Friday, 3 January 2014

Sharm el Sheik, Egypt - a bit of winter sun (part one)

Whilst 2013 was a great year, it was also at times bloody difficult. 

To sum it up, 2013 had been emotional… My parents moved to the other side of the world, my lovely granddad was terminally ill, I had one wedding disaster after another, two of us at work were left doing 6 people’s work, I was homeless for three weeks whilst moving, and less than a week after the wedding, the Boy was deployed for four months to the middle east. As I said, emotional.

So the Boy decided what we needed to see off 2013 was a relaxing break to somewhere with a bit of sun (although I never did end up spending much time in the sun), that wasn’t too far way and a place to relax. Hello Sharm el Sheik, Egypt.

hello sun!
multi tasking - reading and sunbathing 

Unlike my normal holidays, I wasn’t interested in doing too much. No getting up early to squeeze every bit of juice out of my day like a lemon, or immerse myself in the local delights. This time I was quite happy to be in a 5* all inclusive, chilling by the pool, not bothering to talk to other guests and eating for England at the buffets (yea I know that getting totally healthy was on the to do list for 2014 yesterday).

But as my boss did predict, it wouldn’t be long until we were doing some kind of activity. Day two and we were off on a boat trip. Actually by the afternoon of day one we were indulging in a spa session but this is a relaxing activity so doesn’t count.

Over the next few days I want to share with you my trip to Sharm el Sheik and recommendations for anyone who is thinking of going.

First off, a bit about the place…

The hotel and five areas of Sharm:

This is the kind of place that should suit most people; of all ages, holiday needs and any family make up. You can either spend your time chilling in the hotel or beach, or get yourself on to one of the many excursions and day trips on offer. Whilst I had a fabulous holiday unlike people I spoke with before going, this is not a place I intend on repeatedly will come back too. It had a purpose and served it well, but I got a lot more places I want to tick off.

We stayed at the “Ibertol il Mercato”, a 5* hotel with four pools, on site spa and shuttle to the beaches (which still included the all-inclusive food and drink). The hotel was spacious, very clean, had excellent staff and the buffet meals always had option to suit everyone. (Note: Egypt’s five star is based on service we feel, as this is not like an English 5*). 

hotel il Mercarto

one of the heated indoor pools

There are five main areas in Sharm – Old Market, Il Mercato, Na’ama bay (this is where you’ll find your night life), Soho Square (entertainment square), and Nabq.

We stayed in the Il Mercarto strip which personally I would recommend – small shops and restaurants around and a short taxi ride to everywhere else. Na’ama bay was a bit too bustling for a good night’s sleep plus we found the locals a bit too more pushy when trying to invite you into their bars.

view from the roof top area of the hotel

That is one thing to look out for here and to be honest one of the things that put me off Sharm after a week. I like to browse, be laid back and take my time but we often felt we were being pushed and harassed into buying bits and doing things. It’ not so much the money aspect but more the case of I don’t want to be pushed in to buying crap I don’t want. One of those being a very large canvas of the words “praise Allah” in Arabic. Covered in glitter. The Boy clearly  gives in easier to these sellers than me.

Another of the pools, although this was freezing! 

One other thing to look out for whilst on this subject of “shopping” is to be weary of receiving “gifts” from sellers to make you feel bad about buying things from them. I say gifts sarcastically cos it ain’t really a gift is it when it’s being used as a ploy. Anyway, having said that we did come away from the Old Market with a gift of a pomegranate, a dried lotus, a small painting of some pyramids, and some local Viagra herb?!

different towel animals...

...from our cleaner

If you do choose to go shopping in the shops or markets then get your bartering hat on cos they bloody love it! You generally can cut them down 50% although the Boy did manage to get a purchase for 1/5 of the original price!!! Oh and one time he did start throwing me into it to knock the price down - we managed to get a discount on  the price off some flip flops if I gave the bloke two kisses on the cheek. Suppose being pimped out by your husband has some good points.

Which brings me on to one last thing before I go on to say how fabulous all the trips and holiday was. The men. We personally found them to be a bit, well, sleazy. That might not be the right word exactly but the thesaurus in my head can’t think of a better word at the moment. By day one, the Boy got fed up with being told that I looked like Cleopatra and that he was “very lucky”. Think he had given up caring when the shop owner picked me up for a photo with him on day four. I was a bit annoyed. We didn’t even get any money knocked off the crisps and strawberries we just bought!

loved the arm chairs and sofas in the lobby

court yard where we liked to eat

pastries at brekkie

Generally though the people are lovely, although their Xmas cracker jokes became a bit too predictable at times (ie asking him how many camels he had bought me for) and their childish gags a bit tiresome (ie telling you that they had run out of beer/wine/cocktail when ordering a drink or pulling the hand away last minute for a handshake). But this may be more down to the fact that we had come here to be alone, get away and not be interrupted or hassled so we just became more tired of it, quicker. Looking around, the other gusts lapped it in and encouraged it.

delicious array of puddings EVERYDAY

Actually one last point. This place is tipping central, which for a stereotypical Brit couple, we hadn’t a Scooby about. When do you tip? To who? How much? Also some of the “free” and “helpfulness” didn’t seem to free when you were then asked to tip the tour guide/driver/camel owner. My advice – take small notes with you and just act as if you know what you are doing. Don’t stand around with your wallet half out your bag, umming ad arghing with your partner how much you think is a good amount.

Moaning over  now that I have said my honest over view of Sharm, I will soon be sharing with you my experiences of scuba diving, desert quad biking, star gazing, the Old Market and Ras Mohammed.

Read part two...

X x  X

ps, the water is brown... prob best not to drink

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