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Published: March 4th 2017
View towards the Red Sea
Marsa Alam is one of the best spots to dive along Egypt’s Red Sea coast, at least so I had read. What it failed to mention is that the town itself is a bit of a hole. I can handle holes though, but this particular hole seems to cater to restaurants that present you with one menu when ordering your food, and another one with different prices when you want to pay your bill. It happened twice, in two separate establishments. And I only went to two restaurants, so that is a ratio of 100 percent! Obviously I did not pay the altered prices…
1) Thou shalt not change thou menu on thou customers!
And the diving? It was… alright. The visibility was great, but apart from that I didn’t see anything I haven’t seen before. The best reefs and spots are further out, and you need to have a certain number of dives under your (weight)belt, plus the advanced diving certificate, for them to take you there. I had neither. Also, I suspect it would help if you did more than two dives, but my budget doesn’t cater for more.
2) For good diving in the Red
Sunset over Marsa Alam
Sea thou needest experience, an advanced diving certificate, and money to spendeth on more dives.
With my diving out of the way, I went on to Al-Quseir, an altogether more agreeable town. It has a crumbling historic centre, which is good for aimless wandering. I stayed in an old merchant’s house right by the sea which was very pleasant. Also they didn’t change the menus, which was a bonus after Marsa Alam.
On my way up the Red Sea coast my next stop was the package holiday town of Hurghada. It wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. Perhaps because I stayed in the old part of town and not in the resort strip to the south. I found a nice hotel with a huge room and two balconies facing the sea for a laughably low price. Despite this I only stayed one night, Hurghada was never meant to be more than a stop on my long trek towards the Sinai.
3) If thou wants to stayeth in Hurghada but thou cannot affordeth, or thou wishest not to stay in a resort, thou best bet is to stayeth in the old parteth of town.
Diving at Marsa Alam
took a short cut to the Sinai Peninsula with the help of God. But God did not part the Red Sea for me, so I had to take a shared taxi up to the city of Suez, then hop on a bus which dropped me off in front of the tunnel which goes under the Suez Canal, where I had to wait for the one bus coming from Cairo that was going to my destination… and hope it wasn’t full. My destination being, Mount Sinai, where according to the scriptures Moses was handed the Ten Commandments. The bus wasn't full, phew! But it did blow a tire.
At least I was faster in getting to Mount Sinai than Moses, despite his early head-start. Moses was wandering around these inhospitable parts for quite some time before he found the mount, I on the other hand got there in 12 hours despite the detour, the wait at the tunnel, the changing of vehicles, and a flat tire along the way.
4) Thou should not expect God to part the Red Sea for thee. Instead taketh thee a bus and hope God doesn’t puncture the tire!
So, Mount Sinai. Nearby
is the wonderful village of Al-Milga also known as Katreen, after the Monastery of St. Katherine which lies at the feet of Mount Sinai, and has done so since the 4th
century. Al-Milga is super quiet and really quite a lovely place to stay. My trip was reaching its end, so I only stayed for two nights, but I would recommend anybody to stay for longer as there are many beautiful treks you can make.
5) Stayeth longer in Al-Milga and exploreth the surroundings.
As for me, my first destination was St. Katherine where a descendant of the Burning Bush, which talked to Moses, thrives. It wasn’t burning anymore, or talking for that matter. No wise words for me unfortunately. But St. Katherine also has a beautiful church and an interesting museum, which made up for the lack of conversation. And it is all free!
6) Visiteth St. Katherine.
My primary goal, however, was, like Moses, to climb Mount Sinai, though I didn’t expect to be handed any Commandments. I just wanted to see the views and admire a beautiful sunset. Which I did. It was lovely and I had it more or less to myself.
From the top of Mount Sinai I watched the world below. I wrapped my dad’s old coat around me as the cold wind blew over the barren summit. My thoughts drifted off to my father, the sun grew red, the shadows lengthened, and he was there watching the setting sun with me. Silence. And then… a heavenly choir! A group of Christian Indonesians had snuck up behind me and had started up a hymn in their own language. After listening for a while, I left them. The sun had set, it was time to start the long walk down. At least I didn’t have to carry a bunch of heavy clay tablets.
7) Climbeth Mount Sinai and admireth the surroundings. Thou wilst not regret it.
Much as I would have loved to stay longer I couldn’t. Time was running out. I got the bus back up. It broke down half way. There is something going on with the buses to Mount Sinai! Either that or God was having a bit of a laugh. Luckily another, already full bus, took pity on my fellow passengers and I, and picked us up. There were not enough seats though, so I
Various coral features
sat on my backpack in the aisle instead.
8) When thou has no seat to siteth on, use thou backpack.
My final destination in Egypt was the port of… Port Said, which is at the upper end of the Suez Canal and a good spot for taking a closer look at said canal. It has a raised boardwalk exactly for this purpose. It also has crumbling colonial buildings. You can take a free ferry ride across the canal to Port Fuad. Since it is free you can do this as often as you like.
9) Taketh the free ferry ride over the Suez Canal.
Oh, and here is a fun fact for all my American readers, the Statue of Liberty was original designed as a lighthouse to be installed in Port Said at the entrance of the newly built Suez Canal. She was supposed to resemble an Egyptian woman bearing a torch, symbolizing ‘Egypt carrying the light of Asia.’ Due to costs the scheme was abandoned and she found new life in New York!
With Port Said being my final destination, all that’s left is to head on back to Cairo for one last night
Something fishy is going on
and catch my flight home. I have thoroughly enjoyed Egypt. Its people are friendly, its history is amazing, its monuments are breathtaking, its deserts are full of surprises, its food is good, its seas are beautiful, its Nile is life-giving.
10) Don’t skippeth Egypt, thou wilst regret it!
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