Sharm el Sheikh has something to offer every type of traveller. It has year round sunshine, top class excursions, buzzing nightlife, excellent shopping and it has an underwater paradise!
Temperatures rarely get below 20 degrees, even in the winter and it almost never rains, so it is one of the few places that you really can get ‘guaranteed’ sunshine! I travelled in May and although temperatures were higher than normal for this time of year there was a nice cool breeze and virtually no humidity, it never felt too hot at around 36˚C. The other perception by some is that it is quite a long flight from Ireland, in fact flying time is only 5 hours 15 minutes. When you combine this with the short transfer from the airport to your hotel (approx 15 – 20 minutes) you will find that the overall the journey time is not much longer than many of the Canary Island resorts.
I found Sharm el Sheikh had more to offer than many sun holiday resorts elsewhere. Although renowned for its world class snorkelling and diving, there are plenty of other fantastic excursions available if you are looking to try something a little bit different. Sharm is built around the Sinai desert so it would really be a shame not to explore it. I booked a Bedouin night trip with Red Sea Holidays where we took a camel ride through the desert, followed by a BBQ and star gazing around a camp fire. It was a great experience and I would highly recommend it.
My kids loved the camel ride and finding out how to tell the differences between planets and stars. This was the story that they were dying to tell their teachers about when they got home! We also opted for a full day VIP cruise with Red Sea Holidays where we visited different snorkelling sites. Our guide Samir was excellent and he held my little boy’s hand in the water until he was happy to swim on his own. We saw stingrays, pufferfish and plenty of amazing tropical fish – overall it was a fantastic experience. There are three snorkelling stops so if you have a young child that is not comfortable with being in the water, parents can choose to stay on board on alternative stops. Everyone can have a chance to enjoy the amazing underwater scenery at least once! There are plenty of other excursions available too, the day trip to Cairo is an amazing experience which I did on my previous visit to Sharm el Sheikh. You can also visit Luxor, go on jeep safaris and you can even swim with dolphins!
Unlike other holiday resorts most of the hotels here are on an all inclusive basis. This is very handy for snacks, alcoholic drinks and lunch and means you will not need much spending money. If you plan to eat in your hotel every night make sure you choose a good hotel with a large choice of restaurants. Personally I don’t think buffets for dinner are ideal with kids because it is difficult for everyone to eat together and they are not exactly conducive to a nice leisurely evening meal! Some hotels have a selection of a la carte restaurants though so makes sure you check that the hotel you are booking has plenty of dining options. One thing to point out when choosing a hotel is that the Red Sea Holidays Hotels allow you keep your room until you are ready to be collected for the airport. Not only that, but you can avail of the all inclusive facilities in the hotel too. It was great being able to have a full day at the pool knowing we could pop back to our room to get changed. Our flight didn’t depart until 2145 so we even managed to get dinner before we left the hotel that evening, and avoided having to eat on the plane. Red Sea Holidays call it a late check out but actually it felt like we had an extra day’s holiday!
There are plenty of great restaurant choices in the resorts outside the hotels. It makes for a nice change to venture out a couple of times a week for evening meals and soak up the local atmosphere. Na’ama Bay is one of the older resorts in Sharm el Sheikh and is probably the most authentic. Although it does have an Egyptian feel you will find chill out bars with shisha pipes mixed with the Hard Rock Cafe and lots of other american eateries. There is a huge selection of bars and nightclubs with Pacha and all the top Ibiza style clubs all located in Na’ama Bay and open until sunrise! Shopping is great here and the Egyptians love to haggle. My advice is whatever price they tell you it is, offer half and start from there! The Egyptians are very friendly though, I never felt intimidated or hassled in any way, it was friendly haggling and good banter at all times in Na’ama Bay. In saying that we always booked the hotel taxis to drop and collect us at a given time. From what I understand, the regular taxi men will tell you that their mothers, brothers, cousin lives beside you and will offer you a great deal, then before you know whats happening you will end up paying double what you expected to pay!
If you like dining out and shopping The Ghazala Gardens is a good choice to stay, right beside Na’ama Bay. You can literally walk to the centre in five minutes and the hotel is very reasonably priced. This saves on taxi fares and with a great beach across the road in it’s sister property, it offers the best of both worlds. They have junior suite rooms with direct pool access for a small supplement. What a nice way to wake up, relax on your sun lounger and have a quick dip before breakfast!
The other great choice for an evening out is the dynamic SOHO Square. Built only 6 years ago, this is completely different to any of the other areas in Sharm el Sheikh. Owned by the Savoy Hotel it is more like Vegas than Egypt! Although very compact it offers a vast array of modern shops, bars and restaurants all situated around a large square. In the centre you will find a massive fountain which has a display to music every hour that adults and kids will love. There is a child area at the end with small fairground rides and there is an ice skating rink and a bowling alley if you are looking for some family fun. For adults, there are contemporary bars sunken into artificial lakes and some great dining options. We tried the L’entrecote steak house where the menus are displayed on iPads! We had a table on the balcony with a great view over SOHO Square while listening to a pianist playing in the background.
There is an ice bar which you have to pay in to (approx €20) and you get one free drink. Its expensive but worth it for the obligatory picture and the kids ( free in) found it quite a novelty too! Although the whole experience in SOHO Square is quite sophisticated the ‘designer’ shops stock all fake goods! The shops look really impressive and the quality of the fakes are generally good so I picked up a nice Stella Mc Cartney bag for €30 and a Bvlgari necklace for €15! Hassling in the shops is against the tenant law in SOHO Square so although a little more expensive than Na’ama Bay it is a very pleasant shopping experience and you don’t necessarily have to haggle.
Overall we had a fantastic time and it is a place I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a sun holiday. Don’t stay in your hotel for a week though and miss out on all that Egypt has to offer. Book some excursions, experience the contrast at night time of SOHO Square and Na’ama Bay and make the most of Sharm el Sheikh – you won’t be disappointed!