairo.
The Red Sea
The Red Sea is a paradise for diving and snorkeling. Usually, rivers bring in ooze and sand into the seas making the water turbid. However, due to the fact that no river flows into the Red Sea, its water is absolutely clear.
The Red Sea is a true Egypt’s gem with over two thousand kilometers of coral reefs growing along the shoreline with many colorful species of fish living there. There isn’t that many fish in the reefs near hotels because they get disturbed by tourists so the fish leaves those corals and goes to the less popular with tourists. But we were lucky to find a perfect place where we escaped from our noisy hotel with plenty of colorful fish living in the reefs.
On the end of the Peninsula, we found an ethnic lounge cafe Farsha, that is located on the top of a rock cliff. Ii is perfect to have a drink or hookah (shisha) with a beautiful view. But if you go down to the water and then to the rocks on the right, you will find probably the best place in Sharm El Sheikh to spend a peaceful day at the beach and snorkel.
There are many dolphins in the Red Sea. Usually, you would have to go further from the shores to see them during the sunrise or a sunset. But from time to time you may get lucky and see them while snorkeling in the reefs.
One day, when I was snorkeling near the rocks at Farsha cafe, I suddenly saw Vitaliy waving to me and shouting: «Dolphins».
I turned around and saw two couples of really big dolphins playing just two meters away from me. I looked under the water and I saw that they were swimming just near me, and for a moment our eyes met. I dived as deep as I could and the dolphin swam so close to me, that I thought I could touch him. I could even hear them communicating with each other and I was also trying to say something to them, which of course was impossible and I made some «mmmm» sound and waved to them. I am not even sure if this sound could be heard under water. Then one of them caught a big fish and all four followed him deep to the bottom.
This was such a big luck and an unforgettable experience to see these beautiful creatures free in their natural habitat. This is the only place where they belong. Please do not attend dolphinariums where these amazing and intelligent creatures are held against their will to entertain people.
Underwater world with Lenzo
I always loved the underwater world and the underwater photography has always been a challenge for me. I wanted to buy the underwater case for my Canon Mark II but I realized that I will end up with carrying and additional suitcase for my gear. This is not what I want especially when I travel solo. I also tried using GoPro, but the images turn out too flat and distorted. I also couldn’t see what I was shooting, so it obviously is not an option for me.
Before going to Egypt I bought an underwater case Lenzo by Valstech that allows shooting underwater photos with my iPhone and I want to share what I learned with you. Perhaps this will also help you capture more of the happy moments that you have during your travels and vacations.
Lenzo by Valstech is a waterproof case available for iPhone 6 (S, Plus) and 7. Underwater cases for iPhone 7 Plus will also be available soon. You have a full control of your phone while you are underwater and you can go underwater down to 100 meters with it.
Here are some tips:
- If you want to capture rays of sun underwater, shoot during the golden hour.
- This case has red and pink filters to adjust the colors during the shooting. I didn’t use those though.
- It floats, so don’t worry if you drop it.
- It is more difficult to focus underwater because you always move when in the water, so you will need to practice for a day or two before you will get any positive results.
Let me know if you succeeded! Lenzo cases are available here.
On our last day in Egypt, we met Sayed again. He picked us up at the place where the line of the hotels ends and the desert begins. We jumped into his truck and went to explore beautiful and mysterious Sinai desert.
In this region, the desert is rocky with a mountain ridge in the South and some rare trees and plants. If you go further into the desert you would see small gardens where Bedouins plant fruit trees and vegetables. Sinai desert goes into Negev Desert in Israel in the North and it does not change much in terms of its landscape, flora, and fauna. In the West and North, it meets the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal.
We started our adventure in the desert and left small lonely homes with stables and horses behind. Soon we came to a sand dune that was almost 30 meters high. Its color was light beige, not similar to the saturated colors of the dunes in Algeria or Oman. I climbed up to the top of the dune and felt my feet burning. The sand absorbed the heat from the sun and now was generously giving it back to us. In two minutes my body got used to the heat and I saw the beautiful view over the everlasting dusty valleys on one side and blue water of the Red Sea on the other side.
At the footsteps of the dune, we found a small garden with some vegetables and fruit trees and a deep well with water.
We were walking around the rocky area exploring narrow paths in the mountains. It seemed that Sayed knew every plant and rock on our way.
As we were going deeper into the desert Sayed offered me to wear a traditional women’s dress to avoid any unneeded attention and show respect to the Bedouins who we could meet in the desert.
Shop my Indah dress here and help them support Maala project, whose goal is to enable girls to complete 12 years of safe, quality education
Nabq National Park
Soon we came back to the sea to a place called Nabq National Park. It stretched along the shoreline from Sharm El Sheikh to Dahab. With over 130 species of plants and bays with azure water, the park is famous for its nature and beauty. This park has also become home for turtles, squids, colorful fish, many birds, gazelles, and hyenas.
Sometimes it seemed that Nabq was located on a different planet because its landscape looked ethereal. During the sunset, the water, and the mountains changed their color to all shades of dreamy pastel. The view of an abandoned ship “Maria Shroeder” and Tiran Island made me think that I was in a parallel world.
Sayed invited us to join his friends, Bedouins from Dahab, who came there to fish. They go into the sea by their boats and stay there for 3-4 days and then go back home to their families.
A lot of modern Bedouins in Egypt live in apartments in the cities, own businesses, land or go to work. Most of them work in the tourism sector. Of course, there are still tribes that live in the desert just like their ancestors did and they rarely contact with people from the outside.
We drank some tea with Sayed and his friends and then decided to launch sky latterns that we brought from home. We shared this moment with our new friends just like they shared fire and hot tea with us.
Photography and retouch: Vitaliy Pototskiy, Veronica Pototska.
Gear: Canon Mark II, iPhone 6S, Moment lenses, Lenzo case.
Location: Sharm El Sheikh, Farsha, Sinai Desert, Napq National Park.
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