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Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai

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EGYPT TRAVEL GUIDE

THE PROJECT OCEAN VISION EGYPT TRAVEL GUIDE FOR DIVERS


This is a traveller's Guide to Egypt compiled essentially for divers. It includes sections on its people, places, currency and culture, so will be of use to all travellers to this intriguing country. There are some very important issues that foreign travellers to Egypt need to be aware of to make your travels safer, easier and more enjoyable.

As this is mainly for divers, the areas covered centre on the Red Sea, the dive operations and dive sites. At this stage, we are not covering Cairo, Alexandria or Luxor - these are amply described elsewhere, download the Egypt Travel catalogue here.

Every travel guide requires regular updates and personal experiences. This page is under constant development so please feel free to send us your contributions and knowledge about Egypt - click here to contact us.

Egyptian Flag - Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai

Our Egypt Travel Guide deals with 8 main topics (plus one annex). As this page is rather long, we have provided links below to the various sections. Hover your mouse pointer over purple text for additional information or to see imperial units.

CONTENTS (Links to sections within this article)

 

Egypt Overview

The Egyptian Revolution 2010

Travel Requirements and Information (including currency)

Egyptian Law & Rules

Islam and Customs

The Red Sea

 

 

Four Top Dive Destinations in Egypt:

Sharm el Sheikh

Hurghada

Dahab

Marsa Alam

Dive Operators in Egypt

Tips for Visitors to Egypt

Annex - Red Sea Sharks



Green Turtle - Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt Young Green Turtle, Photograph by Courtney 2009

 

EGYPT OVERVIEW

Project Ocean Vision Egypt Travel Guide

The Arab Republic of Egypt is a transcontinental country; it's main landmass west of the Red Sea on the African continental plate and its smaller portion, the Sinai Peninsula, in Southwest Asia. With an area of about 1,010,000 km2, Egypt is bounded to the north by the Mediterranean Sea, the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lie Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Egypt Map: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai Click on this map of Egypt to open it in a new window

Egypt is one of the most populous countries in the Middle East with the vast majority of its estimated 77 million population living in an area of about 40,000 km2 along the River Nile on the the country's only arable agricultural land. About half of Egypt's residents live in urban areas, most in the densely populated centres of Cairo (the capital), Alexandria and other cities of the Nile Delta.

Egypt is rightly famed for its ancient civilization and some of the world's most famous monuments, including the Giza pyramids and its Great Sphinx. The southern city of Luxor contains many ancient artifacts, such as the Temple of Karnak and the Valley of the Kings. Egypt possesses one of the most diversified and rapidly developing economies in the Middle East; tourism, agriculture, industry and service industries are all their biggest earners.

Pyramid of Khufu, Egypt

Over 90% of Egypt is desert. In the west the Libyan Desert, a part of the Sahara Desert (and sometimes called the Western Desert), includes a vast sandy expanse called the Great Sand Sea. Located here are several depressions that lie below sea level, including the Qattara Depression (about 18,000 sq km) at -133 m, the lowest point in Africa. Also found here are the oases of Siwa, Kharga, Baharia, Farafra, Al-Faiyum and Dakhla.

In the east of Egypt is the Arabian Desert also called the Eastern Desert, which borders the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez. Much of the Arabian Desert occupies a plateau that rises gradually east from the Nile Valley to elevations of about 600 m and is broken along the Red Sea coast by jagged peaks as high as about 2,100 m above sea level.

In the extreme south, along the border with Sudan, is the Nubian Desert, an extensive region of dunes and sandy plains. The political border follows the 22nd parallel, but the administrative border turns further north to form the Hala'ib Triangle, an area of some 20,580 km2 that is claimed by both countries - see the map above.

The Nile enters Egypt from the Sudan and flows north for some 1,545 km to the Mediterranean Sea. For its entire length, from the southern border to Cairo, the Nile flows through a narrow valley lined by cliffs. Lake Nasser, the world's largest man-made reservoir and formed by the Aswan high dam, extends south across the Sudan border. The lake is about 480 km long and is roughly 16 km across at its widest point. About two-thirds of the lake lies in Egypt.

The Sinai Peninsula, a triangle of some 60,000 km2, consists of sandy desert in the north and rugged mountains in the south. Summits rise to more than 2,100 m above the Red Sea: Mount Catherine (Jabal Katrìnah) is the highest point in Egypt at 2,637 m and is the location of St Catherine's Monastery, constructed by order of the Emperor Justinian between 527 and 565. Mount Sinai (Jabal Mosa) rises to 2,285 m where, according to the Old Testament of the Bible, Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.

The name Sinai is derived from the name Sin, the Sumerian deity of the moon. I have also been told by an Egyptian friend that the name comes from the Arabic word sin, meaning teeth - this refers to the jagged mountains, said to look like sharp teeth.

Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai
The Sinai as seen from Gemini 11, 14th September 1966

Egypt's Red Sea has some of the best scuba diving in the world and people come from all over the planet to explore the underwater wonders including pristine reefs, abundant sealife and the many shipwrecks. There are plenty of good dive centres in Sharm el Sheik, Taba, Dahab and Nuweiba on the Sinai and El Gouna, Hurghada, Soma Bay, Safaga and Marsa Alam on the Red Sea coast. We find that many people come to Egypt to do either initial or advanced diving training, but there are a lot, like us, that keep coming back for the fantastic, clear water, wonderful light and fantastic colours and wildlife. As a general rule, the diving tends to get more challenging the further south one goes.

We shall discuss the Red Sea in more detail later in this article. If you want to jump directly to that section, please click here. We also have a list of dive centres we know near the bottom of this page.



THE EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION

On 25th January 2011 protests erupted in major cities in Egypt - mainly Cairo, Suez and Alexandria. The size of the protests grew rapidly to over a million people, demanding the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, an end to corruption and police repression and the democratic reform of Egypt's political system. Mubarak tried to suppress the people, but protests and rioting continued and the Army effectively refused to use force against the Egyptian people. After 18 days of protests, on 11th February, Vice President Omar Suleiman (head of Egypt's secret police) announced that Mubarak was stepping down and handing power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces; this became known as the White Revolution. Hosni Mubarak had been president of Egypt since 1981 (following the assassination of President Anwar El Sadat) and was known to have embezzled a personal fortune estimated to be $5 billion.

Hosni Mubarak fell from power because of his refusal to allow the people of Egypt sufficient democratic rights, the brutal methods used by the secret police and his corruption in amassing a huge personal fortune while the majority of the population lived in extreme poverty. Hosni Mubarak spent many months in hospital in Sharm el Sheikh and was eventually transferred back to Cairo where he went on trial on 3rd August 2011 for ordering the killing of demonstrators. His lawyers said that he was too ill to stand trial, but that seems to be a standard tactic these days and didn't hold much water.

