So, just going through my pictures and came across a few from a holiday to Egypt 7 years ago. A lot has changed for me since then, but it seems that the country is still in turmoil, so it is even worth going to Egypt for a holiday? I will share my experience, which was so memorable that its like I only just arrived home.
We had booked into the Sonesta Beach Hotel in Taba through Thomson. I have no complaints about the travel agent, they were more than accommodating, even offering to get us on the next flight home at one point! Upon arrival all went well all luggage had followed us safely and being on our first holiday as a young couple, we were very excited. Half way through our transfer the coach stopped and five men with guns and dogs got on board; checked our bags and some passports to which the rep seemed to have to convince them we were tourists.
We arrived at the hotel after dark where they had kindly left the kitchen open so we could grab some food and drink. After we filled our tummies we went to our room, where our luggage had already been taken. Quick change and down to the bar for a night cap. Aside from the guns, which I assume was their security, day 1 went fine.
Day 2 we found out we couldn’t leave the resort without it being pre booked… not so great. So after a quick chat to the rep she sorted us out with quad biking. AMAZING! And it really was. Just the two of us and two guides. We were taken to some of the most amazing views I had seen over my years of travels back then. We sat with a gentleman who lived in the mountains and drank traditional tea and relaxed under tents during the hottest part of the day. Then we were taken higher and further into the mountains for some free climbing. Having never done this before, I was more than eager to grab a rock and see what happened. All went fine, seeing as I am not writing this post from beyond the grave. We climbed pretty damn high with no harness – you can see how far down our quad bikes were.
The other activity I have another love for is scuba diving, and regardless of what the rest of this post will detail, I have Egypt to thank for this. We first hired snorkelling gear from the hotel and bought a waterproof camera before heading to the sea. Our area of beach had a section roped off due to the coral. But with snorkelling you can see this, and what a beautiful sight it was. Colourful fish you have never seen before, miles of coral and after about 30 minutes, I found a drop. This drop was huge, the sea went ice cold and black, I couldn’t see my hand infront of me. I wanted to see what was down there and so, as usual, curiosity got the better of me. We spoke to the hotel owner, not our rep – too expensive – to arrange for us to go scuba diving. Although after returning home and being asked, did you get training…. erm … nope. They never asked us, we got driven out for about an hour to an open section of sea where there was nothing but us. Kitted up and thrown in the deep end, quite literally. My partner went in first for about 15 minutes and came up saying amazing and to hurry up and get in. So off I went with the instructor. After swimming for all of about 2 minutes I saw a shark. The little s**t of a boyfriend didn’t think to tell me as I wouldn’t have gone it, well that’s one way to get rid of me! After the panic and being told to stay still, the shark swam past us, returned once more then swam off into the ocean depths. This is now my reason why I want to swim with sharks.
We decided to make the most of their beautiful golden beach and to take our snorkelling kit and see what amazing fish we could find in their coral. The beach was roped off and either side of this beach were two armed gun men… if we went past the posts we were told we risked getting shot. This became apparent after I accidentally wandered off looking for starfish with the family we met, when we turned around to the sound of a gun being loaded. Yep, you have it in one, we turned around to face a man pointing a gun at us then pointing back to the hotel. Thankfully he had been watching us and knew we meant no harm.
As you expect on holiday, we had men and women approaching us to sell jewellery. They were not rude at all, and quite happy to talk to you, even if there is a language barrier. They understand no, so there is no need to be rude; I heard one tourist say something quite obscene which angered me far too much.
Now with most countries abroad, DO NOT DRINK THE TAP WATER. This includes having ice in your drinks, eating salads and brushing your teeth. So we didn’t, we brushed our teeth with bottled water as well. So, it was the last thing us and most of the customers did to check if the food was cooked in clean water. But no matter how cautious we were, we still got a dodgy tummy. You could also spot who had it, but how long they would be on their sun lounger before sprinting off, so quick Usain Bolt would be left behind.
The food selection was the same every night. Usually hotels mix it up so over a two week stay you’ll have the same meal offered twice. Remember, we couldn’t leave the resort, so we had to eat that food. We tried not to eat too much but with the heat and loosing fluids we had to keep eating. It was the worst catch 22 I have ever witnessed.
Now onto the children’s animation team. This may have changed since we went, but when we did all hell broke loose. An animation team member took advantage of young women (the youngest was 12!) The father couldn’t do anything apart from report it to the rep as he didn’t want to spend time in an Egyptian prison, and quite rightly so. He had also got a woman pregnant who decided to show up – this was very much the Egyptian version on Eastenders. This is not reflective of the Egyptian culture, but rather one crazy man. So as always, if you’re travelling with children, check the reputation for the hotel’s animation team.
We had every intention of visiting the pyramids, but after hearing what Thomson offered, we decided against, and just enjoyed our time in the mountains and scuba diving.
My time in Egypt wasn’t the greatest, as we were confined to a hotel. Had we known this we would have checked to see if this was the case throughout Egypt; it probably wasn’t. I am upset that I didn’t have as much of a good time as others I know who went, who all say they had an amazing holiday; so I am putting it down to hotel lock-down.
Even with all the politics going on, friends and family still visit Egypt, and if you really want to go, then go. Just be sure to check the news and be prepared for heavy security checks (inclusive of AK47’s) at the airports and borders; can you really blame them for being extra cautious. Once your coach driver or rep informs them who you are, they check the bus and get off – it’s mostly a shock to the system.
I highly recommend scuba diving. Their coral is stunning and the memories you take from it is simply unforgettable. Plus, in Taba it was just us and the divers, so peaceful; perfect for forgetting the stresses of home.
So go, be safe and make amazing memories.