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Hurghada is a tourist city. In fact, all along that part of the Red Sea, real estate is reserved for gigantic hotel complexes and fun parks. A great place for luxury loving tourists, who aim to do nothing but lying around in the sun, on pebble beaches, which have been created artificially (with dynamite blastings). An army of service staff will cater to your every need, at reasonable prices...

  H u r g h a d a - L u x o r  -  guided day trip                                                          
Grand Resort Hotel

Hurghada is a tourist city. In fact, all along that part of the Red Sea, real estate is reserved for gigantic hotel complexes and fun parks. A great place for luxury loving tourists, who aim to do nothing but lying around in the sun, on pebble beaches, which have been created artificially (with dynamite blastings). An army of service staff will cater to your every need, at reasonable prices. 

Checkpoint outside Hurghada Service people quarters behind the hotel

This applies to the beach and hotel facilities. We stayed at a 4 ½ star hotel, which was recommended to us by a German travel agency. According to their information, the hotels with 3 stars and less are too compromising, when it comes to general hygiene standards. 

Guard at checkpoint
Red Sea Mountain Range

However, if you are keen on a hyper service system (no offence against the staff, they were great) and luxurious hotels with pools and meter long breakfast and dinner buffets, you will love this place. You may guess that I prefer simple accommodation instead. For all who do too: there was a Youth Hostel just outside of the super-hotel area (500m down the road), which also had an internet café right in front of it and a little supermarket next to it. This place looked simple and comfortable to me. 

Hurghada used to be a fisher village with a population of 400. Now it is a hotel-tourist farm and employs people from all over the country. Persons from Cairo and Luxor find work in the numerous shops, restaurants or hotels. Although the Egyptians in Hurghada are used to the Europeans and their "ways", it is sensible to be appropriately dressed while moving outside of the hotel complex, out of respect for the local culture. Exposing excessive amounts of skin or signs of affection in public are generally not acceptable in Islamic culture. 

Beduine with camel
the egyptian girl who made the doll in the left corner

During our visit in September 2000 (low season) the temperatures reached 38 degrees Celsius in Hurghada and about 42 degrees Celsius in the Valley of the Kings. It is therefore advisable to bring light clothing, in the way of cotton shirts (also long-sleeved) and knee length shorts. The most suitable ones are those Indian type shirts, which are quite airy. They act as your private air conditioner. Also include sunglasses and a hat or cloth to cover your head with. 

Try not to wear body tight shirts or pants, they may look attractive, but will make you suffer. Our trip to Luxor from Hurghada took about 6 hours by bus. We got up at 5am and our bus convoy got to Luxor around noon. We chose the guided bus tour because of security reasons. It is not recommended to travel by yourself as a visitor in Egypt (which is a pity). The trip was quite comfortable. Interesting stories and anecdotes about Egypt made time pass quickly. The German speaking, FTI (Travel Company) Tour guide Mohammed Ezzh (or Ezz) from Cairo entertained us quite well. In fact, if you ever get onto a FTI day trip to Luxor, ask if he’s on it. 

One Colossus of Memnon
Temple of Queen Hatschepsut

He’s a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable person and seems to have found HIS vocation. Before we had lunch at a collaborating hotel, we visited the western part of Luxor, where the tomb of queen Hatschepsut, and, amongst others, the rulers Ramses III, Sethos I, AmenophisII and Tut-anch-Amun lay in the Valley of the Kings.  

When we visited the tombs, we noticed that there were tiny desert flies. That’s normal - but these also stung and got me very irritated. It is advisable to put some insect/mosquito deterrent onto the skin before entering that area. The tombs were quite fascinating and through our tour guide we managed to grasp the meanings of some of the wall paintings. 

Luxor Alabaster City
Nile with Valley of the Kings in the background

These paintings are 3550 years old and still convey the wealth of its time. Due to the dry climate the colours that still shine. The artists executed a standard theme, which described the different stages of the pharo’s entering into the afterlife (for more click here).

After viewing the tombs and soaking in some history, we made our way to the Nile to catch a boat over to the east to have lunch and continue with the temple viewing. During that day, it was important to drink a lot of water and to keep your head covered. The sun was very strong and the temperatures were higher than in Hurghada.

