10 fascinating things not to miss in Hurghada, besides the beaches

What to see in Hurghada in a day

110 years ago, Hurghada, a popular Egyptian resort on the Red Sea, was a fishing village.

Then for a while there was oil production, which contributed to the development of the village. The attention of investors it has attracted only in the 1980s. Then the coast began to be built up with hotels.

Hurghada stretches along the coast for 20 kilometers. Tourists come here for beach recreation, diving and snorkeling: lovers of diving attract beautiful reefs, colorful fish and clear sea.

Over the past year and a half I have spent three months in Hurghada. I don’t like to lie on a deckchair and swim, so I looked for something to do in the city, away from the hotels. It turned out there were many things to see, such as ancient Egyptian civilization objects in Hurghada Museum, a church of a religious minority – Copts, an Arab market in the Old City – El Dahar.

I think my itinerary will suit those who, while traveling along the Nile and exploring the ruins of the Pharaonic era, decide to see how the Red Sea resort city lives. The article will also come in handy for tourists who have come to sunbathe and swim, but want to diversify their leisure time. I advise to move around the city by cab, you will have to walk 6 kilometers. It will take you 5-6 hours.

What will you see?

How to get to Hurghada

Hurghada has one airport, Hurghada International Airport. The flight from Moscow in June with two changes costs from 30 000 R, in October – from 15 000 R.

You can also take a bus from Cairo: there are regular flights from Moscow to Hurghada. Flights with connections without luggage in mid-June will cost 32,370 R round trip. Stops in Adler take 3 and 15 hours.

До Хургады из Москвы можно добраться и с пересадками, например в Стамбуле, но выйдет долго и не намного дешевле, чем чартерный перелет. Источник: aviasales.ru –>

Из Москвы в Каир есть и прямые рейсы, но они, как правило, дороже, чем с пересадками. Источник: aviasales.ru –>

Seats in the Go-Bus are comfortable. On the top shelf there is enough space for a backpack, in the luggage compartment – for a large suitcase. Luggage is free. The bus has air conditioning, but no wifi.

What documents do I need to enter?

When crossing the Egyptian border, travelers present a PCR or antigen test no older than 72 hours. An alternative is a certificate of vaccination. “The Sputnik V qualifies. When I flew from Johannesburg to Cairo in April 2022, I showed a Pfizer vaccination certificate at check-in for the flight to South Africa. In Cairo, however, they didn’t ask me anything.

I made 100,000 rubles on Tinkoff Black.

The route

Sand City is an open-air sand sculpture museum. If you believe the official website, it is the only one in Africa and the Middle East.

There are several dozen figures – sculptures and reliefs. They were made out of sand and are water-sculpted. There are characters from history and mythology not only from Egypt. I especially remember the profiles of Queen Nefertiti and Pharaoh Ehnaton, the statues at the entrance to the temple of Abu Simbel, the statues of Gaius Julius Caesar, the goddess Isis and Lammasu – the spirit from the mythology of ancient Mesopotamia.

I also looked at the figure of the Hindu god Ganesha, scenes of the capture of Constantinople by the Turks and the battle of Kadesh. For kids, the museum has sculptures of Marvel superheroes, Jack Sparrow, and Tom and Jerry. Judging by the reviews on Google Maps. the kids love it here.

Sand City is open daily from 09:00 to 18:00. In winter at 17:00 it is already dark, so in front of the sculptures installed lights. You can walk around the area in 30-40 minutes.

Part of the exhibits of the Hurghada Museum were brought from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which until recently stored a rich collection of objects related to Ancient Egypt. Now most of its exhibit is gradually being moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, due to open at the end of 2022.

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Hurghada Museum’s collection allows you to trace the history of the country from antiquity to 1952, when revolutionaries overthrew the monarchy. Most of the space is devoted to Ancient Egypt and the Greco-Roman period.

The bust of Meritamon – daughter of Pharaoh Ramses the Second – and the head of Pharaoh Thutmose the Third caught my attention in the museum. The first was carved from limestone, and the second from red granite. The sculptures are more than 3,000 years old.

