As I mentioned in my previous blog post this holiday is definitely more about relaxation than doing things. That being said the bulk of the excursions that we had planned happened in a few really close together days, so I’ll write about them and break them down before moving to the next bit. To be fair I was planning to write yesterday, but didn’t for reasons I’ll go into in a bit.
So the first question: where did I leave off? I think it was Thursday or Friday on the last day I wrote the blog. To be fair we didn’t do an awful lot on Friday and Saturday – it was very much a couple of days around the pool ensuring that we’ve put enough sunscreen on (we’ve both come out in a heat rash all over our body and we both think that this could be because of the sunscreen we were using, so we’ve ditched that one and stuck with a Nivea one), and making sure that we’re enjoying the pools. The pools at this hotel are quite deep which is great as it keeps them that bit cooler. The one that we’ve sort of chosen to inhabit comes up to my shoulders quite comfortably and has a decent amount of shade around it. There is another pool that’s slighter deeper but has less shade so this one seems to be the winner.
On Sunday we went on a tour to the town centre which included a trip to an Aquarium – apparently the largest either in Egypt or in Hurghada, I can’t quite remember which one. As we were getting ready to leave for this one the receipt for proof of payment got mislaid (but we weren’t the only couple to not have it) so Alex went off to find it and then was gone ages. We definitely made our tour bus late on that one. What was worse is that the receipt was in my backpack in the end the whole time. Oooooppps.
The aquarium was strange. I can’t remember the last time I went to an aquarium, like Sea Life or something like that. Seriously, I know I’ve been I just can’t remember the details. It was good, inside was what you would expect of a place that keeps various types of fishes. And sharks. And mantarays (<– I have no idea if that’s spelt right and the spell check isn’t picking up on it). We got a fair few photo’s here, and Alex liked it because it was cool inside. There were animals outside too like ostriches but their enclosures weren’t very big so I wasn’t too keen on that.
After the aquarium we went into Hurghada itself. Here we did a few things. We went to a fixed prices mall of sorts. Basically somewhere you could buy souvenirs without the hassle (I mean you still got hassled but the prices were fixed) so I picked up a couple of bits here. I’m not bringing loads of stuff home with me this time around, but I like the things that I’ve got. And to be honest once you’ve seen one set of souvenirs you’ve more or less seen them all.
After this we went to a Mosque. Now this really interested me as I have never been to a mosque before and I have always been blown away by the elaborate nature of the ones seen on TV. Like, going to Haggia Sofia is on my List of Things To Do in Life. The one that we went to was the biggest mosque for the whole area, and was only 8 years old or something like that. It can fit up to 25,000 worshippers when it comes to the end of Ramadan and big festivals. In any day it could fit about 10,000 people. In order to enter the mosque all the women of the tour group had to be dressed up in clothing that covered the arms, legs and the face as bit. I can’t remember the name of it, but it wasn’t a burkha or anything like that. It was like a long dress with arms and a hood basically.
I learned a lot inside the mosque and I enjoyed it but it was strange for me. I don’t consider myself religious in the slightest, but when I do visit Christian cathedrals there’s a sombreness and a heaviness that I feel for being there. I sort of expected this when visiting the mosque as well, to feel the divine presence of God or something similar. Maybe it’s because the building wasn’t all that old, or maybe because it is just a vast, decorated open space with nothing to actually see on the inside…. I don’t know. I guess what I take away from this is that should I have a religious calling in life it wouldn’t be Islam.
Once we finished at the mosque and returned the dresses we went a visited a ship yard. This reminded me a little of Hastings Old Town where the boats are all around in various states of (dis)repair. It was fascinating to watch them building the boats, and as we were walking around there a man was hammering rope into the underside of a boat in construction and make such fast progress on it it felt kind of surreal.
We also visited a perfume shop. A proper one, not like the knock off ones around the hotel. We had both wanted to visit a proper one as we wanted to get more oils from the last time we were here. Alex wanted to get some 212, and he got me some La vie La Belle which is my favourite perfume. I got mum some Chanel no 5. as well. Alex got a few more bits a pieces here. This stuff is so good! I still have the oils from the last time we were here, and they smell as good as they did when I got them 8 years ago!
