Sharm el-Sheikh

Sharm el-Sheikh (شرم الشيخ, also transliterated as Sharm ash Shaykh and popularly known simply as "Sharm") is a well-known port and resort town at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, popular with package holiday makers and divers. About 9,000 British tourists are in Sharm on any given day. Numbers have doubled in the last 3 years and seemed set to continue to rise despite the worldwide economic situation, until the Arab Spring and related instability and conflict in Sinai and the rest of Egypt.

Understand

Sharm el-Sheikh is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Arab world. But there are also some very good reasons to visit it if you are not the common tourist, who likes to lie on the beach all day. It is one of the finest diving spots in the world and a trip into the desert is an unforgettable adventure.

The Sinai Peninsula is a remote desert mountain range. The rocky mountains are parted from the deep-blue sea by a flat desert strip. This combination of desert and sea is an incredible sight and makes you believe you are on a different planet.

About 40 years ago, Sharm el-Sheikh was nothing but a small fishing village with about 100 Bedouin citizens. When Sinai was occupied by Israel in 1967 Sharm el-Sheikh started to develop as a tourist destination (like the rest of the peninsula). Israelis evacuated Sinai between 1979 and 1982, following the signing of a peace agreement between the two countries. Since the 1980's the Egyptians have been continuing the development of Sharm where the Israelis left off. Sharm's 100 grew into a bustling 10,000 population. There is now a nice promenade, a Hard Rock Cafe, one of the most modern hospitals in Egypt and so on.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 21.7 22.4 25.1 29.8 33.9 37 37.5 37.5 35.4 31.5 27 23.2
Nightly lows (°C) 13.3 13.7 16.1 20.1 23.8 26.5 26.7 28 26.5 23.4 18.9 15
Precipitation (mm) 0.5 0.2 1.2 0.2 0.5 0 0 0 0.04 0.8 3.3 0.5

Source: World Meteorological Organization
See also: Egypt#Climate

The climate is very dry. Rainfall is very rare. The weather is very hot in summer days and moderately hot at summer nights. In winter, it is warm at days and has one of the warmest night temperatures in Egypt. Most comfortable time to visit Sharm El-Sheikh are late summer and beginning of the fall. For example in september air temperature is about 34 °C and water - 29 °C[1].

Sharm el-Sheikh mean sea temperature
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
22 °C (72 °F) 21 °C (70 °F) 21 °C (70 °F) 23 °C (73 °F) 24 °C (75 °F) 26 °C (79 °F) 27 °C (81 °F) 28 °C (82 °F) 28 °C (82 °F) 27 °C (81 °F) 25 °C (77 °F) 24 °C (75 °F)

Orientation

The Na'ama Bay part of the city is the center of nightlife and dining: most of Sharm's clubs, cafes, restaurants and shops are here. Na'ama Bay lies midway between Sharm Airport and Old City, nearly 10 minutes driving from both. Microbuses can take you from downtown, but to reach Na’ama Bay from Airport, you will have to take a cab.

Sharm el Sheikh has grown into three distinct areas now, Nabq is a new area to the North of Na'ama, Old Market and Hadaba to the South of Na'amaa Bay.

Get in

See Sinai for information on the Sinai visit pass, which allows visa-free travel for up to 14 days.

By plane

Sharm el-Sheikh Airport (IATA: SSH) is the largest in the Sinai and receives planeloads of charter tourists daily in the winter high season. The only airline for local flights is EgyptAir . Your travel agent may have trouble booking flights with them but they can also be booked on some of the online booking engines. There are 2 Terminals that are next to each other. Terminal 1 is the new one with Egypt Air and Easy Jet. You will need a visa only if you plan to go out of the Sharm area (such as Ras Mohammed bus or boat, Cairo, St Cathrines)and can be bought on arrival (price seems to vary day to day, make sure you have 15 £, $, or euro handy.

For departures: timetable shows only nearest 1-2 hours, makes you watch over the row of check-in desks for your flight number.

Airport cafes

Cafes after security check are: 'Sbarro (overcrowded), Cafe Europa (on the back of the lounge, less crowded): sandwiches, coffee, Egyptian sweets; outlet of Caffè Ritazza international chain coming soon (also in Athens, Budapest, Madrid, Milan, London, Paris, New York, Stockholm, Zurich, Vienna).

Shops in the airport

After security check: Patisserie offers lucums, khalva and other Egyptian sweets.

By boat

Ferry services between Hurghada on the mainland Red Sea Coast and Sharm were suspended from 2012 due to lack of tourists.

