Posted by: englishdubai | June 1, 2007

Out of Sharms way


Another first visit to a country for me this week – Egypt. On arrival at Cairo airport passport control I was greeted with a rather chaotic mass of people. Some in queues for the foreign exchange and visa stamps. Others in the immigration queue and yet others just milling around looking confused – I was in the latter group. After immigration and showing my passport to at least three other guards in white cotton outfits we had to head across to the domestic terminal. Usually a simple task complicated by the fact that the shuttle bus has been delayed for sometime. So we took a cab then involved a ten minute walk to ride in a taxi for five minutes.

This give me my first experience of Egyptian driving and during those five minutes I observed the following:

1.Dubai driving seems polite in comparison
2.Constant use of the horn is mandatory
3.Wing mirrors are for decoration and a lot of older cars had dispensed with them entirely
4.Reversing up one way streets is standard
5.After honking at a car – if you manage to overtake them, you must then punctuate this by shouting something in Arabic at the slower vehicle
6.Egypt seems to be the place where Fiat’s come to die

I look forward to my first trip in a car to Cairo city center – but that will be another time as I headed straight for Sharm El-Sheikh.

Sharm El-Sheikh is most famous for its position next to the Red Sea which provides a sought after destination for divers. The clear, deep and very salty water of the Red Sea provides a great environment for large coral reefs and an abundance of brightly colored marine life.

Like my previous visit to an exotic location (Mauritius) this was for a partner sales conference. It is certainly a far cry from the locations in the UK where I have attended similar events.

The event was held at the Jolie Ville – Movenpick. It is a huge sprawling resort which reminded me of a Butlins type resort but on steroids i.e. Huge main swimming pool, big rooms, more swimming pools and even a man made “Treasure Island Beach”. Seeing this wooden structure on the coast reminded me of the set of the pirate show at the TI casino in Las Vegas:

We made the (long) hike to the Treasure Island Beach and had some fun leaping of the pier into the crystal waters of the Red Sea. My friend Basil made the best leap with a “Back flip, with semi twist and half pike and maximum splash” It was a a good effort and I rated it 9.1/10 – here he is in full flow:

It was eerily quiet on my visit as I guess most of the tourists were staying downtown at Na’aama Bay about five kilometers away. Though there were a smattering of Russian and American tourists which made a nice contrast.

On my final night in Sharm El Shiekh I will ventured to the main drag of Na’ama bay to soak up some of the Apres Beach night life. We had a lot of fun in the Little Buddah bar till late in the night:

A pleasant surprise on the way back to Dubai was being one of the first visitors to Sharm El Sheikh’s new airport – which can only be described as an oasis of tranquility compared to the chaos in Cairo airport. I came away with two things from Egypt. One was sun burn and the other a dose of “Delhi Belly” – I will try and be more careful next time.


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