A general election was held in Egypt in the summer of 2012 and the people voted in a new president, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, hard-line Islamists and very different to the liberal regime of the past. His early speaches claimed that Egypt would be a fair, democratic country, that the economy would grow and that everything would be better. However, talking carefully about this to ordinary Egyptian people paints a different picture. Working people saw prices and taxes rising whilst jobs and money were scarse. Some claim that the new government were likely to be using similarly brutal methods to supress disquiet and many feared that the Government would, over time, change Egypt into more of a strict Muslim country. This last issue, would, in all likelihood, severely damage the tourist industry on which the economy depends. Some 15,000,000 people in Egypt (out of about 91,000,000) are directly employed by the tourist industry; many times more indirectly benefit from it.

Any changes here seem likely to come gradually, so you will not see any significant differences for the visitor. However, our advice is to tread carefully when discussing these issues and respect the culture and the rules outlined in this article.



TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS AND INFORMATION

This section includes sub-sections on:

What to bring to Egypt

Passports, Visas and Other Travel Requirements

Health & Vaccinations for Egypt

Travel & Health Insurance

Documentation

Power Supply

Egyptian Currency & Banking

Time Difference from UK


What to Bring to Egypt

Dive equipment is readily available to hire. However, for those with your own gear you'll find most of it very suitable for diving here in the Red Sea. All dive tours include the provision of tanks, weights and weight belts so leave those items at home. 3mm wetsuit for summer, 5mm or extra thermal protection for winter. Gloves and hoods if you feel the cold - you will probably be told you can't wear gloves, but see my article on Red Sea Diving Regulations. Mask, snorkel, boots, fins, BCD and spares. If you're concerned about baggage weight, some airlines and tour operators accept that divers have a lot of kit to carry and if you approach them 3 or 4 weeks before you travel they may increase your baggage allowance for dive gear by as much as 10kg, sometimes free of charge or for a small premium - certainly a lot less than paying excess baggage charges.

If you are going to bring underwater cameras, ensure you have spare housing seals, cleaning materials and any special supplies of film, tapes, etc. Again, many stores around may have your brand but you can never be sure; and anyway, do you want to spend valuable diving time trudging around dive shops looking for obscure housing seals? Bring chargers for all equipment. Ordinary disposable batteries are readily available so don't use up your baggage allowance with them - and don't take them home at the end of your trip!

Buy sunscreen at your departure airport - OK for carry on. Do remember that there are plenty of shops in Sharm, but other locations are less well provided for. Pharmacies will provide you with just about anything you need.

Credit cards are widely accepted


Passports, Visas and Other Travel Requirements

Passport with at least one blank page and valid for at least six months from the date of arrival required for all nationals from Great Britain, the EU, USA, Australia and Canada. Nationals from these countries have the option to obtain tourist visas upon arrival in Egypt. Visa fee payable upon arrival is US$15 or the equivalent in Egyptian pounds.

Tourist visas are available at Egyptian embassies and consulates around the world. A single-entry visa is valid for 3 months from when you acquire it, and allows you a 1 month stay in the country. If you are planning to visit any neighbouring countries, I suggest applying for a multiple-entry visa, so you can get back in to Egypt without any problems. Check with your closest Egyptian consulate or embassy for fees and the most up to date information.

Egyptian Visa: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai

Now, technically, British and other EU nationals travelling to Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba and Taba resorts only, for up to 14 days, do not require a visa; they can receive a free entry permission stamp upon arrival. However, if you subsequently decide to go on a trip outside that area, you may find you do not meet their visa requirements. For divers, you will need a tourist visa to get into the Ras Mohammed National Park, where all the very best dive sites are located - so my advice is to spend the $15 and buy your entry visa on arrival at the airport.

Americans travellers check http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1108.html

Canadians travellers check http://www.voyage.gc.ca/countries_pays/report_rapport-eng.asp?id=79000

British travellers check www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo

If you're going there to work, you will require a work permit and this will require evidence of an AIDS test.

You may hear that foreign visitors are required to register with the local police within one week of arrival in country. EU and US visitors are exempted from this requirement. Your hotel will normally do this for you - I have certainly never had to do it.

They also advise that certain valuables such as electrical equipment, video cameras etc should be declared on arrival in Egypt.  Items noted in passports must be produced on exit from the country.  Failure to do so will result in payment of high rates of customs duty.  It is advisable to contact the Egyptian embassy in your country of residence for specific information regarding customs requirements. I have taken a lot of very expensive video equipment in and out of Egypt many, many times without ever declaring it (I wouldn't even know how to) and have never experienced this problem. That's not to say it couldn't happen...

Health & Vaccinations for Egypt

Vaccinations. While there are no compulsory inoculation or vaccination requirements for entry into Egypt, I would advise you to have current vaccinations for Polio, Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid - good ones to keep up to date for global travel. A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers over one year of age coming from infected areas. Those arriving in transit from such areas without a certificate will be detained at the airport until their onward flight departs. Additionally, Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is thought to be present in the Nile Delta and the Nile Valley; avoid swimming and wading in fresh water.

Water. During your stay in Egypt, use only bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth and check the seal of the bottle is intact. Avoid unbottled beverages and ice except in top hotels and restaurants. Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled. Avoid uncooked vegetables and peeled fruit that may have been washed in tap water.

Avian Flu. As of February 2010, the Egyptian Ministry of Health had confirmed 102 human cases of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza; bird flu has resulted in thirty deaths. Travellers to Egypt are cautioned to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with fæces from poultry or other animals - as if you needed telling that. In addition, the WHO recommend eating only fully-cooked poultry and eggs.

Swine Flu. As of February 2010, the Egyptian Ministry of Health had confirmed 16,053 cases of 2009-H1N1 influenza and 268 H1N1-related deaths. The swine flu virus spreads from person-to-person, in much the same way as seasonal flu. Most people infected with it fully recover. You cannot catch 2009-H1N1 by eating properly cooked pork products - not that you'll find many in Egypt anyway!

Pregnancy. Airlines may refuse permission for women to fly who will be 28 weeks or more pregnant on the date of the return journey. From 28 weeks, expectant mothers should carry a medical certificate confirming the stage of pregnancy for the return flight and confirming fitness to fly. They should also check their insurance policy for any restrictions.


Travel & Health Insurance

It is essential when travelling abroad that you have adequate insurance cover, and we recommend that this is arranged at the time of booking. Make sure your insurance specifically covers you for diving and check the maximum depth (or sometimes partial pressure) that your cover permits. Do not exceed this depth - if you have an accident, they will check your dive computer to see where you've been. Make sure you have the details of your policy with you and that you know how to contact them when required.


Documentation

Don't forget your diver certification cards. The authorities are clamping down hard on dive centres in Egypt and they will require your cards before letting you dive. Take your diving log book.

Remember to keep a photocopy of all the important pages of any documents (passport, medical insurance, flight details) in case they are lost or stolen.