I also liked the beautiful wooden tombstones and funerary portraits from the Roman era. The Pushkin Museum in Moscow also has a collection of such portraits, of which there are many more than in Hurghada. The works are called “Faiyum portraits” after the place where they were discovered: they were found in the Faiyum oasis. The wood was used to make the statues in Ancient Egypt and it is still there, because the dry climate makes it slow to decay.

Also on display at the Hurghada Museum are many household items used by the ancient Egyptians. These include cosmetic containers, polished metal mirrors, ceramic jugs, clay pots, chairs, headrests and other furniture.

Worth the entrance to the Hurghada Museum

There are signs next to the exhibits in Arabic and English – you can do without a guide. I walked around the museum alone: apparently, it is not particularly popular.

Sheraton Street stretches for 3.3 kilometers from the abandoned Old Sheraton Hotel, which is not accessible, to Alarosa Square, where only the lighthouse-shaped structure is noteworthy. The sidewalks are neatly tiled – it is pleasant to stroll here. The view is somewhat spoilt by the noise of the traffic on the busy road.

The stretch from the Old Sheraton Hotel to Orange Beach is called the Old Sheraton. I like it. It is great to look at the beautiful sea and passing yachts and relax on the benches.

The part of the street from Orange Beach to Alarosa Square is very touristy. There are a lot of souvenir shops, stores with sweets, currency exchange, mobile operator offices, cafes. As I understand it, travelers come there to buy all sorts of things: the big shopping centers are located at the exit of the city or far from the main hotels. At the Sheraton tourists are accosted by callers, Russian is often heard, and there are a lot of signs in Russian. I never bought anything here: I don’t like clingy salesmen and haggling.

Hurghada Marina is a small promenade and marina. You can admire the clear water of the Red Sea from its edge. It took me five minutes to walk from Alarosa Square to the promenade.

There are no benches, which frustrated me. The only places to sit are the cafes along the promenade. They put the menu right on the street for tourists to see in advance. I only had coffee here, so I can’t recommend any dishes. In addition to the cafes in the harbor there are a few souvenir stores.

The Marina is one of the best-looking places in Hurghada and is definitely worth a visit. It is open from 10:00 to midnight, the rest of the time the fence is closed. I was on the promenade in the morning and evening. In the morning there are almost no people, and in the evening it’s crowded. Cars are not allowed here – it’s not too noisy.

In Egypt, the mosques are not open all day and night, but from about noon until the end of the evening prayers. On Fridays, all the mosques are closed to tourists: it’s the main prayer day in the country. I haven’t seen El Mina’s schedule, but I’ll assume it’s closed in the evening, at night, and in the morning as well. The prayer schedule is on islamicfinder.org.

I visited El Mina during the midday prayers – I looked at the Muslims praying and the interior decorations. Thanks to the abundance of windows and the huge dome, the room is well lit. The columns and ceiling were decorated with carved designs, typical of Arab countries. I was not particularly impressed with El Mina. Although from the waterfront, against the background of the sea, it looks fabulous.

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Church of St. Shenouda. One tenth of Egypt’s population is Christian. Most are Copts – the descendants of the ancient Egyptians. In the major cities of the country are often found temples, in Hurghada, its size stands out the Church of St. Shenouda.

The temple is surrounded by a fence, and police officers sit outside and check passports and bags. They looked at mine, too. The police make sure no terrorists get inside: sometimes terrorist attacks occur in Orthodox churches in Egypt. For example, a bomb explosion in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo in 2016 killed 29 people.

Shenouda’s church is immediately inviting: smiling saints are depicted on the walls in traditional Coptic style. The building has huge windows with stained glass windows displaying biblical scenes. The entire interior space is lined with pews. I was in the church around noon, at which time it was empty.

In addition to the main floor, there is an upper floor and a basement floor. The top one is fouled by pigeons, but it has a great view of the chancel and the central nave, bounded on both sides by columns. The basement room was dark, where schoolchildren played catch-up.

The area of El Dahar, where the Church of St. Shenouda is located, is also called the Old Town and Downtown. In this part of Hurghada there are dirty low-rise residential buildings and a lot of garbage in the streets. It is not uncommon to see a cart pulled by a donkey. Travelers to El Dahar are attracted by the Arabian flavor, the fruit and vegetable market, and the Abdul Munim Riyadh Mosque.

