Getting to Sharm el-Sheikh is effortless. It’s a 45-minunte flight on Egypt Air. Sharm, as it’s known, is a resort town that has expanded rapidly since being returned to the Egyptians in 1982. Tourism is the only remaining industry after strong environmental conservation laws have nearly eliminated the shipping trade on which it once thrived. The proximity to Europe and South Asia, reasonable prices, long strips of beach, dry weather, amazing coral reefs and underwater sea life are making Sharm an international destination. Here we see the most diverse crowds on our trip. And the sea life is equally diverse. It’s very, very impressive.
Sharm is also famous for hosting major international summits and peace treaties, most famously the return of Gaza to Palestinian rule. The India and Pakistan delegations had another fizzled attempt at negotiation here last month. Just this weekend the Vice President of Iraq is at our resort and security at the Hyatt front gate is strict.
The check-in takes awhile as I sort out some confusion with our reservations (naturally, the price is higher than I was promised). But by 2 p.m. we are in the pool and ordering french fries and large bottles of water. We very quickly discover that this is a great resort. Our room has a sea view close enough to hear the gentle Red Sea waves crash ashore.
There are five pools terraced from the main building down toward the beach with plenty of shade. It has the largest hotel water slide we have ever seen! Seriously, it’s kinda dangerous and wouldn’t last a minute in the States. The temperature is about 95, but with all the cooling water, one hardly notices. And it’s super-dry for the seaside. It’s easy to stay out in the sun… and we do. All of us get slightly burned even though we reapplied SPF 30 every four hours.
On Saturday, the kids run straight for the water slide. Having overcome any fear the day before, we start doing stunts. We all swallow gallons of pool water. Lily scrapes herself up kneeling down the slide. Emma’s head gets crunched between my shoulder and Trisha’s cheekbone in a pile-up (She has a hard head. Trish and I were the injured ones.) Lily gets tumbled to the bottom once and surfaces in a screaming panic. She has the mechanics to swim but still has a lot of fear, so we need to stay close to her.
Eventually, we get mildly scolded by the staff, who only intermittently monitor the slide. Apparently, we aren’t supposed to go down the slide four at a time. Ha ha, not a problem. We don’t make trouble. So we head to the lazy river. I buy the girls an orange pool raft and they play ‘Capsize the Pirate’ for hours. Sleep comes effortlessly.
On Sunday we hit the ample, but uninspired breakfast buffet and walk down to the beach for Emma’s first real snorkeling adventure. She did some shallow reef stuff with Trisha the day before and today I get the privilege of taking her over the wall.
The reef here is exceptional. Trisha and I have a few hundred scuba dives between us, and this Hyatt Resort house reef is top quality. There is a mini-wall — a drop-off of about 40 feet — 50 yards off the beach. It teems with schools of colorful fish that are similar to their cousins in the Caribbean, but noticeably different. The Red Sea is very salty because it gets limited inflow of water from the Indian Ocean, so it’s easy to float on top (not like the dead sea, but easy).
Emma is excited by the fish, but the salty water and poorly-fitting scuba mask make our swim pretty short. She tries again in the afternoon, and comes back even sooner. She’s a little discouraged, but I think she will be a diver like her parents. Trisha and I, on the other hand, alternate long swims all day — one person with the kids and one out snorkeling the reef. By the end of the day I’ve been out enough that my body retains the pleasant feeling of ocean sway. Lily spends her time making sand castles with me at the water’s edge and watching nervously for fish, which she fears.
Dinner is simple, good and not outrageously priced for a resort. It’s nice to be here in the off season because we got a great room (actually two connected rooms) for about $250 a night total. And there aren’t that many guests. We love it. Even with only two and a half days here, we feel very rejuvenated, . This weekend is definitely something we needed to get through this journey. Sharm, and specifically the Hyatt, is a place to consider if you can swing the time change and airfare. We plan on returning and doing some scuba, maybe when Emma is old enough to dive.
Over afternoon ice cream, (Swiss Movenpick, of course. The only ice cream in Egypt) Emma and I discuss our upcoming itinerary. We have a few days in Cairo and then a week in Morocco left. She comments that the first stop on our trip, the Dead Sea in Jordan, seems soooo distant, even though it was just two weeks ago. “Yep,” I say, “travelling slows time down.” That makes her wonder if we could live forever if we just kept travelling. She might be on to something.
[Photos by Trisha Creekmore]