Power Supply

The electricity supply in Egypt is 220 volts, 50 Hz, and uses round-pronged plugs. North American and other non 220-volt users are advised to bring a converter! If you are coming from the UK, you will need only an adaptor for your plugs (these are available from high street shops, at the airport on the way out, etc). Power is not totally reliable and not terribly 'clean'. I have never had any equipment damaged by power spikes, but I tend only to charge batteries, which tend to be less susceptible to such issues.


Egyptian Currency & Banking

The unit for Egypt currency is the pound (EGP; symbol E£ or referred as LE - Livre Egyptienne). The pound is divided into 100 piastres.

Notes are in denominations of E£100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 1, 50 piastres and 25 piastres. Coins are in denominations of 20, 10 and 5 piastres. £1 sterling is about £10 Egyptian (Convert LE to other currencies or use the converter on the right).

Banks do not accept $100 notes issued before 1992.


 

The two sides of Egypt bank notes are printed in different languages, Arabic on one side and English on the other. The Arabic side (obverse) has engravings of architecturally and historically important mosques. The English side (reverse) features Ancient Egyptian motifs (buildings, statues and inscriptions). Egyptian bank notes are very colourful and unusual in that the sizes of the notes vary with their values.

At this point it's worth knowing your arabic numerals, but if you can't read the number on a bank note, turn it over.



١ ٢ ٣ ٤ ٥ ٦ ٧ ٨ ٩ ٠
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

Arabic numerals are written left to right as in English. So 250, for example, is ٢٥٠. Be very careful of the differences between pounds and piastres - piastres are hardly worth the paper they're printed on and this is the basis of the occasional scam where you are given a 50 piastre note instead of a 50 pound note. Here are some examples of Egyptian notes. Hover over an image if you can't work out what it is...


25 Egyptian Piastres 50 Egyptian Piastres

1 Egyptian Pound 10 Egyptian Pounds 20 Egyptian Pounds

50 Egyptian Pounds 100 Egyptian Pounds 200 Egyptian Pounds

To use the LE5 note as an example (see below), it is blue-green in colour, features the Mosque of Ibn Tulun on the obverse and a Pharaonic engraving symbolizing the River Nile offering its bounties to the valley on the reverse. A five pound note is a good tip for service - this is just 50 or 60 pence (UK), but usually well received.

5 Egyptian Pounds

Currency exchange is available at banks, bureaux de change and most hotels; of these the banks often have the best exchange rates.

At the time of going to print, the import and export of foreign currency is unlimited. According to the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office web site, 5,000 Egyptian pounds is the maximum amount of local currency you are allowed to bring in or take out of Egypt, but I believe this may be out of date.  I have often been told to change $, £ or € when you arrive in Egypt as the exchange rate is much better there than at home. However, I tend to use Travelex at my departure airport so that I'm all set up before I leave - it can sometimes be a pain getting somewhere to exchange money on that first evening. Also, I always ask about currency limits when I buy Egyptian pounds.

In Egypt, most of the banks are open from Sunday to Thursday (Friday and Saturday being the arabic weekend); working hours are 0830 to 1400, while banks at the airports and the major ports of entry are often open 24 hours. Note: Most of the major credit/debit cards, such as American Express, MasterCard, Visa, all Euro cards and JCB, are widely accepted in various hotels and shops in Egypt. You may avoid additional exchange rate charges by using traveller's cheques in US Dollars, Euros or Pounds Sterling.

ATM machines mostly accept Visa, MasterCard and Cirrus cards. I can use my bank debit card (Switch, Maestro, etc) in Egyptian ATMs. If you can't find an ATM machine, you can withdraw cash from Misr Bank branches. If you wish to convert your currency, you can use $US, £UK or Euros, as they are accepted in many banks and other places, but Scottish pounds and New Zealand dollars are not accepted in Egypt. If your credit cards are not being accepted (this does happen) you can get money wired to you from abroad. There are plenty of Western Union branches in Egypt and it takes just a few minutes to get any sum of money wired through them. Remember that drawing cash on a credit card attracts a really high interest rate and it's the last item to be cleared from your statement.

A really frustrating thing that has happened to me many times in Egypt is credit/debit cards not working when it comes time to pay your bills at check-out. I'm going to assume you told your bank you were going to Egypt before leaving home so that they haven't blocked your card for security reasons. Four things to try:

Get the hotel/dive centre to check why before making expensive calls from your mobile in Egypt to the UK or USA - the fault is nearly always at their end, not your bank. Tell the hotel/dive centre to get the engineer in and try again tomorrow.

Try another card - never trust your luck to just one when travelling.

Get the 'merchant' to take an imprint of your card the old fashioned way instead of doing a live authorization or get telephone authorization from your bank (manual authorization).

Go and draw cash out of an ATM and pay them in Egyptian notes. Limited by your daily withdrawal limit.

If they need you to call your bank for authorization or anything, make sure you use their phone, but do not let them listen to private information or the answers to security questions.

Because of the likelihood of this happening, daily withdrawal limits on cards and the time virtually any solution will take to work through, it's worth not letting your bills build up too long (maybe pay at the end of each week) and you will need to leave yourself a day or so to spare at the end of your trip before you fly home.

If you have any other thoughts on this, please drop me a line.

Time Zone

During the Summer months, Egypt is 2 hours ahead of the UK, 1 hour during the winter.

Note that this year (2010) the time in Egypt was changed due to the month of Ramadan. At midnight on Tuesday 10 August Egypt moved one hour backward (GMT + 1:00), on midnight of Thursday 9 September one hour ahead again (GMT + 2:00) and finally at midnight of Thursday 30 September one hour backward (GMT + 1:00) to start the winter timing.


The time in Egypt now is .


Carol Courtnage - Project Ocean Vision in The Red Sea, Egypt.
Carol Courtnage - Project Ocean Vision in The Red Sea, Egypt.




EGYPTIAN LAW & RULES

Visitors to Egypt and residents should carry photographic ID at all times - a copy of your passport is sufficient.

Drinking alcohol in the street and anywhere other than a licenced restaurant or bar is not allowed and can lead to arrest.

Possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs is a serious offence in Egypt and can, even for possession of small amounts, lead to lengthy prison sentences (25 years), life imprisonment or the death penalty. Those convicted to life imprisonment on drugs charges will normally spend the rest of their life in an Egyptian prison with no possibility of parole or pardon.

Photography of or near Egyptian military installations is strictly prohibited. Don’t photograph officials without their consent. Plane spotting is not advised under any circumstances. You may even be arrested if you use binoculars near an airport. Remember that Sharm el Sheikh International Airport is actually a Military Air Base; be appropriately respectful of their security requirements.

Under Muslim custom, sexual relations outside of marriage are considered immoral; penalties for immorality include imprisonment. Although homosexuality is not in itself illegal under Egyptian law, homosexual acts in public are illegal and homosexuals have been convicted for breaching laws on public decency.

