Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt

Friday April 2nd
After everyone agreed to getting up at 6 am (on vacation!) to travel by a "modern air-conditioned vehicle"  across the desert, we finally made it to Sharm el Sheikh (hereby referred to as Sharm) about 7 1/2 hours later.  Although it was a lot of the same thing - desert - it was still cool to see the Egyptian terrain and coast.  It was only supposed to be a 6 hour trip, but with "tea" breaks (disguised as bathroom breaks by our drivers) and the fact that every time we crossed into a new area/city we had to go through a checkpoint,  it took an additional 1 1/2 hours.  The checkpoints were interesting -  we would pull up to them, then our driver would give the Egyptian police guy a piece of paper, then in turn the police man would give him something back, and then we would be waved on by the man carrying the machine guy and on our way to the next checkpoint.

We couldn't quite figure out what the whole process was for (and our drivers didn't speak English), so we couldn't ask them what was going on.  Our tour guide in Sharm, Diaa, explained it to me later though.  He said that when traveling in Egypt you have to ask the Egyptian government for permission to go from point A to point B the day before you plan on traveling.  Then they give you a piece of paper that says you have permission to travel this area, where you are headed, and the nationalities of the people in the car.  This is what they were handing out the window.  I'm not 100% sure what the police man handed us back and I don't want to speculate here - especially since we didn't always get something back - very strange. 

One of the most interesting things was that each checkpoint had several men with machine guns (one would be standing behind an armored 4 foot shield), a guy holding a string that was attached to a device to pop tires (think the checkout area of a rental car place) that he could pull across the street at any time, and a supervisor that was usually doing nothing but drinking tea (they LOVE their tea!).  I'm guessing that Egypt has a low unemployment rate because the government employees everybody! (These check points kind of reminded me of the DOT - one person works - five other stand around to see what he is doing - not that the U.S. has a low unemployement rate) :)!  Sorry for the long description, but we never got a good picture of this process - I was scared to take a picture of the men with the guns! 

Now onto the good part - Sharm!

We arrived at our all-inclusive hotel, the Kiroseiz Three Corners Resort, around 2 - just in time to layout in the sun and start taking advantage of the "free" drinks!  The Kiroseiz was okay - I would give it about a 3 star (but I am judging on American standards, so maybe that isn't fair?)  My confidence about the cleanliness of the room was shaken a bit when I noticed that they refilled the shampoo and conditioner bottles (I think they were several years old) and there were splattered mosquito guts on the walls, but fortunately the sheets and towels were clean so I could deal with the other things.  The bartenders had to be "worn down" as the boys put it before we started getting good service, the pool was nice, the 2 beaches were pretty (you had to take a bus to them as the hotel wasn't directly on the beach), and the buffet food was extensive and what I expected for an all inclusive.  They did have a couple al a carte restaurants - we ate at the Indian one and it was amazing!!  All in all - good value for our money and I can't really complain.

Here at last!

(This picture was actually taken the day we left at 5:30 am which is why no one is here - it was actually really busy!)

The first night we ate at the Indian Restaurant, Bukhara -(I know Indian food in Egypt - but it was some of the best I have ever had)!  We received a lot of attention from the wait staff because there weren't a lot of people eating in this restaurant (you had to pay here so most people chose the "free" buffet).  This proved to be a lot of fun when they showed me how to cook naan (indian bread) by sticking MY hand into a 350 degree celsius (662 degrees F) traditional indian "oven".  I didn't burn myself (thank goodness) and my naan was exceptional if I have to say so myself:)! 

Dinner is served!

How do you make that delicious bread? Oh you stick your hand in this really hot oven?  Sure, I'll try.

After a bit of psyching myself up - I did it!  It doesn't seem like that big of a deal from the pics, but that mother was HOT!

Enjoying my culinary skills with the staff!:)

We ended the night at the Casino - I mean I am traveling with Nathan - hello!:)  The casino took all our money except for Nathan's - go figure! 

Saturday April 3rd
On Saturday morning, Josh, Nathan and I headed out to dive Shark and Yoland Reef in the Red Sea - 1 of the Top 10 places to dive in the World!  We used Colona Divers - who I highly recommend.  They were a smaller dive outfit - which I like because I'm not a big fan of overcrowded dive/snorkeling boats!

