December 20, 2020 – January 2, 2021
Come along as we celebrate Christmas and New Year on Egypt’s Red Sea Riviera.
Marsa Alam, Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh
These are the 3 resort towns we visited on the Red Sea but there are many more, each one with its own personality and attractions. Some are more developed, others offer better nightlife, it all depends what you’re looking for but the two things you can count on, are good weather and clear water.
Taking advantage of my Hilton’s Friends and Family rate, I booked a one week stay at the Hilton Marsa Alam Nubian Resort in Marsa Alam on the Red Sea.
When you think about traveling to Egypt, beaches are not the first things that come to mind, but for many people wanting to escape the cold, especially Russians and Ukrainians, the Red Sea is the perfect winter destination.
Just like North Americans flock to Mexico and the Caribbeans during the cold months to get some Vitamin SEA, northern Europeans come in droves (less during Covid) to enjoy the beaches of the Red Sea.
- popular with tourists and locals
- good weather
- beautiful beaches
- turquoise water
- amazing snorkeling and diving
- unspoiled coral reefs
- famous dive sites
- desert excursions
- camel rides
- Bedouin hospitality
- abundance of resorts
- cheap flights
After a 5 hour drive through the desert from Luxor to Marsa Alam we made it to the Hilton gate, they seemed quite surprised to see us, usually guests arrive in big buses directly from the airport. Security didn’t want to let the taxi inside the gate, so Mohamed our driver and friend from Luxor, dropped us off and a bellman in a cart picked us up.
We never left the resort but we made a point of walking a few miles every morning, we though we would have spent more time at the beach or by the pool but it was a bit windy and chilly, I know we’re spoiled!
We were very happy relaxing in our room overlooking the Red Sea, watching movies, reading, working on the blog etc … and visiting the buffet three times a day lol!
Abu Dabbab beach
The Hilton Marsa Alam Nubian Resort is located on Abu Dabbab beach, known by the locals as turtle beach, what’s so neat about it is that you can access the well preserved coral reefs right from the beach and see giant green sea turtles hanging out.
Boat tours are also available to go further out to see the very rare Dugongs (similar to manatees), Dolphins, Whitetip Sharks and Hammerhead sharks.
Amazing coral reef
I don’t have a waterproof camera so I dowloaded these underwater pictures from the internet, this is exactly what the coral reef looks like.
I was lucky to swim right next to one of these beautiful sea turtles and was totally mesmerized by the turquoise and purple giant clams.
While coral reefs around the world are suffering from bleaching caused by climate change, marine scientists have found that the coral reefs of the northern Red Sea are more tolerant to heat, calling them Super Reefs!
During our stay in Marsa Alam we met Sharon, a fellow American/Swiss traveler, she was there by herself zooming around on her scooter, not letting anything get in her way, literally!
It’s nice to see a mature solo female traveler out there in the world.
Sharon was a joy to talk to and we had plenty of long conversations during meal time in the main dinning room or at the smaller a la carte restaurants.
Sharon ended up staying 3 months at the Hilton!
She figured that at $1,500/month, an all-inclusive resort with morning yoga, afternoon snorkeling and weekly massages, was not a bad place to spend a Covid Winter.
We hope our paths will cross again!
For just a few bucks we got on the Go Bus from Marsa Alam to Hurghada, a 5 hour ride up the coast.
The bus we took was on its way to Cairo with a few stops along the way, when we got on, I made sure the driver knew we were going to Urghada.
What we didn’t realize was that the bus didn’t actually go into the city of Urghada.
We were the only tourists on the bus so not much English was spoken.
I was tracking the route on google map, when the bus engaged in the traffic circle towards Cairo, it became evident that it was heading away from Urghada.
At that same moment, the attendant came to us and said that we had to get off now, we had missed the previous official stop. We got up and retrieved our bags from the luggage compartment, he told us to wait there “no problem, no problem” he said.