Be aware that Egyptian laws relating to collecting shells and coral (dead or alive) are strict. First, don't collect them for ecological reasons, second don't try to take any out of the country whether you collected them yourself or not. If they find any in your bags you will be fined very heavily.

The diving rules in the Red Sea, particularly the marine parks are often misquoted by the dive operators - for a variety of reason that I won't go into here. You should be aware of the rules as they stand and I have written a separate article on this subject for you - Red Sea Diving Regulations.





ISLAM

Project Ocean Vision Egypt Travel Guide

Understanding Islam - the basic facts

After Christianity (2 billion followers worldwide), Islam is the second largest religion in the world with over 1 billion followers. The word Islam means 'submission to the will of God' and a follower is called a Muslim; 'one that submits to the will of God'. Muslims believe that there is only One God, Allah, the same God worshiped by Christians and Jews. Muslim teaching states that God sent a number of prophets to mankind to teach them how to live according to His law; the final Prophet was Muhammad, but Jesus, Moses and Abraham are also respected by Islam as prophets of God. Islamic laws are based on the Qur'an (right), and the Sunnah and there are five basic Pillars of Islam: the declaration of faith, praying five times a day, giving money to charity, fasting during the month of Ramadan and a pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims believe that the verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad by God through the angel Gabriel. Islam is a peaceful religion.

  Quran

Divisions of Islam

Islam has two principal divisions, the Sunni and the Shi'a. They both share the fundamentals of Islam and The Qur'an, but there are differences mostly derived from their different historical experiences, political and social developments, and ethnic composition.

These differences originate from the question of who would succeed the Prophet Muhammad as leader of the emerging Muslim community after his death. To understand these differences, we need to examine the Prophet's life and circumstances.

When the Prophet died in the early 7th century he left behind the religion of Islam and an Islamic state of about one hundred thousand Muslims on the Arabian Peninsula. It was the question of who should succeed the Prophet and lead this state that created the divide between the two groups.

The larger group of Muslims, Sunnis, chose Abu Bakr, a Companion of the Prophet, as their Caliph and he was accepted as such by much of the community that considered the succession to be political, not spiritual. Sunnis argue that the Prophet chose Abu Bakr to lead the congregational prayers as he lay on his deathbed, thus suggesting that the Prophet was naming Abu Bakr as the next leader. However the smaller group, The Shi'as, believed that the Prophet's son-in-law and cousin, Ali, should be Caliph. The Shi'as' evidence is that Muhammad stood up in front of his Companions on the way back from his last Hajj, and proclaimed Ali the spiritual guide and master of all believers. Shi'a reports say he took Ali's hand and said that anyone who followed Muhammad should follow Ali. In the end Abu Bakr was appointed First Caliph. Muslims who believe that Abu Bakr should have been the Prophet's successor have come to be known as Sunni Muslims. Those who believe Ali should have been the Prophet's successor are now known as Shi'a Muslims. The terms Sunni and Shi'a only came into use much later: Sunni means 'one who follows the Sunnah' (what the Prophet said, did, agreed to or condemned) while Shi'a is a contraction of the phrase 'Shiat Ali', meaning 'partisans of Ali'. The vast majority of Egyptian Muslims are Sunni.


Etiquette and Practices

Islamic etiquette includes greeting others with 'as-salam alaykum' (peace be unto you), saying bismillah ('in the name of God') before meals, and using only the right hand for eating and drinking. Hygiene practices include the circumcision of male offspring. Islamic burial rituals include saying the Salat al-Janazah (funeral prayer) over the bathed and enshrouded body which is burried in a grave.

Muslims are prohibited from consuming pork, blood, carrion and alcohol. All meat must come from a herbivorous animal slaughtered in the name of God by a Muslim, Jew, or Christian, with the exception of game that one has hunted or fished for oneself. Permissible food is called halal. Halal is good, haram is bad.

Egypt is a moderate and progressive country and it is sometimes easy to forget that the locals are, mostly, devout Muslims. Unless you want to offend, you should dress conservatively. When visiting churches and mosques men should not wear shorts and women should not wear shorts, mini-skirts or tank tops. In fact it is inadvisable for women to wear anything short or sleeveless unless on the beach or by a pool; it will save you some unwanted attention. You will see a lot of European and Russian women sunbathing topless; the number of women that do this may lead you to believe that it is acceptable - it is not.

The government in Egypt does not interfere with the practice of Christianity, but encouraging conversion to the Christian faith is illegal.

 


Sharm-el-Sheikh mosque, Sinai, Egypt
The Mosque in Sharm el Sheikh

Return to the top of the Egypt Travel Guide

THE RED SEA

Surrounded by huge deserts, the Red Sea extends 2,000 km from the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba to Bab el Mandeb in the south. The Gulf of Aqaba is 180 km long. Following the Syrian-African Rift Valley the Gulf is 25 km wide, and 1,800 m deep.

The Red Sea was formed by the Arabian plate splitting from the African plate along the line of the Red Sea Rift or Afar Fault, about 20 million years ago (see small map below). The Red Sea will continue to widening and will, over millions of years, become a new ocean in its own right. In 2008 a series of earthquakes started splitting the Earth's crust along a 60 km section of the East African Rift in Afar, Ethiopia. The central "axial" trench is clearly visible in the map to the right.

The African and Arabian Tectonic Plates
The red line shows the boundary between
the African and Arabian tectonic plates,
the line along which the Red Sea is growing.

This tectonic activity causes the water temperature at the deepest parts of the Red Sea to be well over 50ºC, warming the waters above.

For a brief discussion on plate tectonics visit:
www.projectoceanvision.com/vox-16.htm#plate_tectonics


  Egypt: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai

There are many special features of this area. Water temperature is relatively constant; during summer a maximum of 28ºC and in winter not less than 20ºC (see chart below). These temperatures are excellent for diving, generally a short wetsuit is fine for summer, a long 3mm or 5mm wetsuit for winter (October - April), although you may want additional thermal protection if you are likely to be stationary in the water for long periods - as we find when filming underwater. We wear a thermal vest under our wet suits, hood and gloves - permitted for thermal protection despite what you may hear to the contrary (see my Guide to Red Sea Regulations). Cloud, rainfall and storms are extremely infrequent and currents are generally mild (with some notable exceptions - later). This leads to clear waters, excellent visibility and very little suspended natural sediments that would interfere with photography or inhibit coral growth (see my article on Coral).

Low humidity, the high rate of evaporation due to high temperatures and the lack of any freshwater inflow make the Red Sea one of the saltiest life-sustaining seas in the world. Salinity reaches 4.1% (average for the world's oceans is about 3.6%), so you may need a little extra weight for diving.

It's hard to say which are the best months to visit Egypt for diving. It depends what you like. The entire year offers great weather, but I prefer April to September of October in order to dive more comfortably as the water is warmer. See my charts in the sections below for more data.


Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai
Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai   Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai   Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai   Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai
Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai Photos from Expedition Ocean Vision 3 - The Northern Red Sea 2009.

It is said that the marine life in the Red Sea is more colourful than anywhere else on Earth. And it is true that an unusually high number of species have evolved here that are unique to the Red Sea - endemic species in that they are exclusively native to this sea. The Red Sea was completely cut off from other oceans and existed as an enclosed sea. Even after the link with the Indian Ocean, Bab el Mandeb or the Strait of Perim, was opened, it remained a narrow and restrictive channel that is a barrier to the free migration of species into the Red Sea. So we can see that many species here evolved in isolation and consequently some 20% of Red Sea species are endemic. Of the 300 species of coral, 10% are unique to the Red Sea.

The rich diversity is partly due to the 2,000 km of coral reef extending along the Red Sea's coastline. These fringing reefs are 5,000–7,000 years old and are largely formed of stony acropora and porites corals (illustrations below). The reefs form platforms and sometimes lagoons along the coast and occasional other features such as cylinders (such as the Red Sea's Blue Hole at Dahab). These coastal reefs are also visited by pelagic species of red sea fish, including some of the 44 species of shark (see list at the bottom of this page).


Acropora. Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai
Example of acropora

Porites. Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai
Example of porites

This uniqueness and wonderful diversity is not without its risks. The populations of the endemic species in the Red Sea are small and if their numbers are caused to decline, it becomes virtually impossible for the species to recover. And there are a number of significant threats to these populations: coastal development, pressure from human populations (water desalination, effluent discharge and fishing) and the sheer numbers of divers that visit the reefs every year. The massive demand for fresh water is meet by numerous desalination plants along the Red Sea that discharge warm brine and treatment chemicals (chlorine and anti-scalants); these are thought to cause bleaching and mortality of corals and diseases to the fish stocks. Fishermen take fish and corals illegally for the aquarium and jewellery trades. Ocean warming causes coral bleaching, which kills the coral, which in turn destroys habitat vital to other marine species.

Why do we need to know this as divers visiting the Red Sea? Simple. We need to understand how fragile and threatened this environment is so that we do not become part of the problem. To my mind, we must follow three rules (equally applicable to Egypt or anywhere else in the World):

Dive responsibly. This means obeying the marine park regulations and guidelines:

Do not touch, collect, remove or damage any material, living or dead (corals, shells, fish, plants, fossils).
Do not walk or anchor on any reef area. Only use marked access points.
Do not feed the fish.
No fishing or spear fishing.

Live responsibly. Do not support any activity that is harmful to the ecology of the Red Sea. This means not buying jewellery or ornaments made from coral or shells, do not buy aquarium fish from unsustainable sources.

Be an ambassador. Many divers do not either understand or care what effect their actions have. Set them a good example, inform them and stop them from touching or interfering with the marine life.

 



FOUR TOP DIVE DESTINATIONS IN EGYPT

Sharm el Sheikh

Sharm El Sheik is one of the most exquisite diving spots in the Red Sea. There are a number of sandy beaches, a vibrant nightlife including restaurants, bars, casinos and discos and quieter spots to relax and unwind. To my mind, Egypt and the Red Sea offer some of the best diving in the world and Sharm el Sheikh is still one of the best centres for exploring the Northern Red Sea. However, it has become very popular and more commercialized in recent years and we don't find it quite as relaxing as once it was. But if you like your holiday destination lively, this is a great place to visit. There is a high level of security with a very visible police presence offering a reassurance to the foreign visitor. Sharm El Sheikh is a safe place to holiday, with crime at a minimum. You are very safe to walk anywhere in Sharm day or night.

The name Sharm el Sheikh is generally used to describe the entire metropolitan area of Old Sharm, Hadaba, Na’ama Bay, Hay el Nour, Roweisat, Shark's Bay and, more recently, Montazah and Ras Nasrani, north of the airport. This conurbation has grown rapidly since the late 1960s from a small, occasionally inhabited, Bedouin fishing village, to become an impressive “city”. This huge, rapid and continuing development is a concern to conservationists. Large-scale coastal development poses a significant risk to the marine environment in a number of ways including: sedimentation of coastal water, high concentrations of saline discharge into the sea from water desalination, sewerage and other pollution, over-fishing and the sheer pressure of so many people using one small stretch of sea. That said, the Egyptian authorities have the protection of this environment well up their list of priorities.

Sharm El Sheikh lies at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. It offers a variety of dive sites from reefs and walls to wrecks. The climate is hot, the water is warm and clear, and the reefs are covered in life. Diving is readily available everywhere and there are nearly fifty dive centres in the region. More Europeans learn to dive here than anywhere else in the world and there are plenty of sites well suited to beginners. Whatever your experience, many dive centres require you to do one local check dive before they will take you on a boat trip in order to give you an opportunity to orient yourself to Red Sea diving.


Month JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Air ºC Max 20 21 24 28 32 35 38 40 34 31 27 21
Air ºC Min 08 08 10 14 19 21 24 24 23 20 15 09
Water ºC 20 20 21 22 23 24 26 26 26 25 24 22
Hours of sunshine 9 9 10 10 11 13 13 12 11 10 9 8
Temperature and sunshine data for Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt


There is some shore diving from Sharm, but boats give access to the best reefs. The popularity of these sites does mean that the water can get rather crowded, particularly once the day boats arrive each morning. The dive sites are diverse and covered in coral formations and a huge range of marine life, including jacks, snappers and barracudas. The areas covered by Sharm are from the Straits of Tiran through to the marine park of Ras Mohammed.

The Straits of Tiran have four circular reefs rising out of deep water and surrounded by steep drop-offs. Ras Mohammed has steep coastal cliffs that drop away underwater to depths of over seventy metres. There are coral gardens that are shallow and calm as well as some excellent drifts in strong currents. For the more advanced divers there are day boats going as far as the wreck of the Thistlegorm, if you are willing to get up early for a four-hour boat trip. There is also the possibility of diving the Dunraven, which takes about 2½ hours by boat. Alternatively, stay overnight on the a live-aboard and beat the crowds?

Red Sea Dive Sites. Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai Our map of the main Sharm dive sites from Expedition Ocean Vision 3

Favourite places in Sharm: mostly head to Na'ama Bay for shops, restaurants, bars, etc. Na'ama Bay is small and pretty much everything is in the two main, adjoining streets. We love the Camel Bar, Hardrock Cafe and the shops in the Na'ama Centre - a mini-mall. Many hotels can provide you with a shuttle bus or, failing that, will arrange a taxi for you; agree the price before getting in any taxi and organize your return journey.