The market is walled and covered with tin sheets, some kind of straw, fabric canopies, and the ground is well treaded underfoot. Here the Arabs in halabeys – long shirts – trade, they are polite and know a few words in English and even in Russian.

Fruits and vegetables are in boxes and on tables, and prices are written in Indo-Arabic numbers. If two digits, it means the amount is in Egyptian pounds, such as 10 or 25. If three digits, two decimal places are pounds and piastres, say 5.50 or 7.00. This misleads tourists: it is written 2,50, and it may seem to the buyer that 25. Some sellers take advantage of this.

It costs a kilo of strawberries in season.

When I lived in Dahar, I would sometimes visit the market for groceries. Just for the experience, I wouldn’t go here: there are similar bazaars in other cities in Egypt and Turkey.

The Abdul Munim Riyadh Mosque was named after Gamal Abdel Nasser, an Egyptian military officer and an associate of the revolutionary. I did not go inside. From the outside it looks good: a white building with minarets, a massive dome and arches.

Next to the mosque there is a major traffic junction, and there are several traffic lights. I would not have paid attention to this if I had not heard a strange story earlier: supposedly there is a famous traffic light in Hurghada – either the first in the country, or the only one in the city. The story is retold by some travel agents and discussed on forums. I can guess where it comes from: there really are only a few traffic lights in Hurghada. This is due to the small number of interchanges in the city and the fact that the traffic is mostly one-way.

Details

Money. The currency of Egypt is the Egyptian pound, abbreviated EGP or LE. In one pound there are 100 piastres, but I have never met piastres.

Russian bank cards do not work in Egypt. You can exchange dollars for pounds at a bank, an exchanger or directly at an ATM – put in dollars and get pounds, and no commission. It is true not every ATM supports this operation.

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Also you can send yourself a transfer through Contact system: it will write off rubles from your Russian card, and the Egyptian bank will give you pounds.

El Gouna. One day from Hurghada you can go to El Gouna. It is a small town on the islands 30 kilometers north of Hurghada. The resort is designed for wealthy European tourists.

El Gouna is built up with pretty houses, dissected by golf courses and tennis courts, planted with trees. Yachts sway at the pier, bridges are thrown between the islands. The town is cleaner and better maintained than Hurghada.

In addition to the natural beauty I was interested in the restaurant in El Gouna Tower. You can get on its roof for free. From the top I admired the sunset over the Sahara Desert.

I loved the entrance to the city with columns like the Karnak Temple in Luxor. These columns are actually buildings with spiral staircases inside. I went up to the roof without anyone stopping me. From the top I had a wonderful view of the desert and the alley of palm trees that stretches to Sahl Hashish’s central square, Arrivals Piazza. The square is decorated with fountains and surrounded by arcades. I also remember the promenade with its arched pier. While walking around here, I almost forgot I was in Egypt.

The beaches in Hurghada are not free. As a rule, they belong to the hotels. However, I know one wild beach – near Al Dora complex, but there are no sun loungers and umbrellas.

The entrance to the beach Dream

A minus of Dream beach is that it has a narrow coastline. On the plus side there is cleanliness and a restroom with spacious stalls, where you can change your clothes. But I did not find a shower.

It is interesting that many beaches in Hurghada do not allow men alone. Probably so they don’t look at the girls. I did not find out if there is such a ban at Dream, because I went there with a girlfriend.

Lodging. There are many hotels and apartment complexes in Hurghada, where the apartments are for rent. Such complexes are found at every step in the area of El Kawther. Just come to the reception and ask if there are any free apartments.

The minuses are that sometimes in Hurghada the electricity is cut off for an hour or two. The unexpected good news is that almost every apartment has a coffee maker.

There are several supermarket chains in Hurghada: Carrefour, Metro, Best Way, Awlad Ragab, Abu Ashara, Spinneys, Pick n’ Pack. Prices and assortment seemed to me to be about the same everywhere. The only place you get cheques in English is Metro. I liked the Carrefour in El Dahar best – it’s a large store, including a hardware department, home appliances and all kinds of little things like hangers and towels.