By car / By bus

Sharm el-Sheikh can be reached by driving down the eastern coast from Eilat (Israel) via Nuweiba and Dahab, or via the western coast from Cairo. There are daily buses for both routes. From Cairo,East Delta buses take approximately 8 hrs (80 LE) while Superjet buses take 6 hrs. When taking the bus from Cairo, keep your bus ticket and passport handy, as you will pass through a number of checkpoints, which require passengers to present identification and ticket. The drive is interesting with beautiful scenery, throughout the route.

The Sharm el-Sheikh bus station is removed, by about a kilometer, from the Peace road. If you should arrive during the evening hours your only option may be to take a taxi, as micro-bus service can be spotty. Since Sharm is a tourist-driven economy, you should be prepared to do some bargaining. If you are of the hiking type, the main road is, roughly, twenty minutes from main road. Just ask anyone to point you in the direction of Peace road. Once at Peace road you should have no problem hailing down a micro-bus.

When heading to the bus station via micro-bus, it should be noted that, as of February 2009, there were no direct routes, which go down Peace road, to the bus station. In order to reach the station, you must indicate that you are going to the bus station, and want to be left off at the gas station. This may take some work, given the limited English skills of the drivers. Once at the gas station, you should see micro-buses, which will take you on the final leg. Remember, transfers are not issued, you will need to pay another fee for the final leg.

About micro-bus fees If your journey is within a kilometer or two, the cost should be about (LE 3 to 5 LE). If your stop is further out, or if you are traveling during the late night hours, be prepared to get a demand for more money, in some cases drivers may demand up to (LE 10 or LE 20). Demands for higher fees can also take place, if the driver feels he you have money! So, be prepared to negotiate. If the drivers fee is unreasonable simply get out, this will often bring down the cost. One final note on fees, when arriving, ask a local how much the bus costs before hailing one down. The information provided will give you a base-line price, from which you can bargain with.

Get around

By taxi

In Sharm the taxis are generally modern models, either Hyundai or Chevrolet. Don't bother with the meter in the taxi,it probably does not work anymore,they soon break due to the dust,and would work out more than the "fixed" prices anyway. Always note the drivers ID number. The tourist police are very helpful if you have a problem, or quickly realise you left something inside, but only with the taxi number. . Don't assume they have meters. Locals tell you they don't. Make sure you have transportation waiting for you as Sharm el Sheikh airport is the worst part of Egypt for getting a reasonably priced taxi. They will ask for 150-400 LE for the 10 minute ride to Nabq. It is easy to make it to the main road, hail a cab and pay 50-100le. Otherwise you will walk away from the experience feeling violated.Check with your hotel if they have a pick-up service. Check sure you have small notes to pay the fare and never pay before you reach your destination, making sure you only pay the pre-arranged price. Make sure that the driver knows that you are paying in Egyptian pounds and not English pounds. Taxis do not like to take coins.

By bus

There are also a fleet of blue and white tuk-tuk's, which are basically small buses, of varying roadworthiness, which are used to ferry the locals around the resort of Sharm el Sheikh. These are a most economical method of transport compared to taxis, which are comparatively expensive. They run on a fixed route from North to South with a diversion to the Expat/locals area of Hadaba. To hail a tuk-tuk simply wait next to the side of the main street and raise your hand to flag one down as it approaches. When you take the bus, go inside and find a seat and simply pass your money forward to the driver (with the help of other passengers if you sit in the back). The fare should never be more than 3LE. If you start asking for the price the driver may very well try to make you pay much more than needed. Do not try to pay in foreign currency. When you arrive at your destination call 'hinna quiis' (here is good). Note that Naama Bay is known as Marina (and there is no marina!).

Make sure you have a stash of small coins and notes to pay your fare.

See

Sightseeing and Excursions in/from Sharm El Sheikh:

The more adventurous should try to find a private guide, who takes them for a few days into the mountain desert with a camel. You will walk through hidden valleys, rest at secret oasis and during the night you sleep under a breathtaking firmament.

Do

Diving

The Strait of Tiran and Tiran Island

Diving is the main activity in Sharm el-Sheikh. When you dive into the warm water of the Red Sea and leave the remote desert behind, you will enter a world full of life and colours. Divers, especially photographers, should be confident with their buoyancy to avoid damaging the fragile coral reef system. Note that some hotels in Na'ama Bay have cleared the coral reef from their section of beach for tourists to use the water.

The disadvantage of its popularity is that you may find up to 20 boats at the same reef. If you take a daily-boat you may enjoy your dive in the company of fifty other dive guides and about 10 divers in each group.

Operators include:

Horseback riding

Quad bikes

There are dozens of operators who seem to use just the same route, length and sequence of stops: when you drive, you meet many groups who follow just the same route as yours. There are several really shaky pieces of the route, very much like a washboard.

