Africa, Destinations, Middle East

The Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea

February 17, 2009 • By

Everyone has a different definition of paradise.  I found mine in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt on the Red Sea.  It’s funny since everyone told me to skip the Sinai Peninsula and head straight to Jordan.  When I heard it was warmer than Alexandria there was nothing to keep me away.  Sorry to say this but you see my body now finds 65 degrees FREEZING.

Where I last left you, I settled in Alexandria eating street food for $0.50.  The night before heading to Sharm I had a very sleepless night.  It’s clear the hotels in Egypt do not care if their customers die.  I smelled fire and called the manager on duty to report it (that is after I first talked to an operator and then a front desk person).  Instead of telling me someone would be right there, the manager asked me if I wanted to change rooms.  No (you idiot)!  I would like someone to come and figure out if the hotel is on fire because I prefer not to die.  Initially, he didn’t respond.  Then he said, “Yes, Mrs.Glynn (everyone calls me Mrs. here) we send someone right away.”  After 4 of us were sniffing the corridor and all agreed something was on fire, the manager suggested the maintenance people spray air freshener.  Again, I had to wonder how these people survive.  My blank face produced some results as the manager then said he would call the engineer.  Back in my room, I checked my windows for my exit plan and I tried to get some sleep.

The fun didn’t stop there since I forgot to set my alarm during the hoopla and therefore missed the 8 am train back to Cairo.  My travels never run smoothly but I figured I would still make my flight.  You see the hotel told me (and I listened) that the bus ride would only be 3 hours with buses leaving every 30 minutes.  Of course, Egyptians have an entirely different sense of time than I do. My 3 hour bus ride turned into 4 1/2 and I was within 45 minutes of take off and at the wrong terminal(courtesy of another local).  Having already yelled FUCK on the bus (when an Egyptian businessman told me I had another hour to go and that I should always add at least 2 hours traveling in Egypt), I now started getting huffy.  The security police didn’t seem to care and were not inclined to tell me which terminal my flight actually would be leaving from.  A crazy –and I do mean crazy– taxi driver who spoke English said he could get me to terminal 4 and assured me that after 20 years in this business I would not miss my flight.  He was right but it cost me.  He charged me $15 USD to go from one terminal to the next and let’s just say we defied all traffic laws.  What could I do?  I arrived to the check in counter sweating and completely deranged and ready to tell my story to anyone who would listen.  Apparently, it’s common knowledge that Egypt Airlines runs notoriously late so I wasn’t even the last to show.  There were several locals who strolled in right when the flight was due to depart.

Sharm el Sheikh is in a word beautiful.  It’s the French Riviera of Africa and home to deep red sand and red mountains.  At the bottom of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharmsits on the Red Sea parallel to Saudi Arabia and Hurghada on the Egyptian mainland.  A part of the mainland until the construction of the Suez Canal, it separates Africa from Asia.  It’s also home to Mt. Sinai where it’s believed Moses received the 10 Commandments from God.  I must admit the locals in Sharm are definitely less conservative than all of mainland Egypt.  It’s likely because there are an abundance of Russian, Italian and French tourists gambling and frolicking about wearing very little clothing.  There are bright lights and discotheques; malls and restaurants galore and the resorts are high-end including the Ritz and the Four Seasons.  People come here to relax on the beaches but mostly they come for the diving.  Off the coast, there are incredible coral reefs that even snorkelers will find worthwhile.

I tried snorkeling today but I only lasted about 20 minutes.  We were pretty far offshore where the waters are a bit colder.  After diving in the water, I really thought I might have a heart attack so I aborted my snorkeling mission and retreated to the warmth of the boat.  The few Egyptian men on board made me play figurehead of the Titanic with them.  Here I am freezing in my bikini – already feeling self-conscious as I’ve gained some thunder thighs- and these guys all want to take a picture with me spreading out my arms like Kate Winslet.  It was a bit insane but seeing that figurehead and Titanic were the only words they knew in English I had to go with it.  Yes I have pictures* to prove it.

I’m hiking Mt. Sinai tomorrow night and expect Moses will be guiding me to the top.  Should you wonder about my foot….Yes it is still injured but I must see the the burning bush and talk to God and all that jazz.

Oh and the belly dancing classes I’ve been taking prove one thing.  I won’t be a professional anytime soon and my hips move to the left much more than they move to the right.  In the event that I do master the moves, I have a very cute belly dancing outfit for my performance.

***You will never see these photos.