Since time immemorial, the Land of the Nile, has been an enigma for travellers. It has always been considered more than a destination, it is a travel to back in time and space, and sometimes a journey within one’s own soul. From the towering Pyramid’s and the Sphinx to the fascinating stories of the pharaohs, to the legends of ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, as a destination Egypt has always overwhelmed a traveller with it’s unique attractions that are no where else in the world. But, there is another aspect to Egypt’s varied tourism offering, which though not much known or explored by the Indian traveller, would be of much interest to them – the Red Sea Riviera.
The Red Sea Riviera is dotted with many resort townships. Hurghada is one of the largest resort cities in Egypt that is a big draw for international travellers. A lot of investment has been made over the years to make Hurghada a global destination – from its infrastructure to large resorts to range of activities for tourists. One of the best resorts in Egypt is the The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh, which has been operating since the last 16 years in Hurghada. The high end resort property is frequented by a select client including royal families from the Middle East. With its own private secluded beach and beautiful villas with pools, it offers the necessary privacy and exclusive luxury facilities to this ultra high networth segment of travellers. At a short distance is Tia Heights Makadi Bay, which is a perfect resort for families and MICE groups. With its large inventory of rooms, extensive recreation facilities and multiple F&B outlets, this all-inclusive resort offers true value for money with service par excellence. The village road in Hurghada has resorts on both sides. While most of the resorts have private beaches, there are public beaches also. A leading destination for aquatic sports, Hurghada is popular for windsurfing, sailing, deep sea fishing and of course diving and snorkelling.
Those who want to experience the beauty of the underwater marine world, without getting wet, have the option of enjoying the view of exotic corals and colourful fish from a submarine. The unique submarine trip in the Red Sea is in fact one of the highlights of visiting Hurghada, which should not be missed by anyone, irrespective of their age.
A stroll along the Hurghada Marina is another must do. The colourful buildings overlook the sea and anchored yachts. There are quaint cafes lining the side walk and you can even get Indian food if interested. One of the new tourism highlights is the Hurghada Grand Aquarium. A private project, it has many attractions for visitors of ages – from feeding of sharks and sting rays to close encounters with alligators. There are many interesting exhibits that enhance knowledge about marine life and species. The open air Sand City Museum has an eclectic array of exhibits – from Cleopatra to Goddess Isis to our very own Lord Ganesha.
There are more places to be discovered near Hurghada. El Gouna, which lies about 25 km north of Hurghada is often called the Venice of the East because of its network of canals and lagoons. It has a private airport and golf resort, and is a great destination for diving. While to the south of Hurghada is Safaqa which has carved a niche for itself as a watersport destination – from windsurfing to kite surfing.
Luxor: Open air museum
Hurghada is in fact about a three hours drive from the ancient city of Luxor, in Upper (southern) Egypt. The city of Luxor has dotted with astounding landmarks like the Luxor Temple (night visit recommended) and the Karnak Temple. In fact, the later was the site of the gliterring closing ceremony of the Luxor African Film Festival 2017, which saw notable names and upcoming talent being honoured. Often regarded as the world’s greatest open air museum, Luxor is a great location for events like these.
These monuments in Luxor recount fascinating stories of ambition, greed, generosity and strategy in ancient Egypt. The Temple of Hatshepsut is an edifice that recounts the interesting (and inspiring) story of the queen who dressed like a man to exert her dominance. A visit to the Valley of Kings, takes you to the royal burial chambers. While 63 burial chambers have been discovered at the site, only about five are open to public. Some are undergoing restoration. You can also see a team of archaeologists busy excavating more digs in the vicinity. A short drive away are The Colossi of Memnon, the two imposing stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III.
Discovering old Cairo
For any visitor to Egypt, the first destination is undoubtedly the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. There is however much more to discover in Cairo which makes this city such an incredible destination. While the veritable treasure trove of artefacts at Cairo Museum is a great draw for all visitors, so is the stunning architecture of the Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha.
An evening of fun a Nile cruise with live entertainment and dinner is always included in the itinerary. What is not always included is a visit to Old Cairo, a sad omission in fact because to understand the ethos of the land, it is necessary to understand its multicultural essence. The ‘Multi-Religious Compound’ includes monuments of three religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Adjacent to the remnants of the Roman fortress of Babylon is the Church of St George (the only round church in Egypt) and the Hanging Church (the oldest church in Cairo). A walk through the lanes will take you to Ben Ezer Synagogue and the Church of St Sergius and Bacchus. The church was built over the site where the Holy Family took refuge – a short flight of steps will take you down to the underground chamber where infant Jesus might have stayed for three months. An incredible site of pilgrimage for people of all religions that should not be missed.