25/05/2010

The BeachAfter dinner we decided to take a stroll down to the beach. This involves walking across the dual carriageway outside the hotel, avoiding taxi drivers and heading through the Hilton Hotel to the beach road, dodging the chap selling the English newspapers for £6.00. £6.00? I won’t pay 50p for that trash at home, I’m certainly not going to start when I’m on holiday!

Naama Bay, where we were staying, is an up and coming holiday resort. The place comes alive at night, as it is too hot during the day to do anything much. The bay is buzzing with shops, bars and nightclubs, which include a TGI Fridays and Pacsha. The beach road is alive with bars and restaurants, each one clamouring for your custom and offering their own ‘happy hour’ to lure you in. The BeachIt’s a very different scene during the day.

Sharm El Sheikh is located on the Red Sea at the southern tip of Sinai, which is actually in Asia, rather than Africa along with rest of Egypt. It reminds me a lot of Las Vegas, a strange connection, I know, but here it lies, a small oasis in a large desert, luxurious hotels surrounded by looming, silent mountains, a neon hustle and bustle in the centre of absolutely nowhere. They even have casinos attached to many of the hotels, although I feel that some of the more risqué Vegas shows would not be accepted here, and there are few sightings of Elvis.

There’s a small population of around 35,000 in Sharm (compared to the 20 million who live in Cairo), mostly tourist industry workers who originate from the more populated areas of Cairo and Luxor. The working day is a long 14 hours, 7 days a week, in the blistering 40 plus degree heat every day with no breaks and little remuneration, the threat of losing your job over the trivialist of matters, is a real one. It certainly puts our moans and groans over the latest European employment laws into perspective, and gives you a huge appreciation for what you have got, that you take for granted every day.

For the most part, the Egyptian people are very friendly, welcoming people. There’s plenty out there that will try to surreptitiously part you from your money, but many more that are genuine honest folk just trying to earn a living. Keep your wits about you, and take the care you would anywhere else, and you’ll be fine. The markets are alive with shouts of “cheaper than Asda price” “lovely jubbly” and “no hassle” in an attempt to lure the unsuspecting British tourist into their particular shop full of the same trinkets you saw in the shop next door. Haggling is a way of life here, and if you don’t participate then you’re going to pay way over the odds for your souvenirs. Fortunately, I love haggling and often try it in the local Sainsburies to the bemusement of the 16 year old cashier.

Tipping is also a way of life, and often expected, though not mandatory. Our rule is to give it to those who don’t ask and are deserving. Our two favorite hotel staff (Nour the barman and Ayman the chef) had to be coerced into receiving what is really a pittance in our eyes. These are the deserving people, those that give great service without the expectation of greater reward than their regular pay. Nour, in particular, was a great inspiration to me. He lived in a small apartment, shared with 7 other people, worked long hours outdoors in blistering heat for the equivalent of £80 a month, most of which was sent back home to his mother in Cairo, and still managed to keep a smile on his face and had a friendly word for everyone. I wouldn’t last a week.

Finally, before we get to the more interesting blogs where I go places and that, I’ll mention our hotel in a little more detail. As I said before the Tropicana Rosetta Hotel is not a 5* hotel by any means, it is basic and clean, but not swish. The staff, however, are wonderful (with the exception of one cleaner who stole some small change before heading back to Cairo), the food was good and there was a variety to suit all tastes, the pool was just heaven (there were several but we stuck to the one nearest our room) and we met some lovely folks there.

Sparrows and wood pigeons were in abundance around the pool, tamely hopping along the edge indulging in a drink and a bath, despite the hordes of tourists. One cheeky sparrow even hopped around my legs as it chased a moth, completely unphased. HawkI also spotted this hawk, perching on one of the balconies. An awesome array of colourful beetles were around if you looked closely and I have never seen such huge moths in my life. I certainly felt very much at home there and could easily have extended my stay for several weeks.

CocktailsBack to the day then, and after learning what there was to discover along the beach road, we headed back to our hotel, stopping for cocktails on the way, and to bed, in preparation for our Sinai by Starlight trip the next day.

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