Egypt - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 87

Bus to Hurghada

Saturday 7th June

This morning, we leave pharaonic Egypt behind us as we now travel away from all the historic and archaeological sites to head for Hurghada. Our time spent allowing our minds to roam freely through history as we mingled with the pharaohs in the various pyramids and temples has become yet another major highlight to our trip.

Egypt has four distinct kinds of tourism on offer: Historic tourism (pharaonic temples and pyramids); Nature tourism (desert safaris); Religious tourism (Islamic Cairo and the rich cultural history that accompanies it); and finally Fun tourism (sea, sand, snorkelling and diving). With so much to offer, it’s a crying shame that the numbers of tourists in Egypt has nosedived in recent years.

We will arrive in Hurghada at around noontime to commence our sand, sea, snorkelling and diving activities, which will start in Hurghada but continue in Sharm El-Sheikh and Dahab in a day or two. We will pick up the historic thread again in Petra, Jordan but for now it’s time for some rest and relaxation on the beach and under the water.

A particularly nice surprise awaited us this morning as Ehab buckled finally under the pressure and has decided to join us after all for an impromptu two-day holiday in Hurghada. He will join us not as a guide but as a very good friend. Our bus pulling away from the depot this morning signified the formal end to his duties as a guide for us and we handed him his envelope with tip and thank you letter. As a true professional, he initially wanted to refuse it claiming that he was our friend and not our guide but after my insistence, he put it into his pocket without opening it. His tip was significant in size and I know he will ‘complain’ about the size of it (for positive reasons) later after he opens it. It will be a joy to watch his gratification. We’ve come to know Ehab very well over the past several days and a better friend than he has been to us will be difficult to find again.

Our three-hour bus ride from Luxor to Hurghada took no less than five hours. On the outside, the coach looked luxurious enough but, alas, it was a facade. We both hate long bus rides and this one was particularly loathsome since the promised air-conditioning was rendered useless due to the fact that the main door didn’t have a latch and the driver kept his window wide open to prevent the pressure from passing trucks from blowing it open. Half of the seats were also falling apart and my backrest kept slowly reclining to the fully reclined position after about thirty seconds. We’ve become pretty hardened to adversity now and the two of us took the whole thing in our stride.

We checked into our three-star hotel but had to immediately request towels, soap, toilet tissue, etc. for both our room and Ehab’s room. I’m not sure if the lack of these items in the room was a mere oversight or policy on the part of the hotel management to try to save money. I took the liberty of requesting the supplies on Ehab’s behalf since he is so mild mannered and shy that we would never do so himself.

First order of the afternoon was to grab a bite to eat at Hurghada’s KFC. We then tested the temperature of the sea at the nearest beach and decided that it was just warm enough to warrant going back to the hotel to change into our swim clothes to take a dip at the public beach. Since I have my snorkel and mask with me, Ehab and I took turns in admiring the underwater environment which was surprisingly varied and interesting given that we were just a few meters from the shore on a heavily trodden public beach.

After an hour or so at the beach, we went back to the hotel to shower and freshen up before heading out into town to take in the atmosphere. Hurghada is a bustling place and is a very new town. Almost every building that stands here is less than five years old. Several years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find it on the map but it has grown at a phenomenal rate in recent years to accommodate the German and Eastern European package tourist trade. Many of the signs at the numerous and very touristy bazaars are posted in Russian and sometimes German in addition to Arabic. The tourists that flock here are none too interested in the Pharaonic history of Egypt but flock here instead for the sun, sand and marine life. We walked around for an hour or so and Ehab bought himself a snorkel and mask as well as a new pair of shorts. He didn’t bring any with him and actually borrowed our scissors to cut off the legs of the trousers he was wearing so that he could at least go snorkelling. He enjoyed himself immensely today and it is clear that he was in desperate need of a holiday.

As predicted, Ehab was extremely grateful after opening his envelope. We was, of course, grateful for the money we had tipped him but what was particularly pleasing was the fact that he was more pleased with the wording in our thank you letter. He said he was going to frame it even.

We have arranged a snorkelling day-trip tomorrow by boat to one of the Red Sea Islands that is most famous for its superb snorkelling location. It will be a fun day out and we are all looking forward to it. We will have our underwater camera at the ready and we will surely return with a memory card full of great underwater pictures to show for the day.