Sharm el Sheikh Nov 09

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After an uneventful drive to Dublin and a very early start (4.45a.m.) We arrived at Sharm airport around 4pm local. Usual eastern bureaucracy.  Fill in entry form – go to passport control – told we have filled in wrong form – fill in correct form – go to passport control – stamps form and visa page without reading either!  

The Hilton Waterfalls Hotel only about 20 mins from airport as we had a minibus to ourselves.  The hotel is fine although Josephine commented that the reception clerk could have done with a clean shirt.  Nothing wrong with the service or the room.  Our balcony exits onto the heated winter pool!  Usual start, shower – unpack.   Went down to dinner, buffet is typical middle eastern.  Large selection of salads, main courses fine  and sweets out of this world if you like baklava or rice pudding for example.  Wine mediocre but it’s free and drinkable.  We have adopted two waiters so glasses never empty!!  There is a “hubble bubble” bar which looks down to the beach, quite impressive with the lights on at night.

The one thing that is immediately apparent is that the hotel is occupied mainly by Russians who have some quite stunning WAGS. On the whole they do not seem the most communicative of people but as my russian consist of da, nyet and guhor this is probably not surprising!

Friday our first day – breakfast spread pretty impressive, but as all ME hotels it is not a good idea to try the bacon and sausage! Josephine discovers that, having forgotten to put on the insect repellant on the plane she has, as usal, been badly bitten.

Made contact with Dave and Connie, last met in Agadir 6 years ago, and booked to go to St Catherine’s Monastery on Saturday (£35 a head including lunch) then off down the hill to the “beach”. We decided to bypass the aerobics class and headed out onto the pontoon where we duly became the adopted parents of the lifeguard, “Luka” who proceeded to lend me a set of fins, mask and snorkel for the week. Lunch in the Lebanese pool bar. More of the same in the afternoon and back up for dinner.  There is a “cabaret” at 10 each evening but nothing to get really excited about.  Passes an hour.

Saturday Up at 5.45 to get the bus.  Collected a truly international group, 3 Russians, 2 Swiss, 2 English and 2 Portugese Linda and Clara. Luckily everybody but the Russian spoke english so our guide only had to translate once. 

 I don’t know if it was on purpose but, the dog unit of the tourist police is named K9 and they have this in huge gold letters on their uniform.  Egyptian police are not photo friendly so no backup pictures.

Sinai Desert, not a place to breakdown

The drive to St Catherine’s is about 2.5 hours through the desert.  Not a desert as I had imagined, this was stark hills with the odd sandy wadi.  Also amazed to see a sanger with a heavy machine gun mounted on the roof sited, apparently, in the middle of nowhere. 

Follow the link for full details of the monastery, it is too complex to write up here but suffice to say the ecclesiastical library and icon collection alone would have made the journey  worthwhile.  Sure, if it was good enough for Moses it’s good enough for me!

We set off back via the inevitable “factory shop” visit;  if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all!  The next stop was for lunch at Dahab a coastal town which claims to have a beach suitable for swimming.  Not for me it doesn’t! Still the food wasn’t bad and it broke up the journey.

Joined a party of Poles for dinner at the hotel.  One was a banker who had worked in Milan for 4 years so made for an interesting evening.  Needless to say there was no language problems with them.

Sunday we met up with Dave and Connie, he is a theatre consultant originally from East Belfast and she a nurse from Sligo, and went for a meal in the old city.  This is like the new city but older!  Had forgotten that you can’t buy beer in public outside the hotels, the odd bar being the exception but then the prices are ludicrous!

Monday I persuaded Josephine to try the “sea spi” a sort of  electrically controlled raft with viewing ports to watch the reef.  Great success, though half an hour with the sun on ones back is plenty. We encountered our one and only topless sunbather that day – Danish obviously!

The rest of the week took much the same pattern and was a great way to recharge for the next month or so of Irish weather.

If you’ve nothing better to do it’s a great holiday.

As a bonus for getting this far click here to see all the photos.

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