Promenade of Rams at the Karnak Temple
Karnak temple pillars

 Our next station was the temple of Karnak. This used to be the main place of amun worship and was closed to the public. Nearly every king added a piece to the temple complex and during antiquity the great pillar hall was one of the seven world wonders. The pillars used to carry a stone plate as the ceiling. Light would shine through specially constructed grills.

From the Karnak temple we went on to the Luxor temple, build for the god amun by Amenophis III. The Karnak and Luxor temple used to be connected by a 3km long sphinx-avenue. This building used to have two obelisks at its entrance. One of these was gifted to France by a sheik and now decorates the Place de la Concorde.

 At the far back of the temple, a room was transformed into a chapel by Alexander the Great according to the travel guide. The trip came to an end and before we started the bus journey back to Hurghada at about 6pm, we were taken to a papyrus shop.

The art of papermaking was explained to us and we could acquire hand painted papyrus with traditional and modern motives. Afterwards we got back on the bus and while the sun set, we were on our way back. Got there at about midnight and had dinner at the opposite hotel. They were prepared for the extra shift. 

Light used to flow through these Grills into the temple
Moshee next to the Temple of Luxor Luxor Temple

Only afterwards one realises the significance and scales of the sights seen.

   R e d   S e a  - Abu Ramada Sth, Elaruk Diving & Sharm el Naga Snorkeling
Bow of the Diveboat

This is why we chose to go to the Red Sea: to experience the underwater world. It is said that the Red Sea offers the worlds best diving right after the Great Barrier Reef. Although I was quite amazed about the colorful fish I have also heard about the deterioration of the coral reefs. Apart from the slow increase in water temperature in those two great diving areas, there’s also been increased water tourism at these sites, which could also have contributed to the rather strained look of the reefs.

Anyway we went to see Elaruk and Abu Ramada south with Eurodivers. This company is quite expensive, but as first time Red Sea visitors we wanted to go the sure way. The gear was rented for the dives so that increased the price. The trip included two dives and lunch. The first site was Abu Ramada south. Our maximum diving depth was 20m and we had good visibility.

Dive number one at Elaruk
Sharm el Naga beach Staghorn coral with bluegreen chromis

We did a guided round along the coral and sponge covered reef wall and saw some wonderful pipefish, one lionfish, a blue spotted stingray and parrotfish (which seem to be abundant in the Red Sea). At 3m there was a little boat wreck or mostly the iron frame of it. Interesting dive in a different sort of environment. After Egyptian rice, bean and fish lunch and an hour’s rest the boat anchored at Elaruk. The underwater arrangement consisted of a half circle formation of five round reef rocks.

Net Fire Coral
Striped Butterflyfish

Here there was more colourful coral present. We got to see some scalefin anthias, different sorts of wrasses, Anemonefish, common lizardfish, and groups of blotcheye soldierfish (my favourite). Our visibility was good (10m). To me this was the better dive out of the two, because of the colours. On the next day we got onto a bus at 9 am which took us to Sharm el Naga. A naturally sandy beach with a wonderful reef plate system which habours a great variety of fish, corals (very little sponges though), see urchins and plastic bags.

Somehow, there seems to be a garbage disposal problem in that region. It seems that the collections from building sites and hotels end up in shallow sandy pits in the desert outside of the Hotel farms, who are owned by German and other "western" Businesses. The wind must blow the refuse all over the area including the beach and from the beach into the water. Anyway most of the water tourists did not mind the new species and may even have mistaken them for a new evolutionary species of jellyfish.

Sergeant Major
Parrotfish

Nevertheless, the underwater world was quite astounding. The depth ranged from about 0.5m to about 7m where there was reef still visible and reachable via a snorkel dive. We experienced the typical twobar anemonefish scene. The pair of fish, who live within the anemone and are immune to its poison, were attacking us for coming to close to their home. We used to see this in nature documentaries but to experience it in real life is wonderful. Toward the end of the day at about 3pm we saw a single barracuda in the shallow part of the pool.

We stared at it for about 10 minutes before we left the water. It was still with glassy eyes and a half-opened mouth. The teeth looked sharp and long. In between the teeth there was a cleaning company of small fish who the barracuda seemed to tolerate patiently, knowing the value of their service. And if you managed to get close enough to the reef you could see baby clams with their frilly neon turquoise dress on the outside of the shell opening.

Royal Angelfish
School of fish nibbling on rope Stony Coral, Favites
Last edited 19-06-01

All photos by A. Goss & S. Goss

 

© A.Goss, April 2001