Many products are much cheaper than in Moscow:

  • chicken breast – 143 LE (429)
  • Р );
  • bread – 25 LE ( 75
  • Р );
  • One liter of milk – 20 LE ( 60
  • Р );
  • 10 eggs – 20 LE ( 60 )
  • Р );
  • 100 grams of coffee for brewing in a carafe – 17-19 LE ( 51
  • – 57
  • Р );
  • tomatoes – 15 LE ( 45
  • Р );
  • half a liter of yoghurt – 13 LE ( 39
  • Р );
  • grapefruit – 8 LE ( 24
  • Р ).

In addition to supermarkets in Hurghada there is a fruit and vegetable market, small stores and stalls. Prices there are lower than in the big stores. If there is such a shop near your home, I advise you to buy fresh fruits and vegetables there: it’s profitable.

Numbers in Egypt have the format 0 115 ХХХХ-ХХХХ. When calling from abroad, they add a two in front – +20 115 ХХХ-ХХХХХ.

When I arrive in Egypt, I usually buy 100 MB of Internet in roaming for my Tinkoff Mobile SIM card. It costs 149 R. Enough to get from the airport to the apartment and buy a local sim card.

The language in Egypt is Arabic. Because Hurghada is tourist-oriented, English is more common here than in other cities in the country. Russian can also be heard, especially at the Sheraton. But do not expect to be fluent in English and Russian. Often Egyptians know only a few common phrases in a foreign language.

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If something is wrong. Since 2017, there is a Russian consulate in Hurghada. It receives citizens on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 09:30 to 13:30. The consulate’s emergency phone number is +20 100 066 7810.

Weather. Most of the year the temperature in Hurghada is above +30 °C. It is very hot from April to October, when the temperature reaches +40 °C. The climate is dry, the rains are rather the exception. In January and February can be cold – +10 … 12 ° C in the morning and evening. Since there is no central heating in the apartments, in winter after sunset you need to wear a sweater.

What to read and watch about Egypt. I read the book “Egypt for Real” by Anton Krotov and Andrei Sapunov and Andrew Humphrey’s guidebook. The former is a collection of practical tips, the latter is a fascinating read on the cultural customs and architecture of the ancient Egyptians.

I also recommend watching a lecture by Anton Krotov. The traveler talked about modern Egypt in general: the major cities, transportation, the attitude of the police to tourists.

What to do in Hurghada, if not to sunbathe and drink?

“What’s a shisha without hashish, dear?” – with this phrase guide Ahmet met me at the Egyptian airport immediately after the New Year. Hurghada in January surprised me with hot sun during the day, strong winds in the evenings, really cold nights and round the clock friendly attitude of the locals. I stayed in Sakkalah (the center of old Hurghada) at Le Pacha Resort 4*, to avoid wasting time and money on excursions to the main attractions of the resort. Lying on the beach sunbathing in the wind was not my sole purpose of the trip. I wanted to see some real life in the city, and tell you what to see and what to visit new or unknown in Hurghada, if you don’t want to lie on the beach or have a stupid drink in a bar.

Hurghada has grown a lot in recent years, but the main interesting places are still in one quarter. These are the beautiful El Mina mosque, the old seaport with a shipyard where they repair and build boats and yachts, and a fish market with a pier for fishermen. To the right of the fish market is the modern glossy granite pedestrian marina with marinas, also worth a visit.

I would also recommend visiting the central fruit market in the old Dahar district and be sure to check out the newly built aquarium to see the underwater sea show. And of course, shopping! You should take your time and walk along Sheraton, Hurghada’s main shopping street.

So let’s begin our journey in Hurghada:

1.The Central Fruit Market

If you live in the old center, then literally for 2 dollars in any cab in 15-20 minutes you will go from Sakkala to Dahar, where in the central square is the local fruit market.

The prices make you want to cry and laugh: at the beginning of January, fresh strawberries from Luxor – 1.80 white rubles / kg, yams (potatoes) – 0.24 white rubles / kg, bananas, tomatoes – 0.60 white rubles / kg, oranges, apples – 1.80 white rubles / kg.

