Revolution is hardly a topic of conversation you expect to come up on holiday, but any visit to Egypt is unlikely to escape at least a mention of the popular uprising which began early last year and saw The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi voted in as president last week.

The violent clashes in Cairo’s Tahrir Square dominated TV news across the world, and the country has since been shunned by many tourists, fearful of how the instability might affect them.

Even our destination, Sharm el-Sheikh, suffered from holidays being cancelled during the unrest, despite its location more than 200 miles from the capital.

But throughout the week my girlfriend and I spent exploring underwater life, riding camels and climbing a mountain of Biblical importance, we found nothing to worry about in Sharm.

On the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula, Sharm grew from a sleepy fishing village to a major tourist destination in a few decades.

Long stretches of natural beaches, a warm climate throughout the year and clear water for Red Sea diving are among its main selling points.

The main tourist area Naama Bay features hotels from all the big international chains, alongside countless bars, restaurants, casinos and nightclubs to keep guests occupied throughout the night.

We were based at the luxurious Movenpick resort, which boasts natural coral reefs only a few breaststrokes away from one of its five private beaches.

Sharm is primarily a diving destination. Enthusiasts come from far and wide to experience the Red Sea, and many take a day trip to Ras Mohammed national park to get their underwater thrills.

But amateurs like us could hire snorkelling gear and swim over the reefs and among the colourful fish just minutes from our accommodation.

Our hotel room was designed with an Arabic-style interior, and the aura of calm and relaxation it created was vital after we embarked on the most energy-sapping holiday excursion I have ever experienced...

When we were planning our holiday there was no doubt that watching the sunrise over Mount Sinai was something we both wanted to do.

Our journey began at midnight, when we boarded a minibus alongside 15 other tourists for the bumpy three-hour drive north.

On arrival we were joined by a young Bedouin man who was tasked with the unfortunate responsibility of getting us up the mountain by sunrise, and back down to visit St Catherine’s Monastery.

Although the time of day meant I was becoming increasingly tired, at least the scale of the task ahead was hidden in darkness.

The Bedouin have set up small coffee shops along the rocky path, providing caffeine and snacks to keep visitors awake as they plod onwards and upwards by torchlight.

The sun rose a few minutes after our arrival at the summit, and as we sat slumped on a rock we gazed out over the rugged horizon with a feeling of exhaustion and satisfaction.

The only other item left on our ‘must-do’ list was to ride a camel.

The bustling streets of Naama Bay offer many opportunities, but having cars whizzing past was not how I wanted to remember the experience.

Many tour companies offer camel riding in the desert, so after a short drive we were led by a group of Bedouin children as young as four.

We then spent the most peaceful hour of the whole week steadily making our way through the desert, surrounded by only mountains and sand.

Later that night, the tranquillity of the camel ride was replaced by the buzzy atmosphere of Naama Bay, which offers lively nightlife as tourists and locals drink in the bars and smoke in the shisha lounges.

We’d been warned to expect some pestering by businesses looking for trade, and the hassling of tourists is most prevalent along the main pedestrianised street.

We found it a bit unsettling at first, after spending previous evenings either up a mountain or in the peace and serenity of our hotel, but quickly learned that a polite smile and a firm “no thank you” does the trick.

Throughout our time in Sharm we looked for evidence of the revolution, but our holiday snaps don’t feature any burned-out cars or angry mobs. Sharm is about the same distance from the capital as Cornwall is from London.

The Egyptian authorities hope that Britons who would not be put off from visiting Newquay by a protest at Trafalgar Square will use the same logic when deciding on a trip to the Red Sea.

 

  • Neil Lancefield was a guest of the Egyptian State Tourist Office and flew with Egypt Air to Sharm el-Sheikh.
  • Destination information is available from Egyptian State Tourism on 020 7493 5283 or gotoegypt.org and egypt.travel
  • EgyptAir return flights to Sharm el-Sheikh ex-Heathrow lead in at £210 plus taxes.
  • EgyptAir reservations: 0844 822 1110 and egyptair.com
  • Neil stayed at the Movenpick Sharm El Sheikh Naama Bay.
  • Prices start from £67 per room per night (B&B) incl tax and service as part of the Movenpick Hotels & Resorts ‘Endless Sunshine’ promotion.
  • For further information and reservations call 0020 6936 00 081 or visit movenpick-hotels.com