Sharm El Sheikh Travel Guide
In a relatively short period of time Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt has become one of the world’s leading tourist destinations, offering spectacular scenery, beautiful weather, access to Egypt’s cultural and historic treasures and some of the best diving on the planet. Located on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula at the juncture of the Red Sea and Gulf of Suez, Sharm El Sheikh is a modern resort that has been developed with preserving the majesty of its natural surroundings in mind.
History of Sharm El Sheikh
The Sinai Peninsula has been inhabited for thousands of years and the First dynasty of Egypt established mines there to extract turquoise around five thousand years ago. According to the Bible, the Sinai desert was crossed by the Israelites during the Exodus and Mount Sinai is where God is said to have dictated the Ten Commandments to Moses. The area was successively governed by the Persians, Greco-Macedonians and, famously, the Roman Empire as a part of Egypt during antiquity and later passed into the Byzantine Empire following the fall of Rome. Sinai was conquered by the Arabs in 639 and was then riled by a succession of Islamic dynasties before finally being absorbed into the Ottoman Empire with the rest of Egypt in 1517. It later became part of an independent Egypt and was largely controlled by Britain from before the demise of the Ottoman Empire until after World War II.
Prior to 1967 Sharm El Sheikh was a little more than tiny fishing village. It passed into Israeli control in the Sinai Conflict in 1956 before being restored to Egypt the following year. Ten years later, it was recaptured by Israel. Sharm El Sheikh's potential was quickly recognised by the Israelis after the conclusion of the Six-Day War in 1967. The first tourist developments in the area were centred around Naama Bay and included hotels, a promenade and diving clubs. Development continued after Sinai was returned to Egypt in 1982 and laws were put in place to limit the impact of construction on the natural beauty of the area. Since then, the resort has flourished, becoming a major international tourist destination.
How to Get There
Sharm El Sheikh has its own international airport which serves nearly 7.5 million people per year and is the second largest in Egypt. With the increasing popularity of holidays in Sharm El Sheikh, more airlines now run scheduled services from Britain with regular flights from East Midlands, Glasgow, Leeds-Bradford London-Gatwick, London-Luton, Manchester and Newcastle. In addition, many tour operators offer seasonal chartered flights to Sharm.
Climate and Weather
Sharm El Sheikh tends to be much hotter than many popular European holiday destinations, with average highs of around 37 degrees Celsius throughout June, July and August. Rainfall is virtually unknown during the summer months. In winter, average highs are around 21-25 degrees between December and March but it is not uncommon for temperatures to hit 35 degrees occasionally during these months. Sea temperatures are usually in the range of 21-28 degrees Celsius throughout the year.
What to Do
Sharm El Sheikh is an excellent destination both for relaxing on the beach and for high octane adventure holidays. It is widely renowned as one of the world’s top diving spots thanks to the spectacular coral reefs just off the coast and scuba diving and snorkelling are both popular activities in the area. Sharm is also well placed for excursions into the desert, whether on a high speed quad bike or at a more sedate pace riding a camel. Trips to Mount Sinai and the famous St Catherine’s Monastery leave regularly and those interested in visiting locations further afield, such as the Pyramids, Cairo, Luxor or the Valley of Kings, can book extended day tours that include a short flight.
As Egypt is primarily an Islamic country, special attention needs to be given to matters of etiquette. Locals are generally very understanding of western culture but some practices and activities should be avoided to prevent causing offence. Women are advised to dress modestly when visiting religious buildings or walking around the town and public displays of affection are greatly frowned upon. It is considered polite to remove one’s shoes when entering a house and to compliment the host on their house. Attitudes to alcohol are somewhat more liberal in Egypt, and especially in Sharm El Sheikh, than elsewhere in the Arabic world though public drunkenness is to be avoided at all costs.
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