Sharm el-Sheikh beaches
Originally a little fishing village, Sharm el-Sheikh has developed into a well-equipped tourist resort and is still in a state of continual expansion. Sunny weather, a plethora of charter flights, world famous scuba-diving sites, plus luxurious five-star hotels, shopping and entertainment make it one of the most important tourist resorts in the Red Sea.
Tourists are advised to approach snorkelling, diving and swimming with caution following a series of shark attacks in Sharm El Sheikh in December 2010, including the death of a German tourist. Though attacks by oceanic white tip sharks are extremely rare and shark attacks of any kind are very unusual in the Red Sea.
Long stretches of natural sand and pebbles beaches are surrounded by a dramatic landscape. The waters around Sharm are clear and calm for most of the year. Coral reefs and marine life offer an amazing experience for divers. Other popular watersports include windsurfing, parasailing, boating and canoeing.
Ras Mohammed Marine National Park, at the tip of Sinai, southwest of Sharm el-Sheikh, is considered as one of the best dive regions in the world. Also famous for its diving sites, the Strait of Tiran is only a few kilometres north of Sharm el-Sheikh. The strait separates Tiran Island from the east coast of Sinai and the main attractions are four coral reefs in the middle of the channel. Inland attractions around Sharm el-Sheikh include casinos, golf courses and spas.
Sharm is very much a family-orientated resort. Most major hotels have swimming pools, themed parks, tennis courts, a multitude of sports facilities, health clubs, diving centres, entertainment programmes and kids clubs. Horse and camel riding and desert safaris are also popular choices for day trips.
The colourful Bedouin handicraft stands are always popular with tourists. The main shopping draws are gold and silver jewellery and semi-precious stones from Na'ama Bay or the Old Market. Spices, glass perfume bottles, slippers, leather bags, Bedouin embroidery and Turkish delights are also popular. Good buys include Egyptian cotton bed linen and beach towels. The Old Market is great for holiday bargains and cheaper than Na'ama Bay.
A visit to the desert is highly recommended. Hotels offer various trips to the rugged, red rock mountains and barren desert of the interior. The most visited spot is the Coloured Canyon, named for the layers of brightly-coloured stone along the deep canyon walls. Saint Catherine's Monastery and Mount Sinai are other popular destinations, only a three-hour drive away. Mount Sinai is said to be the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments. The mountain is home to the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St Catherine, founded in the sixth century. Climbing the mountain on foot or by camel is the main objective for most visitors, but it's worth spending a couple of hours admiring the monastery's treasures.
The Four Seasons Resort Sharm el-Sheikh (www.fourseasons.com/sharmelsheikh) is a tranquil hideaway designed to resemble a traditional Arabian village. The rooms are scattered down the hill overlooking a small beach and surrounded by lush gardens with pools and water features. There is a spa offering all kinds of luxurious beauty treatments. The hotel is a 15-minute drive from Na'ama Bay.