We discover a land of non-stop sunshine and more activities than you can ‘Sheikh’ a snorkel at…
If you know Spain like the back of your hand and you’ve visited more Greek islands than you can pronounce, it might be time to cast your holiday net a bit wider. For those toying with the idea of Africa, there’s no better place to test the waters than Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh. Samantha Shillabeer reveals why…
Just 5-and-a-half hours from the UK, Sharm isn’t much further than the likes of Turkey or the Canaries. And, because Thomson Airways runs daily flights from 15 airports, there’s no need to hike halfway across the country before boarding the plane. Another bonus is the time difference. Sharm is only a couple of hours ahead of GMT, so you won’t spend the first few days of your holiday drifting off during dinner.
You don’t need me to tell you that, being in Egypt and all, Sharm’s on the warm side. So let’s talk specifics. In spring and autumn, you’re looking at average highs of 30-plus degrees. Even in deepest, darkest January, daytime temperatures don’t tend to sink below the 20s, and rain is a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence. And here’s a bit of trivia for you – the Red Sea is the warmest sea in the world.
Sharm might not be the poster child for Egyptian tradition, but you don’t have to look far for a shot of culture. In the old town, Sharm el-Maya, life is played out to a soundtrack of marketplace bartering and calls to prayer. And the surrounding desert is the stomping ground of nomadic Bedouin tribes, who drift across the dunes with their goats and camels.
1,000 species of fish, 200 types of coral, and a disproportionate amount of shipwrecks… the Red Sea promises some of the best scuba diving and snorkelling north of the equator. And wherever you stay, you’ll be tripping over dive schools left, right and centre. Back on dry land, you can interrupt sunbathing stints with activities like go-karting, quad biking and horse riding.
If there was ever anywhere deserving of the ‘something for everyone’ cliché, it’s Naama Bay – Sharm’s loud and lively epicentre. When the sun goes down, this place shifts into top gear. Families settle down to dinner at big-name restaurants like TGI Friday’s and the Hard Rock Café, groups of friends chew the fat in al fresco shisha lounges, and clubbers get in line for the world-famous Pacha.
Thirty years ago, the hotel scene in Sharm amounted to a few guesthouses for Israeli soldiers in need of some downtime. Accommodation has spread like wildfire since then and, these days, hotel designers are constantly engaging in battles of one-upmanship. If romance is on the cards, try the adults-only Iberotel Palace (pictured below), which is part of the Thomson Couples collection. Or if you’ve got the kids in tow, check out the Coral Sea Aqua Club – it’s part of the Thomson Family Resorts range and brags its own waterpark.
Are you planning a holiday to Sharm El Sheikh this year?