Ramadan is fast approaching, and as is normal in Cairo, Caireans are leaving the city in droves, in an attempt to enjoy the few weekends before the holy month begins. The North Coast (or Sa7el) is one of the more popular destinations being only a few short hours away from Cairo, or for those willing to make a longer trek, the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. For me though, it's all about Hurghada.
Cairo is such a busy and bustling city, that it becomes almost impossible not to sit back sometimes, wanting to rip your hair out, and scream "Get me out of here!!!" But as much as I want to get out of Cairo, I don't want to lose the feel of being in Egypt. This in my mind, immediately excludes Sharm as an option, as it has become the Ibiza of the Middle East, and feels like stepping in a tourist perfected resort in Europe somewhere. Nama Bay has lost the Egyptian touch, and the prices there are through the roof...Hurghada provides the perfect median - a beach resort that remains intricately Egyptian, and is constantly changing and adapting, it is truly an example of a dynamic atmosphere.
Last weekend my friend Charlotte and I decided to head up to Hurghada. We both had a long weekend, and she hadn't been back in ten years. Needless to say, she was shocked. Last time Charlotte was in Hurghada, there were maybe two hotels. lol. Being the simple (and budgeted) travelers that we are, we opted to take the bus, rather than the 45 minute direct flight from Cairo. So, Wednesday we pack up our gear, and head down the bus station in Tahrir, downtown. In an attempt to ease the strain on traffic down there, the bus no longer pulls up directly in front of the station. Instead, you wait patiently for a smaller bus to navigate the traffic (which, big surprise, has not been eased), which then takes you literally across the road to a parking lot.
As we both had to work on Wednesday, Charlotte and I took the 5 pm bus, for a very reasonable 75 LE. Our departure was delayed due to the "minibus" extravaganza, but eventually we settle down for the 6 hour drive to Hurghada. Let me tell you, travel scrabble is your best friend on long trips like this, particularly through the long stretches of desert. When you reach the coast line though, the view is absolutely breath-taking, with 4 or so hours of your trip being made along the Red Sea's coastline, with fantastic sea views, sunsets, and if you're lucky enough, the shot of dolphins breaching the surf. Arriving in Hurghada, a cheap 5 minute taxi ride takes you straight to the main tourist strip, where most of the hotels in Hurghada are situated.
Charlotte and I were staying with a friend in Hurghada, who lived right behind the Burger King off of the main street, Shara Sheraton. The amusing thing about Hurghada, is how rapidly the tourist street has developed, yet step one foot behind it (such as we did), and you find yourself in an area filled with half-renovated houses, buildings under construction, the beginnings of a foundation, and the occasional completed villa. It is truly a town under development, I just hope that it retains its Egyptian identity, and doesn't fall prey as Sharm did to the overtly "resort type" town.
We filled our time with the multitude of activities that Hurghada is known for, first and foremost the beach and sea, and the nightlife. With clubs, pubs, restaurants, cinema's, outdoor entertainment, and games, there's plenty to do. I somehow was convinced to try the "Gladiator" game, and I'm sad to say, I had my ass handed to me, with Charlotte managing to knock me off my post I think at least 8 times. Pitiful; I blame it on the beers that were coursing through me. Friday gave us the opportunity to party it up at Hed Kandi, where there is a pool party every Friday. I have to say, when I first heard of the pool party, I imagined a large number of children, it being one of the few days where children were actually able to get into Hed Kandi. Instead what we experienced was the anti-thesis, I felt like I'd stepped into an MTV spring break party. Volleyball, swimming, great music, great food, surrounded by the beach, the sea, and a fantastic pool right in the center of the club. For anybody heading to Hurghada soon, I highly recommend that you stop into their pool party, it's an unforgettable experience.
As with any vacation, it must all end eventually. Our last day, Charlotte and I barely made the bus, but decided to spoil ourselves to the 100 LE Royal bus. By spoil, what I really mean is that we were both already late going back to Cairo, and needed the next bus ASAP haha. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the "royal bus," it's a faster trip, you are given water along with the little bread pieces and juice box, and the bus' bathroom resembles something that can be called clean (as let me say, the toilets on the other buses are atrocious :p). Overall, I give Hurghada two thumbs way way up, and I cannot wait to go back there. It truly is a little gem on the Red Sea, and I hope that it remains as such. For us Caireans, a beach resort on an Egyptian budget. Does it get any better than that?!