Josh recently bought a waterproof casing for his point and shoot and here are some of the pics he took underwater (of course Nathan now wants the same casing:)):

The port where we were checked for bombs, herded like cattle, then let on our boat.

Josh took this picture of me - I thought it was pretty cool shot!

very cool tiger fish

Not sure what this thing was, but it was running into us (it hit me on the back of the head a couple times) then it was using us as a shield to hide from and then attack smaller fish!

Underwater Group Shot - gotta have one of those!

Moray eel - ewww

After we got back, we all headed to dinner at the restaurant at the Coral Beach - not one of my favorites and I don't recommend it - stick to the buffet at the main resort!  We ventured down to the water after dinner and got on the floating dock, which we were then summed off of with bright fog lights and horns - good times!:)  But we liked what we saw, and decided to come back to this beach on Sunday. 

Sunday April 4th - Easter Sunday
It was a little strange to wake up in a Muslim country on Easter Sunday and them have Easter decorations all over the place - but I guess you have to play to your audience - right?  We enjoyed a nice Easter breakfast and headed off to the Coral Beach.

The Coral Beach was even prettier during the day.  We quickly figured out why it was called this when we ventured back down to the end of the floating dock and saw all the coral and marine life right there!  At the very end of the dock it made a straight drop off right into the very deep sea (which is why they were blowing the horn at us to get off it at night I guess!).

We were laying out - right on the sea!  And there is the infamous dock - don't fall off!

A little later in the day we rented a boat and snorkeling gear and headed to some pretty amazing reefs.  I love vacation!:)
"Jimmy" rented us the boat.  Thanks Jimmy!

"never thought i'd be on a boat" - I can hear T-pain now!:)

You go Yosh - drive that boat!  But seriously - can you do a better job than that other guy - I'm soaked!

Then finally onto one of my favorite parts of the trip - the Bedouin Dinner and Camel ride.  We all LOVED this part of the trip - and I highly (highly!) recommend doing this!  We loved our guide, Diaa, and we got a government appointed body guard (yes a body guard) so we felt like celebrities - I mean we already had Josh as our paparazzi!

Right when we got to the Bedouin camp we got on our camels.  Here are a bunch of our pictures because I love them so much!

Waiting for our camels...

aaaah - there they are!

We made it up without falling off - yessssssssssss!

Then Sara almost got eaten by my camel - priceless shot!:)

Okay - I think we are all ready - yalla beina!

I love this picture- thank you Paparazzi Yosh!

This was our scenery - not too shabby!

AEKDB - whatever that means:)

This was our tour guide Diaa - ask for him if you got to Sharm with Memphis Tours!

In the middle of the ride we saw this guy "playing" with two cobras -unbelievable!  We all said we wanted to see a snake charmer and this was close enough!

Then we saw this yahoo plaing with the cobras.

Are you kidding me?  Don't look away!

Oh you were just waiting for the perfect time to lean over, grab them, and...

PICK THEM UP!  Oh okay - carry on then!  Cheers!

Finally getting off the camel is the tricky part - they said LEAN back - you've got to make sure not to fall off!

I really hope I don't look stupid doing this:)

Phew - made it!

Then we hiked up to the top of this dirt "mountain" to watch the sunset in the desert!  Again wow.  Breathtaking!

Then they served us a traditional Bedouin dinner including their amazing tea - I've got to get my hands on some of that - soooooooo good!

This time we all got to help make naan - even Flat Stanley!

Finally, we headed to another area of the camp where we watched more belly dancing and whirling deverishes and smoked hookah (they call it shisha) - a water pipe filled with flavored tobacco - I swear it was just tobacco - swear!  We had a lot of fun with this - you would think we had never seen one of these "contraptions" before:)!

It's hookah time!

What do I do with this thing?

Here - I'll show you

Puff, Puff, GIVE - dude!

Will I still be able to run for office if this picture hits the internet?

Just kicked back smokin' some hookah - true, true

This was one of my favorite parts of the trip - just chillin' in the desert!  Great end to our time in Sharm!

We did end up going to the Na'ama Bay and the "Old Market" on the way home to try and buy some souvenirs.  It was just like a market in a poor country - dirty with lots of people trying to convince you to come into their shop - "great deal just for you".  We didn't stay very long though because Monday brought another car trip to Jordan!

But that's a story for another day!:)

Bye, bye Sharm - we'll miss you!

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