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Discovering the Charms of Sharm El-Sheikh: Old City and Beyond (Days 3 to 5)

Experience the enchanting streets of Sharm El-Sheikh's Old City and beyond! From the serene Sahaba Mosque to exhilarating quad biking adventures.
Two women holding hands and jumping, the photo captured mid-jump. In the background are giant cement stones leaning toward each other in a near-arch. They are in the desert and water can be seen in the far distance.
Me and Vittoria at the Gate of Allah. Photo by Domenico Lo Duca.

I’m back with part two of my time in Sharm El-Sheikh (if you haven’t read the first part of our adventure yet, you can read about it here)!


Venturing into the heart of this gem of an Egyptian city is a must; from the tranquil streets of Old City to the hidden beauty of Ras Muhammad National Park and the adrenaline-fuelled adventures of quad biking in Al Rewaysat, each moment was a testament to the boundless allure of Sharm El-Sheikh.


A colourful market with many different items on display, hanging from the ceilings, on shelves, and placed on the floor. In the back are typical Middle Eastern style buildings.
Inside one of the colourful markets within Sharm El-Sheikh’s Old City, Sharm El Maya. Photo by Emily Fata.

Immersing in the Charms of Sharm El-Sheikh’s Old City, Sharm El Maya


A view of the front of Sahaba Mosque from the ground, up. There are beautiful towers and spires, with stunning Islamic architecture.
The front of the beautiful Sahaba Mosque. Photo by Emily Fata.

Stepping into the enchanting streets of Old City for the evening, also known as Sharm El Maya, I was transported to a world steeped in tradition and heritage. While the area itself is relatively new—constructed in the late 1990s to early


2000s—it was designed to resemble and reflect traditional Egyptian architecture and ambiance.


Amidst the bustling markets, flashing lights, and throngs of people is the gorgeous Sahaba Mosque, a focal point for locals and visitors alike. The building is a magnificent piece of Islamic architecture; with intricate designs and towering minarets, it provides a serene backdrop for the streets below. We had the opportunity to go inside, with three in our group of five (myself included) paying €2 to rent a more modest, flowing abaya to put overtop our clothes. I highly recommend doing this, as going inside the mosque is an incredible experience you wouldn’t want to miss!


Two women wearing beautiful pattered abayas and a loose-fitting hijab.
A selfie of my cousin and I in our rented abayas.

From here, we wandered aimlessly around a particularly beautiful market for over an hour, buying souvenirs that I believed I got a decent deal on (please make a note not to buy souvenirs in the Old Town; they’re actually incredibly overpriced, and I caved because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find others elsewhere before I left for Cairo later that week).


Naturally, this amount of shopping works up an appetite, so we moved from here directly to a restaurant our guide recommended for authentic Egyptian food. We had an incredible meal for very cheap. Eating is one of my favourite ways to really savour a culture, from the tantalizing aromas of a meal to the local drinks to the dinnerware it’s all served on. We also took a taxi afterward to Farsha Mountain Lounge, a gorgeous outdoor bar-meets-café with multiple levels along a cliffside, a plethora of warm red lights, and incredible music that can be heard for miles.


Discovering the Hidden Gems of Ras Muhammad National Park


A mangrove plant on the edge of the salt water and desert floor. There are many of it's black roots shooting up from the water all around it and, in the background, is a forest of mangroves along the distant shoreline.
Mangroves in Ras Muhammad National Park. Photo by Emily Fata.

The next morning, we took off for a half-day of excursions, this time in the heart of Ras Muhammad National Park, just 20 minutes away from Sharm El-Sheikh. This park is also relatively new, having been officially protected in 1983. The first place we went to in the 480-square-kilometre (around 185 square miles) park was the monumental entrance, the Gate of Allah. The gate was designed out of cement rocks by an Egyptian engineer after the 1973 October War, who created it to appear as the name of Allah (in Arabic).


After taking tons of photos, we returned to the tour van and ventured deeper into the park, stopping along the bank of a wide river with pristine blue water lined with mangrove forests. I was captivated by the juxtaposition of life and desert, where lush greenery flourished amidst the arid landscape and where the water was like an oasis. While we didn’t spend much time here, we moved along to see the mark of a more recent natural phenomenon.


A split in the desert earth, with water running through the separated land. Tourists stand along the edges looking in.
Ras Muhammad National Park's seismic fissure. Photo by Emily Fata.

A seismic fissure measuring 42 metres (about 138 feet) can be found surrounded by desert, the fissure itself punctuated by water that is such a lovely shade of pale blue. Plus, directly across from this is the Magic Lake. Here—I’m not sure if this is a real thing or just something our tour guide did for us (big question marks here)—you stand on the shoreline with your back to the lake and make three wishes while you throw three stones over your shoulder. Then, you turn around and run into the Magic Lake for the wishes to eventually come true.


Before we left to return to the resort (and to nap before our overnight adventure to Sinai coming later that day), we stopped for an hour by the Red Sea where some of our group went snorkelling. A few of us stayed back, myself included, to sort through shells and pieces of dead coral on the beach. Of course, we occasionally dunked our heads underwater to see what the fish were doing beneath the surface with a pair of goggles, but it was much more relaxed than the actual snorkelling adventure.