The Camel Bar has a good little hotel, a dive centre, a brilliant bar, a great oriental restaurant and, of course, The Roof. The Camel Bar is cool. Help yourself to peanuts and throw the shells on the floor - if you put them in the ashtrays (smoking is compulsory) a waiter will come and empty it onto the floor anyway. Click here for a map from Google showing where to find the Camel Bar. The bar is accessed by stairs at the left side of the building (as you face it) and the main hotel, excellent curry house and superb Tribe shop through the arch in the centre. Atop the arch is a great place to sit and enjoy a drink at the end of a day's diving and watch the world go by. Take the stairs from the Bar to get to the the Roof, a great restaurant, which is massively popular so book before you go.


Camel Bar


Here's a very simple map - I'm in the process of making a better one. Google Earth is a good place to look too.

 

Na'ama Bay

There are a variety of other bars and night clubs. The Tavern opens in the afternoons to attract divers, snorkellers and bathers at the end of the day. The Hardrock and Little Buddha are restaurants all day then turn into night clubs around midnight, while Pasha is music, dancing and drinking every night. Pasha night club in the Sanafir Hotel, but the bar doesn't start to get going until late; it goes on until the very early hours. Every Thursday they hold the biggest House Party in Sharm, starting around midnight with really good music and a fantastic atmosphere.

Outside of Na'ama Bay, try El Fanar, which is at Ras um Sidd. This place holds a beach party every Wednesday. Another growing area is Soho Square a the Savoy.

Getting to and from Na'ama Bay is easy from anywhere in the Sharm area, but do look at our tips for travellers (click here) and watch out for salesmen and shop owners trying to get you into their shops. The town is generally safe for tourists throughout the day and night, but like anywhere, do take reasonable care.

For a few recommendations from travellers to Sharm visit the Travel Library's site and for a little background read the short article on the place, The Charm of Sharm.

It is worth mentioning the unusual incidents that occurred in late 2010 involving a series of unprovoked shark attacks on swimmers that left one person dead and several more injured. The attacks were attributed to Oceanic Whitetip and Shortfin Mako sharks. Oceanics are common in the Red Sea, although usually further south (I have seen one near Sharm in the past 10 years), but rarely in shallower water. The presence of Makos in the Red Sea is most unusual, even more so close to shore. That said, the coastline in fringed with coral reefs that generally form a drop-off to deep water. That means that, in many Red Sea locations, sharks can get close to shore without having to cross reefs or enter shallow water.

It is difficult to speculate what was happening in these attacks. Although oceanics can be aggressive, neither species deliberately target humans for food. It may be more likely that these animals have strayed into an area of the Red Sea that is frequented by people and the attacks were purely defensive reactions to the perceived threat of large numbers of people in the water. One local theory suggested that the sharks may have been attracted further north by a cargo ship carrying sheep, which is believed to have been dumping carcasses at sea. Other theories focus on depletion of food stocks caused by over-fishing and 'chumming' the water to attract sharks deliberately - a practice that is now illegal in Egyptian waters, but which used to be relatively common; this was linked to fatal shark attack in June 2009 - see my article on Diving with Sharks. I suspect a combination of factors and I certainly believe that chumming and the feeding of sharks by disreputable dive and boat operators have taught these sharks to associate humans with food.

I have to report that shark attacks in these waters are rare and, to my knowledge, there hasn't been a series of attacks like this before. We didn't have a diving trip planned to Sharm in the months after the attacks, but had we, we would certainly still have gone. I have long campaigned to have shark feeding banned - I'm pleased that the Egyptian authorities are now taking this seriously.

Hurgada

Hurghada is another popular diving destination in Egypt. Many of the dive sites in this area are particularly suitable for beginner divers. The water is shallow, warm and extremely clear. Some of the wrecks you can find just off of the shore are breathtaking and you do not need to be an expert diver to access them.

Day diving from Hurghada consists of sheltered reefs, towers and pinnacles close to shore and boat dives around the Giftun Islands and Sha’ab Abu Nuhas. The wrecks on the north of Sha’ab Abu Nuhas Reef are outstanding and shallow enough for inexperienced divers to visit on extended day trips. From west to east these are the Giannis D, the Carnatic, the Chrisoula K and the Kimon M. There are also a few local wrecks such as the El Mina and, slightly further afield, the Salem Express. Marine life is abundant and varied with plenty of hard and soft corals. The authorities have made great efforts to conserve the coral since the 1990s and the general condition of the reefs is generally good.

Hurghada is less developed than Sharm El Sheikh, although it is growing all of the time. It was once a traditional fishing village and the old town is situated slightly north of the large hotels that stretch along the coast. Here you can visit local bazaars selling leather, gold, carpets, clothes and shisha pipes. Be prepared to barter and to be accosted by the locals to spend money in their shops. From the hotels, it is possible to go on two-day trips to Cairo and day trips to Luxor to see the Valley of the Kings and the Temples of Karnak. They also offer jeep safaris and quad biking in the desert. However, for non-divers a holiday to Hurghada will ultimately be spent relaxing by the pool or on the beach.


Month JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Air ºC Max 21 23 25 29 33 35 36 36 34 31 26 23
Air ºC Min 11 11 14 17 22 25 26 26 24 21 17 13
Water ºC 22 21 22 23 25 26 27 28 20 26 25 24
Hours of sunshine 07 08 09 10 11 10 10 10 10 10 08 08
Temperature and sunshine data for Hurgada, Egypt




Dahab

Dahab is a much lesser known location to go scuba diving in Egypt, but should not be ignored. It is located on the eastern coast of the Sinai, about 80km northeast of Sharm, in the Gulf of Aqaba. The village started off as a small fishing village and used to be known as a hangout spot for hippies.

The main appeal for this area is that it is more casual and relaxed than Sharm El Sheikh. Dahab offers access to all the amenities you'll want and it is a beautiful spot for diving with attractive beaches, friendly people, a laid back atmosphere and a good choice of excellent hotels, catering for all budgets.

Dahab enjoys large numbers of tourists every year and is famous for its windsurfing. Reliable winds provide superb flat-water conditions inside Dahab's sand spit. Further from shore, stronger winds and rougher conditions provide a challenge to keen windsurfers. Land based activities include camel, horse, jeep and quad bike trips - check whether your holiday insurance covers you for quad-biking). Mount Sinai is a two hours drive, with Saint Catherine's Monastery being a popular tourist destination.

Dahab has shore diving on the many house reefs immediately adjacent to waterfront hotels and local sites suitable for all levels of divers in the maze of coral islands. Marine life includes reef fish, jacks, snapper, barracuda and occasional turtles. There are gentle reef slopes and coral gardens for beginners and some more challenging sites such as the Blue Hole or the Canyon for the more advanced. The Blue Hole is a seventy metre diameter hole in a reef table that has a 26 metre long tunnel called The Arch, which is at 52 metres depth and leads to open sea. It is nicknamed The World's Most Dangerous Diving Site - it isn't if you stick to the rules and dive responsibly and conservatively and do not try to swim through The Arch or reach the bottom. The Canyon is a channel that narrows at one end to become a covered tunnel. There are two marine parks in the Dahab region: Ras Mumlach, a seventy metre wall covered in hard and sot corals, and Ras Abu Galum, a wall with drop offs to over ninety metres.