After this we went to Hurghada central which is their main shopping district. I think should we come back to Egypt in the future and we can’t get to Sharm then I think this is the area we should stay. At the hotel there isn’t much around when you leave at night time, whereas in the centre there’s everything you could want including loads of tacky tourist shops. Not going to lie, we had a MacDonald’s here. The hotel food is a bit rubbish so this was a great opportunity to eat before we got back to the hotel, and not only were the chips hot (which everyone seemed to comment on but I couldn’t really as I don’t really eat MacDonald’s at home) the actual food was massive. Like easily three times the size of a British dinner. Do I want another one before we leave? Quite possibly. Hopefully there’s one at the airport.
Overall this was a really good day out as we crammed really quite a lot in and got a lot for our money’s worth. I would do it again if it included different parts of the main city.
On Monday we did a super safari. This was basically a taste of all the things you could do in the desert, including quad biking, jeep safari, a little camel ride and a visit to the local Bedouins. This was similar to things we did before with Sharm Club in the Sinai, and to be honest once you’ve done it once… you’ve done it. But that being said it was cool to get on a Quad bike again, even if it did once again make me feel a bit motion sick. The jeep safari was new experience and utterly terrifying in some bits too. Like those drivers know that desert inside out I guess they have no problems putting the car at an almost 45 degree angle and driving along for a bit.
The Bedouin settlement was interesting in that we learned a lot about them, why they were there and details of their living. I think I was more sceptical about the whole thing this time though for this reason: Bedouins are nomadic, they travel the desert. They aren’t under the laws of Egyptian authorities, unlikely to have birth certificates and don’t have anything to do with civilisation etc etc. I was sceptical because they build wells by hand, and then reinforce them with stone. (Their well was amazing, but I wasn’t feeling great at this time so didn’t get any photo’s of it. It was a good 30/40 meters deep though!) This particular tribe of Bedouins had their water supplied for them by the tourist board and put in tanks which the tourist board then monitor and resupply as necessary; I felt that this tribe had sort of been entrapped to stay there and live in abstract poverty at the whim of tourists/the tourist board. It was probably the same for those that we visited in Sharm, and I don’t remember learning about wells and water back then, but yeah… if those Bedouins decided to move on the tourist board would loose a fair amount of money so… I don’t know. For me I didn’t want to have the descending voice among the crowd so I didn’t ask the questions. I also didn’t want to be left in the middle of the desert! (Their mosque was a simple stone built structure as well, older than the one in the city centre but also didn’t call to me, and also built/supplied/looked after by the tourist board). Alex absolutely loved the quad bikes and would spend all day every day on them if he could!
Yesterday was Alex’s birthday and we had solid plans to go to Hard Rock Cafe. I know, not quite Egyptian food but Alex struggles to find things to eat so for him was perfect. We also had our second massage in the morning which was just as good as the first but this time none of my muscles popped! We booked a taxi through the hotel, which in hindsight I wouldn’t do again… this is because when we were in Sharm they really emphasised to use the hotel taxi’s because you could trust them and they wouldn’t take you to their brothers/cousins/fathers shop or whatever. The taxi firm in this hotel did exactly that! As soon as he said you’ll see my brothers shop we were on high alert. Not okay! So I would find a reputable company on TripAdvisor or something and book through them instead. Probably be cheaper too!
The hotel did a really nice touch for Alex too. I mean, if I could take credit I would, but I can’t. We were out yesterday, we got the massage and we also got some full face snorkel masks which makes swimming in the sea soooooooo much better that if I’d had one of them I would have had a much easier time that just goggles and a breathing tube! We spent a great deal of yesterday in the sea looking at the coral and the fish, and when we eventually returned to the room the housekeeping and guest relations had put a cake in there and decorated the bed in towel swans and written him a birthday note. It was all really sweet. The cake was a proper birthday cake too! ‘Happy Birthday’ written in chocolate fondant on it for him. I haven’t yet tried it so will eat some this evening.
So that’s it for the time being. We have until Sunday which I think will be a case of swimming pool, sea (now that we have those masks) and just relaxing the rest of our days here. There isn’t a great deal to do around the place so it’s just a case of enjoy the pool. I even have a slight tan!
I may not write another blog until I get home as we don’t have lot else planned except swimming, swimming and more swimming. And relaxing, and reading, etc etc.
Current things I don’t like: the food on offer at the buffet (definitely go a la carte it’s much better!), still washing my hair a couple of times a day, the rip off taxi and dodgy ‘go see my brothers shop’ thing. Egyptian driving/roads in general.
Current things I love: just relaxing, not having to worry about anything. The fact that I have a tan, however slight! The treat the hotel did for Alex. The new snorkel masks that make everything so much easier to do under water.
Right, that’s all for now I’m sure I’ve bored you all enough.