Ascending the Summit of Mount Sinai and Finding Solace


Relived Emily + a happy camel.

Departing from the hotel after an insufficient nap (to be fair, I had opted for a €10 hour-long massage at the hotel in lieu of proper sleep), we clambered onto another tour van to prepare for a drive of several hours to Mount Sinai under the cloak of night. I managed to probably get about an hour of sleep throughout the trip there, waking up to visit the gift shop of the Monastery of St. Catherine to pick up some souvenirs for the more religious people in my family. 


Not long after, we found ourselves filing through a security line and entering the path that would eventually lead us to the top of Mount Sinai. I was very ambitious at the beginning. I truly believed in myself, but as it turns out, this hike was literally not a walk in the park, and I had to eventually take a poor camel (I talk about it in more detail in my article about climbing Mount Sinai). I did reach the top, though! So, that counts for something, right?


On the way down, as the sun rose above the mountain range and we made our way toward the ancient walls of St. Catherine’s Monastery, there is no mistaking that the whole thing—as physically exhausting as it was—was worth it.


Sunrise over the large range of mountains in Sinai.
Sunrise over the mountain range descending Mount Sinai. Photo by Emily Fata.

When we returned to the resort at around 3 PM, after another nap in the van (this time, I was out like a light for almost the entire drive), I felt like I could function for the remainder of the afternoon without dying. We decided to go to the pool and have dinner at the resort before venturing into the city on foot to explore more of what the area had to offer.


Embracing the Joys of Leisure and Adrenaline Around Sharm El-Sheikh


On our final day in Sharm El-Sheikh, we finally embraced the joys of leisure and adventure with a day of doing sweet nothing. After sleeping in until 8 AM, we convened in one room to eat a mix of random breakfast items before walking to the beach to lie in the sun all day. I essentially wanted to embody the life of the turtle my brother had when he was in elementary school—just me and the sun, with an occasional dip in the water to cool off. Give me all of the Vitamin D, please.


Five people sitting on a banana boat in the water with one arm outstretched, the city of Sharm El-Sheikh visible in the background.
Our group on the banana boat.

In time, someone came around the beach trying to sell us a banana boat excursion for some ridiculously high price. I stepped into my Emily-at-an-antique-market persona and talked him down to accepting €10 for the entire excursion, for all five of us. After the boat ride (which was so much fun, I must say!) I haggled with them again to get the photos they took of us for a few Euros instead of the initially quoted €30. Not too bad!


Riding Quads in Al Rewaysat: Desert Adventures and Coca-Cola Diplomacy


Four women on quad bikes, their faces and heads wrapped in a checkered scarf. All are wearing sunglasses.
A selfie of the girls on our quads.

Despite taking the day to relax and unwind, we had one last sunset adventure during our time in Sharm El-Sheikh. In a whirlwind of dust and adrenaline, we wrapped our heads in a checkered scarf, slid our sunglasses into place, and ventured to Al Rewaysat to hop on quads and zip through the desert. We would leave a trail of tire tracks and suspicious camels in our wake, all to head to another Bedouin camp. Here, we traded our thirst for adventure for a bottle of Coke and a chance to connect with the locals.


As we chatted with three wide-eyed children, one in particular was eager to learn our names and practice the words he knew in English. I couldn't help but marvel at the universal language of curiosity and kindness, especially as it comes naturally to kids. They bring it out so easily in us, too!


Surrounded by the endless expanse of the desert and the infectious laughter of newfound friends, I realized that sometimes the most memorable moments are found in the simplest of encounters (cliché, yes, I know, but it’s true nonetheless). And yes, a camel was involved—because what's a desert adventure without a spontaneous camel cameo?


A trail of quad bikes riding through the desert, with mountains ahead.
Riding our quads into the sunset. Photo by Emily Fata.

All in All


Looking back at the vibrant tapestry of Sharm El-Sheikh, I’m reminded of the timeless allure of exploration and discovery, especially in places so steeped in history like Egypt. From the depths of the Red Sea to the summit of Mount Sinai, this enchanting city beckons with promises of adventure and natural beauty.


Is this a place you’ve been to before, or could see yourself visiting too, one day?


 

5 Comments


Richard Lowe Jr
Richard Lowe Jr
Apr 04

This looks like a very fun place to visit. Maybe I'll get there one day.

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buresbarn
Apr 04

How fun this must have been to visit! It looks like a beautiful place. I will put this in my list of places to visit. Egypt would be fun to explore.

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Allison Cohen
Allison Cohen
Apr 03

Wow, what a trip! I am so envious because I would love to go to Egypt one day, and Sharm el Sheik is on my list. I can't believe you actually climbed Mt. Sinai as well. An amazing combination of culture, physical activity, and relaxation - sign me up!

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aimee bell
aimee bell
Mar 17

Sahaba Mosque is so beautiful. It reminds me of the architecture in Barcelona. How do people make such stunning and beautiful places? Thanks for sharing.

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Ramil Hinolan
Ramil Hinolan
Mar 16

Mt. Sinai is one of my travel destinations in the future. This is a remarkable place because this is where Moses received the 10 Commandments from Jesus.

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