Even local market vendors begin to learn what Belarus is and say “dziakUy!” With pleasure and a smile they ask to take their photos, though some still ask for money for a photo opportunity. You can spend exactly three hours here: you can walk, bargain, drink freshly squeezed juice for 1 Bel.rub/cup, buy fresh fruit.

2. Fish market

The old fish market is in Sakkala area near El Mina mosque. Here our “sanitary station” would just cry! Hundreds of fish, crabs, shrimp and other seafood lie on wooden counters in plastic crates, on the stone floor, sprinkled with ice from non-potable (!) water in the heat. All of them can be cleaned, cut up and cooked right there on the spot (although I personally did not venture to try).

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The smell of iodine, fresh sea fish, and the smells of fried seafood in the heat makes foreigners cover their noses with kerchiefs. Very friendly, but unobtrusive sellers and take pictures with pleasure, and with the same pleasure show their goods.

You can also take a quiet walk along the service fishing pier, where boats with their catch come and where fishermen have a rest.

3. El Mina Mosque

El Mina Mosque with its two tall minarets (about 40 meters) is the architectural dominant feature of Hurghada. It is visible from any part of the city.

It used to be impossible for non-Muslims to see it from inside. But now, between prayers, tourists are allowed inside up to a certain area. Women wear closed clothes and men take off their shoes before entering.

The beautiful interior decoration and exterior architecture in the bright sunlight create a unique atmosphere. The mosque looks especially spectacular in the evening when it is dark.

4. Shipyard

The old seaport is located in the bay to the left of El Mina mosque. Until now, hundreds of builders according to ancient traditions and without any safety precautions (no helmets, no respirators, no gloves) build or restore boats and yachts from natural wood.

Modern technology is not used here: only manual woodworking, cladding and painting. Strangers can easily be on the territory of the shipyard at the time of repair and construction of ships.

After getting acquainted with the builders, I was able to be present at the festive launching of the restored ship into the water. Like the storm troopers on the Volga, the local shipbuilders lowered the new ship into the water by hand, using only metal ropes. At this old shipyard, you’re simply mesmerized by the possibilities of simple manual labor.

5. Marina

To take your mind off the hard life of the local shipbuilders and fishermen, you should walk a little more to the right. Here is built a modern harbor for expensive yachts and boats – the Marina.

“Délouka, where are you going? Marina?” – The local tries to give directions to the tourist. “No, my name is Ira!” – curtain…

Marina is a tourist pedestrian area with many ships and dozens of local restaurants. Here you can eat inexpensively, enjoy Egyptian-style coffee with ginger, karkadeh tea and ice fruit rolls.

6. The Aquarium

The Aquarium has been open for several years and has long been a popular tourist destination. This trip was my first time at the magical underwater scuba diver show with sea creatures. To the tantric relaxing melody, the scuba diver dances inside a huge aquarium with sharks, with sea turtles, with a stingray… This dance is simply mesmerizing!

Coming out of the underwater tunnel, you can hold cuddly baby iguanas in your arms, and admire the colorful variety of Red Sea animals and walk across a rope bridge over the resting Nile crocodiles.

7. Sheraton Walk.

This is the widest and longest shopping street in Hurghada. It is noisy and lively in the Egyptian way. The traffic never stops, day or night! There are hotels, bars, eateries, stores, souvenir shops, and hookah houses all along the street.

The entire Sheraton is overflowing with souvenir shops. You can hardly pass by without going to at least one of them. The sellers invite potential customers in any language, even from afar almost 100% determine the nationality of the buyer.

8. Shopping .

The main thing – not to buy, the main thing – fun haggling! Egypt is just made for shopping. Reduce the advertised price by 2-3 times and experience the pleasure of buying goods at a satisfying price! These are shirts, polo shirts, cotton bikinis, leather bags, backpacks, suitcases, baby items, hookahs, shoes, famous Egyptian natural oils and perfumes, spices, fruits, nuts.

In general, enjoy shopping, dining, walking and relaxing in Hurghada! And you will definitely want to come back to Egypt again.

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