Hurghada Travel Guide - Egypt's Party Town
Since the 1980s, Hurghada has become the principal bathing resort on the Red Sea, visited by American, European and Arabs. Holiday villages and first class hotels provide excellent aquatic sport facilities.
What used to be a small fishing village is now a fully developed resort that stretches for about 40 km along the Red Sea shore, attracting package holiday tourists mostly from Europe, notably Russians, Czechs and Germans. Many restaurants, bars and shops, small pubs and internet cafes are available all over Hurghada. Mobile internet in Egypt (covered perfectly in Hurghada and all around Red Sea) is available for low rates from the three major mobile networks; Vodafone, Mobinil and Etisalat. You may need to check the coverage in your current stay.
Known as a party town, with its many clubs, life in Hurghada begins at night. Nearly every hotel has its own disco. The most famous ones at the moment are "Calypso" and "Papas Beach". Renowned for belly dancing, Arabic and Nubian folklore, is "Alf Leila Wa Leila" ("One thousand and one nights"). It is a big open-air area, which offers a bit of everything.
Hurghada has become an international center for aquatic sports like windsurfing, sailing, deep-sea fishing, swimming and, above all, snorkeling and diving. The unique underwater gardens offshore are some of the finest in the world, justifiably famous among divers. The warm waters here are ideal for many varieties of rare fish and coral reefs, which may also be observed through glass bottom boats.
The city provides a gateway to prime diving sites throughout the Red Sea. Its central location provides favorable access to very famous dive sites. In addition, Hurghada is known for providing access to many uninhabited offshore reefs and islands. The waters around the islands are popular with divers from all over the world because of the chance to spot several kinds of sharks, including hammerheads and oceanic whitetips.
TOUR ATTRACTIONS: The main reason to visit Hurghada is for the beautiful Red Sea, excellent for diving or snorkeling. If you aren't licensed to dive, it is often possible to snorkel and see incredible coral reefs and hundreds of varieties of tropical fish just 10 meters from the beach. Again, either your hotel will have dive escorts on site, or they can arrange a scuba diving expedition with guides. In late March, the water is still quite cold (21 Celsius), so a wet suit is necessary, and even snorkeling in a bathing suit is too cold after about 10 minutes. It is also windy in late March; sustained 20 MPH are common. Make sure your beach resort hotel provides wind screens on the Beach.
• Sharm El Naga - a village around 40 km south of Hurghada.
Its beach contains possibly the most beautiful reef cliff in the region.
• El Gouna - an artificially-created and privately-owned luxury hotel town, about 25 km north of Hurghada. Its beauty comes not only from its quietness and cleanliness, but also from the fact that the town consists of several islands separated by channels and connected by bridges. Besides 14 hotels and 2 marinas, there are also three hundred private villas and apartments, and some five hundred more are under construction. It is sometimes called Egypt's Venice.
• Al-Mahmya - a tourist beachfront camp on the protected Giftun island, 45 minutes by boat from Hurghada.
• Soma Bay - a luxurious place, with crystal-clear water, situated 45 km south of Hurghada, with various hotels including Sheraton, Robinson Club and Hyatt Regency.
TO DO: Hurghada offers many activities not to be found anywhere else on Earth. Quad-biking hundreds of miles into the Sahara desert for tea with a Bedouin tribe, then camel-riding across Biblical plains to see remote and ancient wonders; diving and snorkeling around a vibrant and colourful coral reef; boat trips to the unpopulated Big and Little Gifton islands; swimming in the warmest and saltiest sea in the world (the Red Sea is more saline than even the Dead Sea); good shopping; excellent and varied cuisine from across the world.
Those new to Egypt will find Karkaday (a drink made from an infusion of hibiscus, served hot or cold and reputed to have many health benefits) and Chi (local version of tea, usually served in a glass) offered everywhere. Both are delicious, and will usually come replete with a smoke on a "sheesha" pipe, known in the West as a "Hookah". Sheesha's are used for smoking molasses tobacco in various flavours, with the smoke passing through water before inhalation through a long tube attached to the bowl. Although they may resemble a device used to smoke illicit substances in the west, (i.e, a bong), sheesha contains nothing illegal.
Visits from Hurghada to Luxor are popular, including overnight tours to the Valley of the Kings and the Sound and Light Show at Karnak. Sharm-El-Sheikh and the Sinai peninsula (containing two of the oldest Christian temples in the world, St Catherine's and St Anthony's) is but a short hop away.
ARRIVAL AT HURGHADA
By plane - Hurghada can be reached from Cairo in an hour by air for about $230 round trip (Egypt Air). There are also direct charters from Europe in the winter high season. From the airport in Hurghada, you will probably take a shuttle provided by your hotel.
By boat - International Fast Ferries runs fast boats to Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai peninsula, currently running four times weekly. The ride takes 1.5 hours and costs 250/450 LE one-way/return for foreigners. Warning: this ride is notoriously bumpy and prone to cancellations.
By bus - Your hotel or a travel agency associated with your hotel will be able to arrange excursions to nearby attractions, including Luxor, about 4 to 5 hours by bus, and your tour operator will be required to leave and return at designated times in order to travel in a police escorted convoy (of approximately 150 other tour buses.)