Above waves there are plenty of other water sports available such as jet skiing and water skiing, plus there is typical resort entertainment with restaurants, bars, discos and shops. There are also various organized day trips such as quad biking or jeep safaris in the Sinai desert, trips to Mount Sinai and the 6th Century St Catherine’s Monastery. Again, check your travel insurance concerning quad-biking - don't just assume it's OK.




Month JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Air ºC Max 22 23 25 30 34 37 40 42 38 32 26 25
Air ºC Min 13 14 16 20 24 26 27 28 26 23 19 15
Water ºC 20 20 21 24 26 28 28 29 27 25 23 20
Hours of sunshine 9 9 10 10 11 13 13 12 11 10 9 8
Temperature and sunshine data for Dahab, Egypt


Marsa Alam

If you are looking for a truly unspoiled dive spot in Egypt then you should visit Marsa Alam. Most dive trips in the local area focus on eco diving and projects associated with the environment and preserving the beauty of the area. Marsa Alam is only recently becoming a popular choice amongst divers, thanks to the opening of the new airport. Located some 200 kilometres south of Hurgada, in the days before the airport was opened visitors had to endure a four-hour coach transfer to get here. Because of this remoteness, these sites haven't received the same numbers of divers as Sharm el Sheikh and Hurgada so the reefs here are in much better condition than those further north.

Marsa Alam has no overcrowded beaches or dive sites and the area is nowhere near as built up as Sharm. The choice of hotels here was very limited, but like the rest of the Red Sea, construction is going on all along this stretch of coast and it will only be a matter of time before Marsa Alam becomes another Red Sea resort like Sharm el Sheikh or Hurghada. What a shame, both for the environmental and the ambience. Hopefully the protected mangroves around Hamata to the south will remain that way and future developments will not be allowed to be built on them.

This part of the Red Sea is renowned for its incredible reefs that are home to both hard and soft corals in pristine condition and pelagic species in great numbers. There are many species of shark, including hammerheads, which can be found in large schools. Other impressive marine encounters include pods of dolphins, schools of bumphead parrotfish and the occasional turtle. The area is home to a number of wrecks, but undoubtedly the reefs and their associated life are the thing that attracts divers here. Perhaps the most famous of the dive sites in the region is Elphinstone Reef, a deep coral wall and drift dive that is best seen early in the morning to increase the chance of seeing the schools of hammerheads frequently found here. For encounters with hammerheads and bumphead parrotfish you will need to visit Marsa Alam in the summer months.

Summer air temperatures reach the mid-forties in August and the coolest month of the year is January; night time temperatures drop suddenly in the winter months. By November, the sea can become rough and trips tend to be limited to the immense reef chain in front of Wadi Lami known as Fury Shoals, which are outstanding. They consist of an array of vast coral formations including habailis (groups of young coral that are still growing), huge hard coral in massive formations, many types of branching corals and the plentiful, vibrant soft corals.

This area is more humid than further north and you can expect cloud and occasional rain.


Month JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Air ºC Max 23 25 29 35 39 41 41 41 38 35 30 25
Air ºC Min 06 07 11 16 20 23 24 24 21 18 12 08
Water ºC 23 22 22 23 25 26 27 29 27 26 25 24
Hours of sunshine 09 10 10 11 11 12 12 12 11 10 10 09
Temperature and sunshine data for Marsa Alam, Egypt


Marsa Alam and its region are frequently very windy, which means waves can get quite large, occasionally preventing boats from accessing the more exposed dive sites. If you are on a liveaboard, remember to close your portholes properly at night or you may get a soaking! This has even led to boats sinking in the past - your crew should advise you in the safety brief.

RIB journeys from Marsa Alam to the local dive sites take about 30 minutes on average. Elphinstone Reef is an hour by RIB from Marsa Alam, which is about as far as you can go on the day boats. Liveaboards give you access to some of the more remote dive sites.

Marsa Alam is only recently becoming a popular choice amongst divers, thanks to the opening of the new airport. Marsa Alam is some 200 kilometres south of Hurgada, so, before the airport was opened, visitors had to endure a four-hour coach transfer to get here. Because of this remoteness, these sites haven't received the same numbers of divers as Sharm el Sheikh and Hurgada so the reefs here are in much better condition than those further north. The choice of hotels here was very limited, but like the rest of the Red Sea, construction is going on all along this stretch of coast and it will only be a matter of time before Marsa Alam becomes another Red Sea resort like Sharm el Sheikh or Hurghada. What a shame, both for the environmental and the ambience. Hopefully the protected mangroves around Hamata to the south will remain that way and future developments will not be allowed to be built on them.






DIVE OPERATORS IN EGYPT

There are a lot of dive operations in the Egyptian Red Sea. The majority are perfectly adequate, very few are not good enough and number are really good. The authorities in Egypt are tightening up their regulation of dive operators and closing down those that fail to meet their standards. It is not for us to recommend dive centres to you, but we will tell you which ones we have used and were impressed with:


AQUARIUS

website

Sharm Head Office:
AQUARIUS Diving Club, Coral Sea Impérial
Tel:+20 102586481
Email:info@aquariusredsea.com


Aquarius. Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai

CAMEL DIVE

website

Camel Dive Club & Hotel
Centre of Na'ama Bay
Sharm El Sheikh
South Sinai, Egypt
Telephone: +20-69-3600700
Fax: +20-69-3600601
Email: info@cameldive.com


Camel Dive. Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai

RED SEA DIVING COLLEGE

website

Sultana Building
Naama Bay
PO Box 67
Sharm El Sheikh
South Sinai, Egypt
Tel:0020 (0) 69 3600 145
Email: info@redseacollege.com


Red Sea Diving College. Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai

EMPEROR DIVERS

website

Hurghada Centre: Tel +20 12 7372125
Sharm El Sheikh Centre: Tel +20 12 3502433
Nuweiba Centre: Tel +20 69 3520695
Marsa Alam Centre: Tel: +20 12 7372126
El Gouna Centre: Tel: +20 12 3258277


Emperor Divers. Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai

SINAI DIVERS

website

Hotel Ghazala, Sharm el Sheikh. +20 - (0)69 360 0697
Hotel Hilton Dahab, Dahab. +20 -(0)69 364 0100
The Oasis Dive Resort, Marsa Alam. +20 - (0) 10 157 3889
Aqaba Mövenpick Resort, Tala Bay, Aqaba. +962 (0) 32 050 030


Sinai Divers. Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai

SINAI DIVE CLUB

website

Hilton Fayrouz Resort, Sharm El Sheikh. +20 12 2815210
Hilton Sharm El Sheikh Fayrouz Resort, Naama Bay +20 69 3600136
Hilton Sharks Bay Resort, Sharm El Sheikh +20 12 2463754
Hilton Sharks Bay Resort, Ras Nusrani, Sharks Bay +20 69 3603333


Sinai Dive Club. Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai

Please contact us if you would like to recommend any of the many other dive operators in Egypt and we shall add them to our list.

