“A vacation while on vacation?” one of our friends exclaimed when hearing of our week long getaway to Egypt. It was not planned nor expected. We walked into the travel agency in Hampstead on Monday, January 24th, 2011 and said we wanted to book a vacation somewhere warm. She suggested Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt and we booked it. We did have one concern…the recent shark attacks during the month of December. Little did we know that would not be our only concern. The protests began in Egypt the very next day.
We arrived on Thursday, January 27th in the afternoon just as the sun was setting over the mountains. We got our transfer bus to our resort, where we also met our new friend, Ray, who was on the same flight. That evening we checked out our beautiful resort which included 2 restaurants, tennis court, volleyball court, pool, bar, and spa.
The next day. Friday January 28th. No internet access. No mobile phone access. Day four of the protests in Cairo. We met that morning with our travel rep to talk about the usual – tours, excursions, etc. We had been considering the one day trip via plane to Cairo. Quick Fact: 4 million people commute every day to Cairo and a child is born every 9 seconds. Maxime advised us that due to the protests they had cancelled a couple of tours but would likely resume by Tuesday. Great. We booked it. We spent the day playing tennis, hanging out at the pool, drinking Pina Colada’s, and soaking up the rays.
Saturday. Dan did his diving excursion despite the shark warnings and he came back in one piece. Dan and Ray did 2 dives and they saw Lion Fish, Blue Spotted Rays, big Tuna, and Nemo. I decided to take the bus to the hotel beach and lazed there during the morning and then by the pool in the afternoon. Sunday and Monday were much of the same. Enjoying the heat, laying by the pool, drinking Sakara beer and chilling out. The food at the resort was great. Beans, couscous, grilled fish, chickpeas, cheese, salad, eggplant, beef koftas, rice, baba ganoush, falafel-nice to try the middle eastern cuisine. The wine however…not the best.
Tuesday was our Cairo day. Or not. We cancelled our trip based on the protests. Things were looking pretty bad at this point. Still no internet. Watching the media coverage from the comfort of our room. Decided to call home quickly just to let the parents know we were okay. They closed the pyramids to tourists and the Egyptian museum had been vandalized. So, instead we decided to go on a tour of St. Catherine’s Monastery at the base of Mt. Sinai where Moses received the 10 commandments. We started the tour at 7:30am by mini-bus. We drove along through the Sinai Mountains which were at time different colours including red, green, brown. We drove through the Sinai Desert passing Bedouin villages with their camels and sheep. We finally arrived about 3 hours later to the Monastery. It was blowing gale force winds as we walked up the mountain to reach the active Monastery. They were offering camel rides up to the top. We didnt want to stray from the group so Dan negotiated a deal with the Egyptian boy-10 Egyptian pounds (about 20 cents CAN) just to get a quick ride. We saw Mt. Sinai, Moses’ burning bush and Moses’ well. Quick Fact: This monastery is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world. Then back on the bus towards the city of Dahab, which means gold in Arabic. We had a late lunch there of beef koftas, rice and grilled fish, then some shopping in the city before returning back home to the hotel.
Wednesday: Tennis in the morning, pool and afternoon spa. Dan and I both decided to try the Pharaonic Massage, a therapeautic ancient Egyptian technique. This was our last day so we decided to relax and enjoy the resort.
All in all it was a great beach vacation. We were virtually unaffected by the protests in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez except for the disruption of the internet and some other minor inconveniences. I feel for the Eyptian people and am amazed by their courage to take a stand for what they believe. I just pray for their safety. We hope to return to Egypt one day and be amazed by the only remaining wonder of the ancient world.