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Exploring the Many Destinations Around Sharm El-Sheikh (Day 1 and Day 2)

Updated: Mar 13

Embark on an awe-inspiring journey around Sharm El-Sheikh, discovering ancient history, vibrant marine life, and luxurious adventures in the Red Sea.
A young woman looking through a hold tunnelled out naturally within red rock in Egypt's Coloured Canyon.
Inside the Coloured Canyon. Photo by Emily Fata,

Sharm El-Sheikh, situated on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, has a storied past dating back thousands of years. Its name, which translates to “Bay of Sheikh” in Arabic, reflects its significance as a place of pilgrimage and sanctuary for Bedouin tribes and Islamic scholars. Before the modern city emerged, Sharm El-Sheikh (and the area around Sharm El-Sheikh) was primarily inhabited by Bedouin nomads who traversed the desert landscape in search of sustenance and shelter. These resilient tribes relied on the bounties of the land and the generosity of passing travellers, fostering a culture of hospitality and communal living that endures to this day.

Today, Sharm El-Sheikh is renowned for its pristine beaches, vibrant marine life, and luxurious resorts, attracting visitors worldwide. From its humble beginnings to its current status as a bustling tourist destination, the history of Sharm El-Sheikh is a testament to resilience and transformation.

The wildest part? I had no clue that this city even existed prior to my cousin organizing our trip to Egypt, my brain always drifting to more ‘well known’ places like Cairo or Giza when thinking about the country. However, this enchanting city nestled on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula contains a tapestry woven with tales of ancient civilizations and unparalleled natural beauty—and staying here for a week was an absolute dream.

After months of planning, I flew in alone from Toronto, arriving in Sharm El-Sheikh after a brief layover in Cairo. Around five hours later (and after many strange conversations had in the airport with the staff as I waited), my cousin Vittoria and her three friends arrived from Italy. This was the first time I had seen my cousin since the beginning of the pandemic—in fact, she had returned to Rome from Toronto exactly one day before all of Italy shut down—and it was like I had finally been reconnected with a sister. Not to mention the excitement of finally meeting, in person, three friends I had been chatting with over WhatsApp and video calls for five months!

From the airport, we took a taxi to our resort (sans my luggage, which was left behind in Cairo…Egyptair never returned my calls or emails about reimbursing me for the €50 taxi I had to take to eventually go retrieve it from the airport two days later). As exhausted as I was from the jet lag and having not slept on my flight or in the airport, being in a country I dreamed about visiting my entire life with four lovely people had me wide awake and feeling absolutely buzzed.

A sandy and rocky beach with brown, rugged terrain against a deep blue sea and clear, bright blue sky. In the far distance, there are mountains.
The shoreline of the Blue Hole at the Red Sea. Photo by Emily Fata.

Around Sharm El-Sheikh: Snorkelling in South Sinai and Bedouin Hospitality

On our very first day in Sharm El-Sheikh, our tour guide picked us up in a van at 7:00 AM and we ventured into the depths of South Sinai. I felt drunk with fatigue, but somehow also simultaneously pulsating with excitement. The guide told us about the history of the area and went in depth about Bedouin culture, even describing in detail the process of how one would find a bride and attempt to put forward a marriage proposal to the potential spouse’s mother (and, if desired and financially able, how to pursue plural marriage).

Eventually, we reached the coast of the Red Sea and piled out of the van to find a ‘restaurant’ of sorts under a large traditional Bedouin tent. Here, we pulled on our scuba suits, left our bags on the ground, and made our way over the shoreline. At the precipice of the breathtaking Blue Hole, I slid my snorkel over my head and stepped into the water, ready to see what was waiting beneath the surface. Fun fact: This was my first time snorkelling and, not being a strong swimmer, I had a bit of anxiety about the whole thing.

It ended up being incredibly easy and fun, the high salinity of the water making me more buoyant than ever; it was easy to float along and rest in between as you took in the entire world under you. I was completely awe-struck—the amount of colours you can see, from the fish to the coral, was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. It seemed almost unreal, especially that I was seeing it first-hand and not on a screen on my phone or a TV (as strange as that may sound).

After we returned to the beach and peeled off our sopping suits, dried off, and stepped back into our regular clothes, were were welcomed with open arms back into the Bedouin tent and to an delicious meal, where we sat cross-legged on the floor beside each other and savoured the flavours of the food. In addition to all the other wonderful things the Egyptians can pull off, their food is amongst the best. Surrounded by the views and dry heat of the desert, I couldn't help but wonder if I'd missed my calling as a desert nomad.

A small gecko hides between two large rocks, camouflaged within the shade.
A little gecko seeking shade in the Coloured Canyon. Photo by Emily Fata.

Exploring the Mystical Canyons and Overcoming Fears

Once we reached the rugged terrain of the Taba Residential Settlements, I remembered why ‘desert nomad’ isn’t actually my calling, because as it turns out, there’s such a thing as camel spiders and they are huge and horrendous and I wanted nothing to do with them. Ever. While I didn’t actually see any (or I 100% would have had a heart attack and would not be here writing this right now), I know that they exist and thus spent the entire time traversing this area glancing down at my feet every three seconds to make sure none had emerged from the sand to attack me.

