Cathy and Jason's Travel Journal
About Us (1)
USA - California (1)
USA - Mid-Atlantic (1)
USA - South (2)
USA - Southwest (1)
* Cameron Highlands
* Kuala Lumpur
* What we did in Georgetown
* Georgetown, Penang
* Scuba divin'
* Ko Tao and diving!
* Laos wrapup
* Slow boat to Luang Prabrang, or Ship o' Fools
* What we've been up to
* Thailand photos 1
* Burma photos 3
* Burma photos 2
* Burma photos 1
* India photos 5
* India photos 4
* India photos 3
* India photos 2
* India photos 1
* Photos, continued
* The many uses of...
November 17, 2004
Hurghada, "beach resort"
I had high hopes for this place. When I came to Egypt last, I met some English people who were raving about this golden paradise -- Hurghada. They loved it, spent a week there, oh the fun. I left Egypt thinking, someday I too will bathe in the light of Hurghada. It didn't quite end up that way.
Thinking back on our decision to come here, the very words "Egyptian beach resort" should haven't given me pause. Egyptians are definitely not people of the sea. Hurghada is a crowded, scrabbling Egyptian town transplanted on a desert coast. No rest and relaxation for the weary here.
Let's picture the Red Sea coast. It certainly isn't like any coast I've ever seen. Imagine a desert that just ends abruptly at the water. Like someone just drew a line in the sand. There is no green anywhere for miles and miles. The "resort planners" have tried to plant some palm and date trees in the desert near the resorts, but this is not going well. Most of the trees are dead or dying. The winds are so strong and dusty here that the trees that are standing are covered in dust and have nearly horizontal leaves. Not exactly a tropical paradise, not even an oasis paradise. The ill-conceived touristic development (borrowing another common phrase from the Lonely Planet guidebook) is pretty recent. I can see why now that I've been here.
The ill-conceived touristic development has left the coast looking wretched. Many, many construction sites marring the ocean view. Many, many abandoned half-contructed buildings. I call these buildings "rubble-lings" and "crumb-lings". A rubble-ling is a building that was half finished and has now mostly collapsed. A crumb-ling is a building that was half finished and is starting to crumble at the edges.
The town is crowded with half contructed and fully contructed hotels and apartment buildings. Most apartment buildings seem empty, as do many of the smaller hotels. Most Egyptians live on a narrow stretch of green along the Nile, crammed up in concrete matchbox apartment buildings. According to "Cairo: City Victorious", some places in Cairo have 700,000 people per square mile; the city averages 70,000 per square mile. Modern architecture and urban planning won't be winning any prizes here. It's all practical - house as many people as practical for the least amount of money. Looking at the town, it's like someone thought - "Hey, back where I came from, we have lots and lots of crowded living quarters -- let's duplicate that here!"
The beach at Hurghada, which is not very nice anyways, has mostly been sold to hotels and future hotels. Jason and I tried to take a seaside walk along the corniche. We could sort of see the ocean through the hotel lobby doors and through the rubble-lings that littered the seaside. I thought that if we walked long enough we might reach the end of construction sites, but the fumes from the car traffic, heat and horn-honking defeated me.
Our hotel gave us access to one hotel's beach for 20 LE. We decided to go check it out. The beach was a 30 foot stretch of dirt with concrete jetties on both sides, completely covered with tourists. We went to another hotel beach and saw the same story, except they wished to extract 40 LE from us and had a sign that stated "No outside water or food". We tried to go to a more fancy hotel that appeared to have a somewhat sane beach-like stretch, but were stopped at the door - "No from outside". Sigh.
We ended up taking a taxi ride to a "public beach" about 5 miles south of our hotel. Never mind that we were charged money for entering the public beach, but it was pretty nice. A decent stretch of sand and nice clear water. Except when were leaving at sunset, I saw a bunch of pleasure boats had docked and were busy letting off waste water about 50 feet from the shore where I was swimming.
Another funny thing about the beach we went to, was that only us funny pinkish tourists were swimming. In Hurghada, the few Egyptians I saw on the beach were dressed for a day at the office. The men were wearing black leather dress shoes, neatly pressed pants and tucked-in long sleeved shirts. The women were dressed, to borrow from the "Cairo" book I mentioned earlier, "retro 7th century". Long head scarf, long flowy dress. No one was swimming or even really walking on the beach. (Update: in Dahab, I have actually seen men swimming and wearing shorts. Still saw a guy wearing black leather shoes though.)
The next day, we went on a boat ride to some islands off shore. "Giftun islands" they were called. That trip was a ton of fun, and ridiculously cheap. If you are forced to go to Hurghada, I'd recommend taking those trips every day.
I was ready to leave after 2 days in Hurghada and we are currently in Dahab (on the Sinai) Although it feels a bit like an Arabian themed beach resort, it's low-key and very nice. There's a wonderful pedestrian-only corniche and the views are lovely. Not TOO many rubble-lings.
Posted by Cathy on November 17, 2004 09:50 AM
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