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Is Sharm el Sheikh a tourist trap? Yes, but a lovely one!

October 16, 2012


Is Sharm el Sheikh a tourist trap? Aiwa, and a lovely one at that! No, you didn’t. Oh yes, I just did. I tell you how it is, buddy.

Don’t get me wrong: Holidays in Sharm El Sheikh can be relaxing, fun, and are even budget-friendly to many Europeans and other Westerners. However, living in the Middle East for over a year taught me many things. I discovered Egypt’s hidden gems, such as Al Quseir and Dakhla. And so I realized that places such as Sharm El Sheikh are tourist traps — lovely tourist traps, though!

I can see your confused face from my computer screen. Just keep reading, my friend ;)

beach, is Sharm el Sheikh a tourist trap?

Sharm el Sheikh’s Naama Bay beach (WomEOS, Flickr)

Why is Sharm el Sheikh a tourist trap?

“The language in Sharm is only money” (source: Dahab-info.com). Basically, Sharm is Europe’s exclave in Egypt. Go for a visit and it is likely you’ll encounter more Europeans, particularly Britons and Russians, than Egyptians. For this reason, everything is overpriced by Egyptian standards. From the food to the all-inclusive hotel chains, to souvenirs and even diving courses. It is hard to have an authentic experience, or connection with the country, by visiting a place like this.

One more thing? Sharm el Sheikh = Egypt’s Vegas. What else do you expect from a party town in the middle of a Muslim country? Tourist trap alert! But not all is lost…

Just head north for an hour or two and you will find cheaper prices for accommodation, board, and day trips in Dahab and Nuweiba. While the fate of the latter seems to be doomed just like Sharm, they are still more relaxing, cheaper holiday options.

Dahab view, is Sharm el Sheikh a tourist trap?

Corniche in Madaba, Dahab — WAY more charming than Sharm el Sheikh in my book! (Joseph Hill, Flickr)

A lovely place regardless

Is Sharm el Sheikh a tourist trap? Yes. However, this does not make it a bad place to spend your holidays in. In fact, if you don’t mind paying more (by Egyptian standards), a vacation in Sharm might still be a bargain in your local currency. Want to learn whether this Sinai party town is for you?

1. Do you love diving? Ras Mohammed and SS Thistlegorm are some of the best diving sites in the world. For a diving holiday, I recommend you stay nearby Naama Bay. However, for cheaper accommodation, it is best to stay by Hadaba. Most diving outfits will provide transportation anyway, but be sure to ask before booking. For example, I stayed in Dahab and simply booked an overnight diving trip to Sharm El Sheikh. I even got to stay on the boat for a very reasonable price! Read about my experience getting PADI diving certification in Egypt and see the gorgeous photos yourself.

Ras Mohammed, is Sharm el Sheikh a tourist trap?

Ras Mohammed diving (Andreas Metz, Flickr)

2. Do you like to party? Enough said! Again, the best area to stay at is Naama Bay, as it is closest to most of the pulsing nightlife. Nabq and Hadaba / Ras Um Sid are up-and-coming areas though, offering some fine entertainment options as well. Some top-rated nightclubs include Smaila’s Club, Pacha, and SPACE SHARM. If you  are more into pubs and dinner shows, The Half Crown, St George’s Sports Bar, Union Jack Bar and Restaurant, The Tavern Bar, and Fantasia – Alf Leila Wa Leila are highly recommended.

3. Do you like all-inclusive hotels and/or luxurious resorts? Some of the best the hotels in Egypt are located in Sharm el Sheikh. Please note though, all-inclusive properties are not located in central Naama Bay. These include the Sunrise Tirana Aqua Park Hotel, Queen Sharm Beach Resort, Hilton Sharks Bay Resort, and Jaz Belvedere. If you don’t mind paying for your meals and prefer a higher-rated hotel that is located within walking distance of (most of) the action, then top picks are: Four Seasons, The Royal Savoy, Baron Resort, Iberotel Palace, and Stella Di Mare Beach Hotel & Spa.

4. Do you want to visit religious sites while on a beach holiday? The Sinai Peninsula is in prime location for history buffs and pilgrims alike. It is quite convenient to have Sharm el Sheikh as base to explore sites such as St Catherine’s monastery, climb Mount Sinai or escape for a few days to Petra and even Israel!

St Catherine's Monastery, is Sharm el Sheikh a tourist trap?

St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai (Jim Forest, Flickr)

So Sharm el Sheikh is a tourist trap. Now what?

Go to Sharm el Sheikh if you want all Western comforts, European nightlife, and great diving in your holiday. However, if you are seeking to have a more authentic Egyptian vacation, I recommend you spend a few days in Dahab instead, do some diving around the Sinai from there, and fly out to Luxor or Aswan to see a few ancient Egyptian temples for an additional day or two.

Four Seasons, is Sharm el Sheikh a tourist trap?

Dining at Four Seasons Sharm el Sheikh (Supermac1961, Flickr)

Agree or disagree: Is Sharm el Sheikh a tourist trap? Share your thoughts in a comment below

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