Egypt – Hurghada and Pyramids

2018-10-18_04-27-46_676I wanted to find an amazing dive location for us to visit this year and one day I was scrolling through Facebook and the PADI site mentioned a place called Hurghada.  I had never heard of this place and I had to look it up to even see what country it was in and imagine my surprise when I saw it was in Egypt.  I had heard there was diving in the Red Sea but since I am a relatively new diver I didn’t really know much about that area of the world.  I did some research and it seemed like this was a magical and fairly untouched coral reef.

The next part was to figure out to get there in the most cost effective, yet most nonstop way.  I started with what carrier flew into Hurghada and found that Sun Express has a direct flight from Frankfurt.  Then I looked for direct flights from Seattle to Frankfurt and found a pretty good deal on Lufthansa. For those of you who are thinking about taking this trip, we spent $817 on the Seattle to Frankfurt flight and $485 on the Frankfurt to Hurghada flight.

Because of my job we get a pretty good deal on hotels, but I can tell you that the hotels are very reasonably priced.  We chose to stay in an adults only, all inclusive called Sunrise Holiday Resort. The staff was amazing from the front desk, to the bar, the restaurant and the spa.  We arrived just as the sun went down so we didn’t really know what to expect in the morning but as soon as we opened our curtain we knew we had made a great decision.  The water was an amazing array of blues and the sky was sparkling. The beach and pool were lovely and our view was amazing.

We got ready for the beach and went to have breakfast. We were so happy with the food at this hotel, all meals were simply delicious. Typically at all-inclusive’s the food is just ok, but here there was a grill outside serving fresh baked breads, crepes, omelets and falafel. Inside was a huge buffet with local and international dishes.  For lunch and dinner the grill cooked fish, chicken, steak, pasta and more and once again the buffet was delish.  Don’t even get me started on dessert! I think the 5lbs I gained was strictly from these lol.

Our main purpose, aside from laying the beach and enjoying the sun, was to go diving.  I found a great company, Eurodivers, and a very patient Dive Master, Jana (I asked a ton of questions) booked us a private boat and was our guide for our three days of diving. Our boat, Dolphin Dancer was a massive boat for 3 people. In addition to Jana we had our captain, mate and our own chef.  He made us the most amazing lunch everyday and each day was a different assortment of local favorites. Jacs and I went on 2 dives a day and our friend Will, who is a master diver, went on a third one since he can deeper than we can. The water was so clear and pristine. It felt like we were the only people diving in most places even though we could see other dive boats.  You would swim through a school of thousands of fish only to have another huge school right around the corner.  We saw gigantic moray eels, stonefish, porcupine fish, unicorn fish, stingrays, blue spotted rays, lionfish, a whale shark and an octopus that I thought was a rock until its eyes moved! Each day was different from the next and I cannot wait to dive there again.  If you are a diver this is must for your bucket list.

I found a great tour company to take us on a tour of the pyramids, Egypt Tours Portal.  As always, I asked about  a private tour.  They picked us up from our hotel at 4:00am and took us to the airport for our flight to Cairo (included in the cost).  In Cairo we were met by our guide Esmael, who goes by the nickname Smile.  He was a fabulous guide, gave us exactly the tour we wanted. First we spent time at the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. Maybe it was because of the time of year but I was expecting it to be packed with tourists. I had read a lot of articles about how the pictures we see are staged and that it really just looks like a tourist trap.  I did not have this experience at all. It was amazing to see the Pyramids and the world that was built around them.  The Sphinx is much closer to the city than the pyramids. If you have heard, like I had, that its so commercial you can see a Pizza Hut from the Pyramids that is only somewhat true.  The Sphinx is part of the city of Giza and it is a modern city with lovely parts of history intertwined. Smile suggested some silly poses that tourists do and I was completely not interested in doing this but he was very convincing and we all did them.  Imagine my surprise when one of those cheesy pics turned out to be one of my favorites from the trip. Our next stop was the Egyptian Museum and Smile walked us through in a whirlwind style tour, giving us a quick synopsis of the most important artifacts…my favorite was the Pharaoh Hatshepsut.  If you want to learn more about the story of one of the few women to rule Egypt you can check out her story on the History Channel. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Papyrus Gallery (although I have to say that I did like the one in Hurghada the best) and Khan El Khalili the main market in Cairo. We wandered around the market on our own for about an hour before heading back to the airport.

For the remainder of our trip we spent our days diving, soaking up sun and sipping drinks by the sea.  In the afternoons we went exploring the city of Hurghada. The thing that was the most unique was the fact that the city stretches 25 miles along the coastline with most areas being only 3-4 streets wide, with the main part of the city only about 15 streets wide (you can see this in one of my pictures from the plane).  In the main part of the town, which is where we stayed, you can sit in a cafe on Sheraton Road (have to try and avoid the hawkers if you can), pick up some souvenirs, enjoy a casual dinner upstairs at GAD (Egypt’s version of fast food) (dinner for 5 was approximately $20) or for a nice dinner out you can pick out your own fish and have it cooked to perfection at Starfish Seafood Restaurant or enjoy the view of the Sea and maybe a random camel from Grenada, where the surf and turf is outstanding. Of course I went shopping for spices and I was told to go to the local grocery store…left with about 1lb of spices for about $1,50. We also drove down to Sahl Hasheesh, which is a lovely boardwalk area that is part hotel, part residential.  The beach is lovely and condo prices are very reasonable ($50K for a 2 bed steps from the beach), I could easily live here! We spent a little bit of time at El Gouna, this is the rich marina…not really my kind of place but it was very pretty.

I think my favorite part of our walks in Hurghada was went we went to the El Mina Mosque and when our Dive Master Jana and her husband took us to the side street where the locals shop. Here I found a mortar and pestle for my collection and a beautiful handmade robe. And we also visited the local fruit market. Here we were a bit of an anomaly as most people there had never or rarely seen women tourists in the market, its not exactly a tourist attraction. The most interesting thing we learned throughout our stay is that some people had never met an American or if they had it was 15 years ago.  This is sad to me as it is such an amazing place.  I hope at least my diver friends will consider visiting. I can promise you wont be disappointed,  As for this American, I cannot wait to go back!

One question people have asked me a few times if if I ever felt unsafe. I can confidently say that not once on this entire trip did I ever feel that way.  The people are amazingly friendly and while there are police check points that simply made me feel even more comfortable. Please do not let being afraid keep you from seeing the world. Be aware of your surroundings but life is short and you should never let fear control your decisions…plus have you ever been to Detroit? Way scarier!

Happy Travels!