With its pleasant winter climate, lively nightlife, quality international hotel chains and spectacular coral reefs Sharm El Sheikh has a lot to offer weather-beaten Brits during the grey winter months. However, with the recent government change and last year’s shark attacks, should you be worried about seeking some winter sun in the area?
In January 2010 the Egyptian people started protesting against their government. Many of these protests sparked violent riots with the death toll topping the 300 mark. These riots lead to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and a new regime headed by the country’s new Prime Minister and its most influential generals.
Tourism is a key part of the Egyptian economy and the people know it. The riots were really about the people vs. the government, with neither side being anti-tourism. So, unsurprisingly, no tourists died in the protests. Currently the UK government has no restrictions on travel to Egypt, but advises that visitors ‘follow the news on the television and radio closely, and stay away from demonstrations and large gatherings of people.’
The notable protests have occurred in the larger cities such as Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria, while the Red Sea Riviera resorts have only seen smaller peaceful protests and victory celebrations. So, it would seem that resorts like Sharm are relatively safe, but visitors should keep themselves up to date with current events.
For a predominantly Arab country Egypt has a relaxed attitude towards drinking and gambling. Na’ama Bay is the nightlife hub of the Sharm area. In the evening it comes to life with a whole host of clubs, bars, restaurants and casinos. The no.1 attraction has to be the Egypt branch of Ibiza superclub chain Pacha. Other top nightspots include Little Buddha, a chic Asian inspired bar/restaurant playing achingly cool house music; and the Hard Rock Café, which, as the night goes on, turns into a fully-fledged nightclub complete with cheesy pop tunes galore.
Brits will find the winter weather in Sharm a welcome respite from grey skies and damp cold air. In December, January and February the average daytime temperature gets up to a pleasant 23ºC with similar water temperatures and a typical day having around eight hours of uninterrupted sunshine.
Scuba-diving is massive in Sharm, with many tourists coming specifically for the underwater scenery. There are a plethora of dive centres which run excursions to various aquatic beauty spots including Ras Mohammed National Park.
After the high profile shark attacks of last year many tourists would be understandably nervous about dipping a toe in the water. However, the Red Sea has a history of being a particularly shark safe diving location. The common native sharks prefer to be far out in the deep blue, well away from the diving locations. These sharks are also known to be quite averse to dining on people, preferring to stick with their seafood diet.
Many observers believe there must have been exceptional circumstances which lead to these attacks. A popular theory being that a New Zealand cattle ship had dumped dead carcases near to shore drawing the sharks into shallow waters. A more off-the-wall theory, voiced by some locals, was that the Israeli government was trying to harm the Egyptian tourist industry by releasing killer sharks in their waters!
The lack of shark attacks in the history of the Red Sea coupled with the short window in which these attacks occurred would suggest that it is still a safe water sport destination. Although knowing about the shark attacks last year could add a little adrenalin rush to a diving expedition!
With the wealth of wonderful attractions Sharm has to offer let’s hope its problems are behind it and it has another highly successful winter season.
Have you ever been to Sharm El Sheikh? Share your experience in the comments section below.