Marta's Photo Album of Egypt

Egypt
October 2005

Getting there
We departed Johannesburg on the services of Egypt Air at 19H55. For dinner we had a choice of a chicken, beef or fish dish. I chose the chicken dish which was fragrantly scented with a light piquant tomato sauce, served with pasta and vegetables. We had a choice of soft drinks followed by tea or coffee, Egypt Air does not serve any alcohol on its flights. After a most comfortable night we were served a light breakfast and then landed in Cairo at 05H00.

Upon or arrival at the terminal we were met by our guide Ahmed from South Sinai Travel who escorted us swiftly through passport control and assisted us with our baggage collection and through customs. The airport in Cairo has been re built and is most impressive and has a duty free shop where one can purchase duty free items and alcohol, this be done within 24 hours of arrival into Egypt. We then walked with our luggage to the adjacent airport, which took 5 minutes, for our flight departure to Sharm el - Sheikh.

Sharm El - Sheikh Egypt

Sharm el - Sheikh is situated in the South Sinai on the coast of the Red Sea. The climate is hot and dry with the highest temperatures experienced in July and August. We were met by the General Manager Mr Sami Agha of South Sinai Travel. We were then transferred to the Sheraton Sharm 5* hotel which overlooks the Red Sea, with the Strait of Tiran in the background. The hotel is enormous with a number of swimming pools and number of restaurants including an Italian restaurant with live music.

That evening we chose to dine at the Italian restaurant within the Sheraton Sharm. The restaurant is located right on the beach with a musician who played the most divine soothing music. The menu was varied and you could order three cheese gnocchi from R20 a dish, a pizza for R35 a soft drink for R10 and a large beer for R25. The service was excellent.

The following morning we were transferred by Sinai divers from our hotel to the dive shop, where we were briefed on the dive facilities in great detail. Our first dive was to the house reef. The coral was pristine, the topography beautiful and the fish were all there in the thousands in various colours and shapes. Our second dive was to Near Garden and this was accessible by boat. The variety of corals and fish was spectacular and included the sightings of crocodile fish, lion fish and the trigger fish just to mention a few. It was a great day of diving.

The following day we were very excited as we were boarding the day boat which would take us out to the Strait of Tiran. The drive to the jetty took around 5 minutes and our crates were taken on board by the crew and all we had to do was board ( you do need your passports for checking by the port police prior to boarding ) We boarded a large day boat called the Ghazalla 1V. The boat was spacious and well appointed with a huge open deck for relaxing on top. Tea and coffee as well as soft drinks and mineral water are available throughout the day. The boat departed from the jetty at 09H00. We arrived at Thomas Reef our first dive site. After our brief we prepared ourselves for what was to be the most spectacular wall diving. As we descended along the wall I noticed the blue in the background with numerous kingfish in mid water, looking at the pristine corals along the wall. I looked up and I saw the most enormous manta ray, suspended in the blue, this could not be real. Towards the end of our dive we looked down to see the splendid and extremely deep canyon opening out, the visibility was excellent. Our second dive was just after midday at Jackson reef, once again I could not believe how much variety of fish I was seeing. We completed this dive and there was the most fantastic table of food laid out before our eyes. The chef on board had prepared fresh pasta, chicken pieces with potatoes, Egyptian rice, humous, tahini ,pita bread and a fresh cucumber and tomato salad. Our third dive was to Woodhouse Reef where we observed a variety of fish as far as the eye could see. All the dives were drift but the currents were minimal and the visibility around 30 -40 meters on average. It was a fantastic day of diving, with Sinai Divers, we found them to be very professional with excellent service from the dive masters through to the crew. The boat and equipment was superb and I would highly recommend them.

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Taba Heights Sinai

Later that evening we checked out of the hotel and transferred through the desert to Taba Heights which is located in the Sinai desert near the border of Israel. Our trip through the desert in the dark was a little eerie, as it was not full moon. We checked in at the Marriot in Taba Heights. The following morning , we made our way to the entrance of the hotel where we awaited the shuttle which would transfer us to the dive centre, called Red Sea Water World. They run all the water activities for the hotels in the area including the scuba diving. We boarded a spacious luxurious day boat and prepared for our 2 morning dives. The sea was azure blue and totally calm. Our first dive was no deeper than 18 meters and was conducted along a sandy sea bed with grass and tiny outcrops of coral amongst which many interesting small fish and tiny moray eels could be observed. We were able to see a large bright blue Arabian angel fish which is unique to the Red Sea. The second dive was to a coral garden, there were areas of coral here that was damaged but later on into the dive it was much improved.

The following day we were collected and proceeded to drive back through the desert south toward Sharm El- Sheikh. The scenery along the coast line was spectacular, the beaches were dotted with little brick and reed chalets. After around two and a half hours we arrived at the port in Sharm El- Sheikh and checked in to board the ferry boat that would take us to Hurghada.

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Hurghada/Marsa Alam

The ferry was very large and well air conditioned and the seats comfortable. The ferry departed around 19H00 and we arrived in Hurghada at 22H00. This was a large and very busy port even at that time of night. We were met by Mohammad the station manager of South Sinai Travel. He took us of a short tour of Hurghada and we had a traditional Egyptian Meal at El Falfala overlooking the sea. The atmosphere is very Middle Eastern with a fresh and wide variety of fish, meats and salads to choose from. We proceeded towards Marsa Alam. We arrived at our resort hotel Brayka Bay at around 03H00.