Here are some other useful links to a dive centre directories. I do not know how up-to-date this is and we neither recommend nor disapprove of any of the sites listed here.

Sharm el Sheikh Dive Centres

Dahab Dive Centres

El Gouna Dive Centres

Hurgada Dive Centres

Marsa Alam Dive Centres

 




TIPS FOR VISITORS TO EGYPT

This section is really about Sharm el Sheikh, but the same principles apply throughout Egypt.


Vendors in Egypt can be very pushy - you must be prepared to haggle and look out for the 'entrapment' ploys such as:

'Can I ask you a question?'

'We've just opened a new shop & have a sale on, come & look'

'Will you sign my guest book for other customers to read?'

'Please will you translate something for me?'

The opening line about where you're from is often a lead-in to one of these. In truth, it's all pretty harmless, but you can get caught up for hours if you let them. They'll want to offer you drinks like mint tea in many of the shops, especially if you seem genuinely interested or go back for a 2nd look. The tea is very good if you don't mind being stuck there for a while. When you want to leave, be polite and firm. If you promise to go back to place, they will recognise you in the street the following day!

The restaurants will also hassle you for their custom as competition between all shops & bars is fierce due to the similarity of so many of them. Some people cope with this better than others, but fore-warned is fore-armed.

If you feel threatened or intimidated, say that you will call the tourist police or report it to the rep or hotel - and mean it! They and the government are well aware that Egypt relies heavily on tourism, so please report anything untoward to them.

Carry your hotel number & tourist police number in your phone. Police in Sharm is: 0020 693 660 311

In Egypt you bargain for everything; haggle hard, (offer between a third and half the asking price and go up slowly) including taxis, even to the point of pretending to walk away - or actually walking away, there are other taxis and other shops.

Have a price in mind with which you’re happy, i.e., your own limit. If the shopkeeper really won't drop, then walk away. If he follows then you know there is still mileage in the deal, if not then you know roughly what the price should be when you see the item in the next shop.

Wear sunglasses in the day & don’t make too much eye contact.

Be polite, yet firm & say, 'No thanks' or 'La Shukran' (which means, 'No Thanks')

A smile goes a long way & the Egyptians have a great sense of humour.

Don’t go down the little side streets or in the souks until you feel more confident; sales pressure is higher in these parts.

If you’re not keen on the idea of being hassled or of haggling, stick to the supermarkets or the three fixed-price shops (all called Aladin’s Cave on His Majesty, the King of Bahrain Street in Na’ama Bay). Supermarkets are usually fixed-price.

Check your change thoroughly as there have been scams reported involving small denomination notes being switched for large one. There have also been comments about being careful when asked to change coins as the new 1LE coin looks like a Euro at first glance.

Taxis will ask the most ridiculous prices, especially at the airport on arrival. There are government stated prices that apply round Sharm & they are up on boards here & there. Here's a guide for Sharm el Sheikh:

Minibus (Fixed Routes)
From Old Market to Naama Bay: LE 1
From Old Market to Airport: LE 2
From Old Market to Nabq: LE 3

Taxi (White Bonnet)
From Naama Bay to Old Market: LE 15
From Naama Bay to Hadaba: LE 15
From Naama Bay to Airport: LE 20
From- Old Market to Hadaba: LE 15
From Old Market to Airport: LE 35
From Old Market to Nabq: LE 40

Peugeot (Blue Bonnet)
From Naama Bay to Old Market: LE 25
From Naama Bay to Hadaba: LE 25
From Old Market to Hadaba: LE 25
From Naama Bay to Airport: LE 35
From Old Market to Nabq: LE 45

Please remember that LE25 is only £2.90(ish) or $4.40.

Some of the perfumes are fakes, as are some of the cigarettes.

Some of the oils in the perfume palaces are watered down.

Jewellery: be very wary if buying so-called precious or semi-precious stones in Egypt. Some people have been caught out. Be wary of shoddy workmanship if having something made. Don’t pay for the finished product if you’re not happy with it. Items made from precious metals are generally sold by weight, regardless of the workmanship involved in its making.





RED SEA SHARK SPECIES

Bathydemersal species

Heptranchias perlo, Sharpnose sevengill shark, (Hexanchidae)
Iago omanensis, Bigeye houndshark, (Triakidae)
Mustelus manazo, Starspotted smooth-hound, (Triakidae)

Benthopelagic species

Rhizoprionodon acutus, Milk shark, (Carcharhinidae)

Demersal species

Loxodon macrorhinus, Sliteye shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Hemipristis elongata, Snaggletooth shark, (Hemigaleidae)
Mustelus mosis, Arabian smooth-hound, (Triakidae)

Pelagic species

Alopias vulpinus, Thintail thresher, (Alopiidae)
Chaenogaleus macrostoma, Hooktooth shark, (Hemigaleidae)
Rhincodon typus, Whale shark, (Rhincodontidae)

Reef-associated species

Alopias pelagicus, Pelagic thresher, (Alopiidae)
Carcharhinus albimarginatus, Silvertip shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Carcharhinus altimus, Bignose shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos, Grey reef shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Carcharhinus brevipinna, Spinner shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Carcharhinus falciformis, Silky shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Carcharhinus leucas, Bull shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Carcharhinus limbatus, Blacktip shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Carcharhinus longimanus, Oceanic whitetip shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Carcharhinus melanopterus, Blacktip reef shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Carcharhinus obscurus, Dusky shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Carcharhinus plumbeus, Sandbar shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Carcharhinus sorrah, Spottail shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Galeocerdo cuvier, Tiger shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Negaprion acutidens, Sicklefin lemon shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Triaenodon obesus, Whitetip reef shark, (Carcharhinidae)
Nebrius ferrugineus, Tawny nurse shark, (Ginglymostomatidae)
Isurus oxyrinchus, Shortfin mako, (Lamnidae)
Carcharias taurus, Sand tiger shark, (Odontaspididae)
Sphyrna lewini, Scalloped hammerhead, (Sphyrnidae)
Sphyrna mokarran, Great hammerhead, (Sphyrnidae)
Smooth hammerhead. Sphyrna zygaena, (Sphyrnidae)
Stegostoma fasciatum, Zebra shark, (Stegostomatidae)


VIDEO
Expedition Ocean Vision 3 Video Diary - Egypt 2009

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  © Project Ocean Vision 2006 - ΩV Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai   Egypt Travel Guide: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurgada, Dahab, Marsa Alam, Red Sea, Sinai