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The menu was well worth it, with a wide choice of hearty options, of which steak and seafood were the centrepiece. I opted for the Camel steak with little trepidation, I love exotic meats and I figured Egypt’s widely accepted national treasure wouldn’t disappoint (unfortunately I don’t have a picture of this, I inhaled it so quickly I didn’t have a chance to reach for my phone).
It didn’t. The Camel was juicy and tender enough to rival any beef I’ve ever eaten, and that wasn’t the half of it. The cocktails were divine, and the price of the meal was impressive, for two people having starter, main, dessert, and two drinks, the total was under £50, less than half what you pay for the equivalent in London.
For those who want to continue the party, Hurghada is littered with big name clubs that wouldn’t be out of place in Ibiza (Ministry of Sound and Hed Kandi to name drop a couple). While I can see that the town is trying to draw in younger crowds with the temptation of cheap alcohol and well known night-life brands, there’s a kind of awkward unspoken conflict here between strict religion and excessive hedonism, between pockets of untold wealth and poverty, separated by just a few hundred meters. In any case this is probably just me over thinking things; Hurghada is an ideal spot for a night out.
Aside from all this splendour, Hurghada has a traditional side, the streets are lined by market stools selling everything from suspect electronics to, well, suspect trainers. The street vendors are pushy, even slightly intimidating at first, some firmness is required to convince them you’re not interested in their ‘Comverse’ sneakers, but fundamentally, the majority of them are happy people who love tourists and more than anything else, are just keen to socialise with westerners.
As mentioned, Hurghada does have its poorer areas, and there is certainly no risk in exploring these, but do be prepared for a culture shock. Indeed, such areas aren’t hard to stumble across, there’s a very thin line between rich and poor here (literally) and in less than a minute you can make the transition from a lavish fish restaurant to dilapidated market stools selling mouldy fruit, with the odd goat hobbling around, you won’t see this side of Hurghada in the brochures.
In reality few tourists will spend any significant amount of time in Hurghada town, there are some hotels based in the centre but many of the large resorts on the outskirts provide everything most families or couples require from a ‘sun’ holiday. Nevertheless it’s worth venturing into town at least one night to get a feel for Egyptian culture, if you can escape the lure of the All Inclusive buffet for a few hours!
Even if you don’t feel like experiencing Hurghada town there’s plenty of opportunities to explore the natural wonders of the Red Sea coast (which the salesmen wondering around your hotel will be more than happy to inform you about on a daily basis!).
Desert tours run daily – these involve tearing around the dunes on a buggy or quad bike, followed by a visit to an authentic Bedouin camp, an Egyptian BBQ and finally stargazing at the Arabian night sky.
Ok, a slightly cobbled together mix of activities, and I’d personally question the authenticity of the Bedouin camp but this package is nevertheless popular and breaks up the sunbathing.
So far I’ve failed to mention diving. The Red Sea is positively teeming with colourful marine life, and the diving opportunities are a huge draw for tourists, both professionals and casual holiday makers who wish to partake in some underwater exploration, as we found out when I was nearly knocked out cold by an errant oxygen canister on our coach transfer to the hotel!
Hurghada is a great option for a reasonably priced holiday with some guaranteed sun virtually all year round. Don’t expect historic sites here, think more of a motorway, airport, a stretch luxury all inclusive hotels and a relatively lively town.
That’s not to say you can’t experience real Egyptian culture here, the locals are ultra friendly and hospitable, always keen to engage in some banter. With a flight time 5.5 hours from the UK Egypt is a brief jaunt and makes a great alternative to Spain or Greece; highly recommended!