We were alone on the side of the road, it was night time and we had no idea what to do.
Just a few minutes later a taxi came out of nowhere to pick us up, we still had another 30 minute drive before getting in the downtown area where our hostel was located.
We’re always amazed about how things just work out no matter where we are!
The main reason we came to Hurghada was to extend our 30 day tourist visa.
While in Marsa Alam I booked 2 nights at the Marina Square Hostel, and the manager was very helpful in giving me the info regarding visa extension and the ferry situation. While at the hostel we ran into travelers we met in Cairo almost a month before, such a small world!
After a good night sleep we took care of our visa extension at the immigration and passport office or so we thought, but that’s another story …
We spent the afternoon walking around town, stopped for a beer along the boardwalk at the very posh Marina, visited the fish market and had an interesting late lunch at one of the popular local eateries (El Halaka Seafood Restaurant)
No ferries during Covid
Pre Covid, it was very easy and convenient to take a ferry across the Red Sea to the Sinai Peninsula, from Urghada to Sharm El-Sheikh. Since all the ferries have stopped their operations due to the pandemic, we had to fly back to Cairo and then to Sharm El-Sheikh our next stop..
Sharm as it’s called by people in the know, is a weird place. Literally in the middle of nowhere in the desert, it’s kind of like Las Vegas meets the Caribbean, lots of lights and ostentatious luxury on an incredible backdrop of turquoise waters and fantastic underwater treasures.
Located on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, it was developed as a tourist destination by Israel when they occupied the region between 1967 and 1982, the development was continued later by the Egyptians.
Today, luxury resorts, dive centers, restaurants and nightclubs line the coast.
Also called the “City of Peace” referring to the large number of international peace conferences that have been held here over the years. Sharm is also the location of a large military base for the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) an international peacekeeping force overseeing the terms of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
We didn’t know anything about this but we met a nice British chap in Dahab that was stationed there for 2 years. Cheers Paul!
Hilton Sharks Bay Resort
Again with my Hilton’s Friends and Family rate, I booked a 4 night stay at the Hilton Sharks Bay Resort, where we celebrated the New Year (2021).
Just like in Marsa Alam you can access the Coral Reef right from the beach and see tons of colorful exotic fish and corals. The snorkeling was amazing in Shark’s Bay.
On our second day at the Hilton, Joe met a group of young dentists at the hotel’s swim up bar.
They all went to dental school together in Cairo a few years back and have remained friends. 3 Egyptians and 2 Palestinians.
1 lives in New York, 2 in Barcelona and 2 in Cairo.
They were actually more like brothers then friends, they have made a point to stay in touch and meet as often as possible.
They immediately bonded with Joe and insisted on showing us around starting with dinner that same evening.
You guys know how much we like to make new friends and we always meet interesting people but this group turned out to be extra special.
They took us under their wings, they treated us to a feast at the very popular Fares Seafood restaurant and we ended up celebrating New Year’s Eve with them.
They were smart, funny, curious, generous, so full of life and love, we had the very best time with them. We will never forget that dinner where dishes wouldn’t stop showing up!!!
Bottom picture: left to right:, Ahmed, Yazan, Joe, Josée, Mohamed, Mohab and Adel.
Goodbye 2020 Hello 2021!!!
Joe and I started our New Year’s Eve celebrations with a sushi dinner at a nearby restaurant but it didn’t take long that we joinded the gang.
Let’s get the party started!
It’s been a very long time since we stayed up till the wee hours of the morning but this was definitely worth it!
We barely made it up this little path back to our hotel room … let’s just say that we slept in the next day!
Thank you guys for another unforgettable evening!
Happy New Year (2021)!
Next: Dahab, a slow traveler’s paradise … Stay tuned!
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In 2014 we decided to sell everything we owned to embark on a Journey to discover the world. After a five year overland expedition through the Americas driving from Alaska to Argentina, we traded our truck camper for two carryons …
Let’s see where the wind takes us this time!