To celebrate our Ruby Wedding Anniversary we had a week's holiday at the Coral Beach Montazah Hotel on the Red Sea coast of the southern Sinai Peninsula. Even in the first week of November, not only did the sun shine continuously, but it was hot. Daytime temperatures were in the range 30-34C, and at night 22-23C. Below is a description of the main features and attractions of the south of the Sinai Peninsula along its Red Sea coast.
Our hotel
We arrived at about 11.30pm at Sharm-el-Sheik airport to utter chaos, but after a (brief) night's sleep we saw our hotel garden. The rash of hotel building of the last 20 years has been accompanied by tree-planting and gardens in what is elsewhere a desert waste. We spent much of the time around the swimming-pool enjoying the sunshine, and thankfully by day a cooling breeze blew. But we had been warned to drink plenty (the tap water was not safe, so bottled water had to be bought)- some 7-8 litres per day between us.

View of hotel and (above) balcony
We did make three excursions. On the Wednesday evening we left for a trip into the desert to join the Bedouin, go for a camel trek (quite an experience!), have a Bedouin meal in a tent, sitting on the floor, and then after sitting round the camp fire, had 10 minutes to gaze at the night sky and see the stars like never before.
Margaret (and left, Ian)

on camel)
Friday around midday we travelled into the old part of Sharm to go on the 'Seascope Submarine', a boat with below-decks having viewing windows to see the Coral reefs and the tropical fish.
Saturday was the highlight. We travelled by coach to St Catherine's monastery at the foot of Jebel Musa (generally recognised as being Mount Sinai) where God gave the Commandment to Moses, and where is the Burning Bush (still alive and growing without roots!). It was a long journey (450km round-trip) ,and on the way back we stopped in a resort of Dahab.
(see a gallery or slide-show of our holiday, or install a screensaver, and watch a video presenation).

Get a live view of Sharm (from Werner Lau diving centre; daytime only)

The area described.
The Sinai desert

Sharm-el-Sheik has gone a complete transformation in the 1990s and in this decade. Originally, it means literally 'Place of the Chiefs', with reference to the Bedouin chiefs. (the Bedouins are the original inhabitants of Sinai). By the 18th century it was also important as a fishing village.

Sharm harbour

What really changed things was the blockade of the Straits of Tiran by Egypt's president Nasser in 1967, which led to the Six-Day war in which the Israeli army overran Sinai. They then built the settlement of 'Ophira' on the cliffs of Ras Um Sidd. In 1982 Sinai was ceded back to Egypt, and about a decade later an explosion of hotel building began, not just in old Sharm-el-Sheik, but northward to Naama Bay and beyond to Sharks Bay and Coral Beach, and today even beyond, so that 'Sharm-el-Sheik' (which comprises a whole group of holiday villages) has become a holiday destination of increasing popularity. It has been ruled that after 31 December 2004, no new hotel building can start, as the infrastructure can take no further development. One of the biggest attractions, because of the magnificent Coral reefs is diving.
The bay of Sharm-el-Maya ('old Sharm') is famous for the magnificent coral reefs lying just outside its harbour.

(fish and coral reefs at Sharm-el-Maya)

Naama Bay which is about five miles north of old Sharm is the main tourist centre, with diving facilities, numerous hotels and restaurants and shopping ,malls. It is the most commercial area
Many hotels provide their own entertainment, and also particpate in many excursions run by tour operators, principally to the Bedouins, to St Catherine's monastery and also day-trips by aircraft to Cairo and Luxor. There are also facilities for water-skiing, go-karting and there is an excellent golf course at Movenpick Golf. Ice-skating and bowling are also on offer.
More on-line information is available (Click here)

Nabq Protected Area
This is an area extending inland from the Gulf of Aqaba coast between Sharm-el-Sheik and the resort of Dahab.
It is an area of wadi systems, alluvial plains and sand dunes and it supports a diverse ecosytem. Gazelles, hyrax, ibex and foxes have all been reported here and a wide range of bird-life which includes herons, spoonbills, ospery and gulls. There are extensive mangrove forests and 134 flowering plants. Read more online

The name of this resort, some 60 miles north of Sharm means 'golf', taking its name from the golden sands extending from El Qura to Ghazala., with the main centre between the two and where there are streets of Arab bazaars. Thereb are many beggars operating here, and sadly at the coach station children begging for food. Again it is a centre for diving, surfing and other water sports.
Read more about Dahab

Saint Catherine's Monastery
(The monastery lies within the St Katherine's Protectorate, which has recently been declared a world heritage site)
This is a site of religious significance for three faiths, but especially for Jews, for it was here on Sinai that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. It is also a site for Christians, not only because of the monastery, but also for its library, second only to that of the Vatican.
Saint Catherine converted to Christianity in the 3rd century AD, and persuaded many others to do so; later she was martyred for her faith. Her body was found on the highest mountain of Sinai (Jebel Katherina, over 2700 metres high) and transfered to St Catherine's, where a monastery was built to guard her remains at the order of Justinian between 527 and 565.
Although scholars have disputed whether the mountain which towers over the monastery is the Sinai of the Bible, it is the most credible of the various peaks proposed. The monastic church today is much as it was in the 6th century, though within its precincts are many more recent buildings. There are many priceless works of art and icons (it is under Orthodox patronage).

Above photos:
Top left, the Burning Bush; right 6th century window. Below left; the footpath leading to Mt Sinai; right, Jebel Musa

The library houses 4500 ancient manuscripts in many languages; it is most famed for the Codex Sinaiaticus (the first copy of the Greek translation of the Old Testament).
An old shrub growing in the monastery grounds is the Burning Bush where God revealed himself to Moses and called him to free his people from the tyranny of the Egyptian Pharoahs., naming himself as YHWH ('I am that I am').
There is also a mosque there, marking the fact that for many years it was only allowed to continue by edict of the prophet Mohammed. Also Islam is the faith of Egyptians.
Read more online

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