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Sharm el-Sheikh Cruises

Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

About Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

Nestled on a promontory on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, and backed by a long line of jagged peaks, Egypt’s seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh is often called the “City of Peace” for the number of international peace conferences held here. As recently as the mid-20th century, only several dozen Bedouin people called this small slice of the Sinai Peninsula on the edge of the sea their home. It started to develop into a tourist spot when the region was under Israeli occupation, starting in 1967. When Israel departed under the terms of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979, Egypt continued to transform the cityscape with hotels and resorts. Today, the once modest fishing village is a major port and holiday destination.

With turquoise waters and long sand beaches, “Sharm,” as it known by locals, is renowned for its unrivaled scuba diving among vibrant coral, dramatic rock formations and underwater cliffs. The surrounding desert, too, though less colorful, exudes its own stark beauty and ancient mystery. A Jeep safari is the ideal way to explore beyond the scenic jagged mountains that hug the town.

Sharm el-Sheikh Lifestyle and Culture

Sharm and the Sinai Peninsula may attract scuba divers and sun worshippers, but the Sinai is also home to some of the most sacred sites to Christians, Jews and Muslims. Under the endless sunshine and amid the souvenir shops, casinos and malls, you’ll meet welcoming and gentle locals whose lives have been deeply shaped by these religious traditions.

Among Egyptians, Among locals, a favor or deed may get pushed off to bukra (tomorrow) with the wave of a hand. And Egyptians have forever placed the fate of their days in Allah’s hands, meeting polite well wishes with “Inshallah,” meaning “God willing.” Few cultures are as social as Egypt’s. Men (most often) gather at cafés to trade news of the day over mint tea and a puff or two on a hookah. When they meet, they exchange elaborate greetings before getting down to substantial issues, perhaps kissing and holding hands. Women, too, must hear every last detail of each other’s families when they meet in the marketplace.

Sharm el-Sheikh Sights and Landmarks

In Sharm, beaches are lined by swaying palms and dotted with endless rows of sun umbrellas and thatched-roof shade dwellings. For many visitors, the main attractions are underwater, a long procession of colorful coral and darting fish. It is one of the world’s most exuberant diving destinations.

Inland, the Sinai Desert is home to sacred sites that stand in sharp contrast to the playground atmosphere of Sharm. Mt. Moses rises 7,500 feet over the desert. This is the revered spot where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments. Ambitious hikers can make the 3-hour trek up a steadily inclining trail or the 90-minute steeper ascent up the 3,750 Steps of Repentance carved by local monks. If you’re not up for the climb, visit St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of the mountain. The 6th-century Greek Orthodox church was built on the alleged site of the Burning Bush.

Sharm el-Sheikh Entertainment and Activities

Surely, the biggest draw of Sharm is the world-class scuba diving. Its crystalline waters harbor some of the world’s most vibrant coral reefs, where some 1,500 species of fish swim and 150 types of coral grow. One of the best places to access the teeming waters is Ra Mohamed National Park, Egypt’s first national park, opened in 1988. Its underwater preserves host magnificent reefs and anemones. While here, keep your eyes open for foxes, gazelles and ibexes on land.

If you prefer land to water, exploring the several resorts around Sharm is a pleasant way to while away an afternoon. Wander the up-market streets of Naama Bay to drink in Egypt’s resort flavor, perhaps stopping in at the first Ritz to open in Africa. To step away from the bustle of the modern world, head into the surrounding desert. A Jeep safari will take you into a landscape and a culture that time seems to have forgotten, where Bedouin hospitality and starkly beautiful sands greet you in equal measure.

Sharm el-Sheikh Restaurants and Shopping

Dining is a social affair in Egypt. Lavish banquets have been enjoyed here since the days of pharaohs. Sharm cuisine has been shaped largely by Bedouin tradition, typically a simple diet of farm-raised meat and vegetables teased from desert sands. Still, in this resort atmosphere, the flavors of inland Egypt have found their way to the coast. Mezze, a selection of small and flavorful plates for sharing, is popular, as are chicken, salads and fuul (fava beans). Freshly baked pita bread finds a place at every table. Egyptians are also known for their sweet tooth, as the many bakeries will attest.

You’ll find two very different shopping experiences in Sharm, but each can send you home with perfumes, spices, hookah pipes, carpets and traditional clothing. To browse the designer shops in a modern atmosphere, visit Naama Bay, where all manner of vendors offer endless choices. For a more unique experience where bargaining is encouraged, head to the Old Market. It’s actually just a few decades old, like Sharm itself, but its narrow streets and alleyways are designed to evoke the old bazaars of Egypt. Al Khan Mall is another outdoor shopping area among two-story bungalows with thatched roofs.