This was after a couple of Bedouins piled us into their Jeep, our tour guide literally hanging off the edge of the outside, his hands clasping the roof rack for dear life as we bolted over sand dunes from the spot the tour van was parked. We filed out of the Jeep and onto the hot sand and I began bouncing from foot to foot, trying to keep my feet from burning in my sandals (remember when my luggage got left behind in Cairo? It still hadn’t come back to me with my running shoes at this point and I was forced to wear my flimsy sandals that had been in my carry-on bag).

A rugged, rocky terrain within the middle of the dessert. The land is very brown against a deep blue sky. Small groups of people can be seen in the background.
Views just beyond the Coloured Canyon. Photo by Emily Fata.

As we delved deeper into the Coloured Canyon, the place where Moses is said to have wandered, lost, for 40 years amongst the a limestone mountain chain called El Tih. It was here that my sandals said goodbye to me, snapping and waving in the wind with each step. Thankfully, I had my water shoes and, despite being horrendously ugly, they made for a comfortable option that protected my feet from the oven-like heat of the desert sand.

And—surprise—we did not get lost in the Canyon for 40 years.


Sailing the Red Sea and Unveiling Hidden Treasures

The Egyptian flag against a blue sky, extending from the back of a white yacht.
The Egyptian flag flying from our boat. photo by Emily Fata.

On a brand new day blazing at 42°C, aboard a luxurious yacht adrift in the azure embrace of the Red Sea, we spent the entire late morning and afternoon on a voyage that made me question my life choices—mostly, why am I not rich enough to own my own massive yacht? Where did I go wrong and what can I do to bridge the gap?

The four of us parked ourselves at the very front of the ship’s second level, unprotected from the sun aside from some sunhats and a thin layer of sunscreen I could forget to reapply at any other point in the day. I decided that this would be the day I bid farewell to pale Emily, hoping that I could effortless bypass Lobster Emily for the Tanned Goddess version of myself. Unfortunately, even with sunscreen, Lobster Emily decided it was her day to shine, and as I baked under the sun and flipped from lying on my stomach to lying on my back to be evenly cooked, the criss-cross straps on the back of my bathing suit made (literally) an indelible mark on me that I would not be able to get rid of until the winter.

On board, we were able to do another two incredible snorkelling expeditions and, for €20, you could go scuba diving. I sat through the entire spiel in Italian to practice (I was stubbornly speaking in English the entire time because I was embarrassed by my Italian, even though they were all so encouraging); two people in our group went, but I felt like I had to convince the guy selling it that it was not safe for someone who can barely doggy paddle to go scuba diving and, no, that was not the day I wanted to die. On this trip in particular, I found you have to be persistent with these sales-y people, because a lot of them are just about getting the money more so than considering if someone who—in this example—can’t really swim should be scuba diving off a yacht in the middle of the sea.

A distant shoreline of a mountainous desert, sandwiched between a deep blue sea and clear blue sky.
Ras Muhammad National Park, as seen from our boat on the Red Sea. Photo by Emily Fata.

Despite not buying into the scuba diving experience, my cousin was able to convince me that I could swim a fair distance to the elusive ‘Invisible Island’ on our final cruise stop. This is an island of sorts in the middle of the Red Sea that cannot be seen, as the ‘land’ is a massive bank of sand that comes up just below the water's surface. That is, when you reach it, right in the middle of the sea, you can stand on a sandbank in just ankle-deep water! However, the boat cannot pull up close to it, so it anchors a ways away and you must swim there. Which I managed, much to my surprise (and, to be fair, some people probably thought I was drowning as I awkwardly splashed my way toward the island, with Vittoria reminding me to “swim like a queen!”—more calmly, collected, and without the frantic limb thrashing—as she gracefully glided alongside me).

It was totally worth it, and when you’re ‘on’ the island, you can sit and enjoy views of the water around you as well as beautiful Ras Muhammad National Park on the shoreline ahead. Just be careful of the fish swimming around you and not to crush any of the beautiful coral!

All in All

The whirlwind of experiences encountered in the first part of our journey exploring Sharm El-Sheikh, I was left with a profound sense of awe and gratitude. From the ancient history woven into the fabric of the city to the vibrant adventures that awaited us at every turn, Sharm El-Sheikh proved to be a destination unlike any other. From the rich tapestry of Bedouin culture, exploring natural wonders that have made their mark in history, and (of course!) the turquoise waters of the Red Sea, I couldn't help but marvel at the boundless beauty of this enchanting city.

There is undoubtedly a connection to the spirit of adventure that defines Sharm El-Sheikh, and the second half of our adventure will be shared next week!


1 Comment

Archana singh
Archana singh
Mar 15

I love Egypt. I visited it a long time ago, but the places around Sharm El Sheikh are captivating, and I can't wait to return.

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