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The Big O.E An epic adventure across the world, backpacker style :)

Walk like an Egyptian

EGYPT | Wednesday, 14 May 2008 | Views [960]

Egypt is a land of package tourists. Which is both good and bad for us independent travellers. Good at the airport when the ENTIRE plane lined up at their tour operator's booth, and we got to stroll up to the visa counter and money exchange counter, get our passports stamped and collect our bags while they made a queue about 300 people long! 

And it's bad, because local people only get to see tourist dollars if they can get in with the package tourists. So when some poor taxi driver manages to find two people to transport, he wants to charge 35 English pounds for a ten minute trip...

Sharm El Sheikh was my worst nightmare. Las Vegas in Egypt. Full of pudgy English and Russians wearing skimpy clothes. Chinese restaurants. Casinos. Resort hotels. Belly dancers (from Russia, because there are no Egyptian women in Sharm. And even if there were, no self respecting Muslim woman would bare her belly on stage!) Not a single local, because no-one actually lives in Sharm. Men come and work in the hotels and restaurants and go home to their families in Luxor and Cairo on their days off. Sharm was just desert by the sea, and some developers thought it would be a good place for a tourist resort town. We met people who had been in "Egypt" for a week, but hadn't set foot outside the hotel. And people who continued to sunbathe beside the pool despite the second degree blistered burns they had given themselves "making the most of the sun".

But we had to be in Sharm in order to dive Ras Mohammed - a protected marine area off the coast. It was worth it. Nothing really big appeared from over the drop off, but great visibility, tuna and the ship wreck of the Yolanda that was transporting bathroom supplies - so now there are hundreds of toilets sprouting coral and making homes for fish :)

After two days, we took the ferry across to Hurghada, and headed down to Wadi Lahami in the south, about as close to Sudan as you'd want to get at the moment. We arrived at 2am after ten hours of travel in the heat. It would have been nice to sleep in a bit. But by 7am we were already in our wetsuits, ready to see the sea...


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