Wear a long-sleeved shirt; shoes are safer than sandals. Always wear a helmet and make sure your travel insurance covers this activity. Expect all your wear (and skin) to be covered with grey dust.

2 hours of riding is just enough for a non-professional rider; expect several stops along the way. It's ideal to start your ride at 4pm or later--to catch a sunset and ride back when air is not that hot.

At departure point, choose a bike in the beginning of the motorcade: being one of the first allows to drive faster, and results in less dust.

Make sure you stay on the path and follow your guide, as Egypt has one quarter of the world's landmines buried in its deserts, some of them surprisingly close to Sharm el-Sheikh.

Para sailing

Para sailing is very enjoyable. But, for a less than 5 minutes ride, they charge 260 pounds for 2 persons and 220 pounds for one person.

Camel trekking

The best place to do this is in the Sinai desert on a tour with the Sinai's on their own bred camels. After this you can look up at the desert stars at midnight after having a homemade meal cooked by the Sinais themselves.

Buy

Water in shops cost around 3-5 LE. Bring your sunscreen, because they cost 80-200 LE anywhere in town, if you are without tan, shopkeeper will sell you one at very bad price - welcome to Egypt.

Na'ama Bay has very forceful sellers and caution should taken by the naive tourist who accepts a "free gift" (nothing in Egypt is free) or falls for the "come and sign my guest book" in a shop, only to be locked in. When shopping, it is best not to speak to any sellers who engage you unless you are sure that you are going to buy something. This allows you some degree of hassle free walking (as they do not know what language you speak).

Opening hours are variable, but most shops are open in the early to late afternoon and in the evening. If you are looking for a reprieve from the hassle and haggling, there's a Carrefour Express supermarket with fixed prices. Coming from the bay it's hidden behind one of the Malls, at Golden Pyramid Mall – on Peace Road. The selection is limited, but all the staples are available without hassle. You just have to make it through the crowds of vendor touts to get there.

Eat

If you need a break from resort food try one of the local places below. If you're looking for a taste of home Il Mercato houses a McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Costa and a Starbucks. Manchow Wok has nice Chinese food and is opposite Stella, the only place to drink in El Mercato.

Na'ama Bay is amusing, especially at night, where lights of Bedouin-style and modern restaurants, café Shops, and other 'Bazaars' are glittering. Be aware that pork is not sold, even when it is advertised on a menu (it is actually a salted beef). A 10-15% service charge will be added to any bill.

Budget

Mid-range

Drink

For nightlife Na'ama Bay offers several clubs. The Pacha, Little Buddha and Hard Rock Cafe. (Yes, the latter is one of those chain one.) There are countless bars and the pedestrian walkways offer many coffee houses where you may also enjoy a shisha along with some people watching.

Alcohol (including beer) is available in restaurants and street cafes. Travellers must be aware that taxes are now levied on alcoholic drinks that are purchased in cafes or bars that are not associated with the hotels. Please also be aware of drink prices in general as they can be relatively expensive, compared to other european destinations. Always ask to see a drinks menu before ordering a drink. Check in the Naama Bay cafes that you will not be charged 'entrance' and to watch the 'floor show' (bad dancing). Tea and coffee is around 15-25le, make sure you are paying sensible prices.

Fresh Guava juice is a must-try, excellent in any cafe, along with Bedouin or Mint tea.

Sleep

Most hotels in Sharm, particularly in the Na'ama Bay area cater for package tourists. There are mostly 3-6 star all-inclusive hotels and there are very few (if any) budget options. Generally it is best to knock a star off the official rating to avoid disappointment. Renting privately owned apartments is economical, but they vary in facilities.

Nabq or Montaza area it is quite a distance to the North (12km) from Na'ama Bay and Old Market, so you either are tied to their all-included ration, or need to pay for taxi for every dinner in Na'ama (although taxi is inexpensive from most of hotels, or take the hotel courtesy bus). You do have Soho Square and the 'Mall Strip' of Nabq area of all inclusive Hotels.

For hotels in Na'ama Bay itself, their territory is frequently crossed by a pedestrian street, so the beach may appear across the street from the hotel building--obviously affecting privacy even when using a hotel's pool. The Zebra crossings on the main roads are best ignored as the drivers have no idea what they are for! Remember to check your choice out on Google maps to see if it is really near a beach as some are set back from the water some distance, although they do have shuttle buses (some of which incur local fees).

Mid-range

Splurge

The only Five Stars Plus resorts are:

Go next

  1. Sharm El-Sheik weather in september
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