The following morning we were faced with a spectacular view of the Red Sea and a very beautiful beach for as far as the eye could see. Later on we departed for our tour of hotel inspections. The four properties were viewed were all part of the Ibertol chain and are all interconnected along a sheltered bay. The Coraya Beach Resort is a quiet 5 star property furnished in Moroccan style with exquisite water features and areas of water punctuated by huge pots which seem to float above the water. We went on the Solana which has a Bravo Italian Club and as a resort is well known for its viby atmosphere and fully inclusive packages. We stopped for lunch here and tasted the most fantastic pizzas made by their in house Italian chef. The Lamaya Resort was fabulous with very spacious rooms and having 3 a la carte restaurants and great swimming pools. I did an inspection of the dive centre and found it to be state of the art with excellent facilities and equipment.

The following day, the first dive was shore entry to the house reef. We descended into a stunning underwater world of a variety of pristine corals with crocodile fish, scorpion fish, lion fish and numerous other species. Our second dive took us to Marsa Abu Dabab which is south of Brayka Bay and is reached by a short 20 minute jeep dive. We kitted up and made our way into the surf , shore entry once again. The average depth was between 4 and 10 meters along a sea grass bed. We were looking for the famous Dugong which we found, a huge almost prehistoric sea cow looking creature. We spent ages observing and photographing him. This 70 minute dive was truly the highlight for me. Later that evening we set out on an incredible journey into the desert on ever so powerful quad bikes. Our first stop took us to an exploration of caves which many hundreds of years ago were underwater. We ventured on towards our next stop which was around 18H50 to watch the most spectacular sunset in the silence of the desert. Shortly after that we stopped for refreshments at a typical Bedouin village situated in the mountains of the Sinai. This is definitely an unforgettable memory.

The following morning was an early start for our 45 minute harrowing boat ride out to Elfin Stone a most famous dive site consisting of an undersea mountain surrounded by the big deep blue. The coral was pristine and so alive and if you looked down the blue became almost mesmerising. The underwater scenery all around was of great beauty, with an abundance of fish life all over. The afternoon dive was a short ride in a small rubber duck to the southern part of the bay to Gabel El Rosas. We descended into a stunning panarama of coral bommies with numerous moray eels and lion fish at every turn, at the end of the dive we observed a large leather back turtle. The dive was most relaxing and over too soon. My partner later embarked on a fascinating night dive, observing all the nocturnal life and many sea urchins.

Dinner that evening we enjoyed at the small and intimate fish restaurant called Hemmingways part of Brayka Bay. The menu was fairly extensive with a variety of seafood including a huge seafood platter,the cost of this was R100.00 not at all bad.

The following day we departed for Hurghada and caught our flight to Cairo.

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Cairo

Cairo home to 13 million people is alive at three in the morning with great activity and much traffic despite the time, it never seems to sleep. This was the morning of the Mediterranean Travel Fair. The purpose of this conference was to be able to network with International tour operators. After a busy day we settled for a late lunch early dinner at the Fish Market a very famous upmarket restaurant overlooking the Nile River. There is a variety of langoustines and massive size prawns on display and you can choose a mixture and each variety is individually weighed and priced. A meal for three without alcoholic drinks costs around R400.00 but well worth it as the quality and atmosphere justifies the cost. The following day we travelled to towards the area of Saqqara . Our first stop was at Zoser's Funerary Complex, the Step Pyramid, built by Imhotep in 2650 BC. The Step Pyramid is surrounded by the funerary complex covering 15 hectares and is the world's earliest stone monument. Our next stop was at Memphis, which was an active burial ground for more than 3,500 years. There are a few statues remaining in the area, the highlight being the colossal fallen statue of Rameses 11.

The following day we went on a very interesting tour to Coptic Cairo and viewed the first mosque built in Africa ,we walked into the hanging church , which contains the crypt of the holy family. We also viewed the Ben Ezra Synagogue, which was built in the 9th century .The streets in this were very narrow with cobbled stones. There are numerous character filled shops selling a variety of bric brac including beautifully fashioned metal lanterns for excellent prices. We drove to the Gayer Anderson Museum, which gets its current name from the British Major Gayer- Anderson who restored and furnished two adjoining 16th century houses around 1936 , filling them with antiquities and artworks acquired on his travels in the region. Each room is furnished in the style of the particular region he visited. The house was used as a location for the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Adjacent to the house is the Ibn Tulun Mosque which was built in AD 876 making this the city's oldest intact, functioning mosque, which covers an area of two and a half hectars large enough for the whole community to assemble for Friday prayers. Dinner that evening was on board the Golden Pharaoh a 5 star Nile cruise boat, with spectacular gold decor and wonderful entertainment with belly dancing and fantastic food. The cruise ended at around 22H00 after which we transferred back to our hotel and then the airport for our flight back to Johannesburg. We carried with us the best memories of a most fantastic trip to a fascinating country with warm and wonderful people.

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In Conclusion
A visit to Egypt is highly recommended as it offers a variety of activities including ancient cultures.

With Special Thanks
This trip was made possible by the assistance of the following :

A special thanks to Mr Sameh Agha MD of South Sinai Travel and his company for organising the trip.

A special thanks to Egypt Air for the sponsorship of the tickets.