Hurghada, Egypt

Photo: Gigi Ibrahim via flickr

Egypt is happening. After a couple of false starts, you’re finally going to see some of the most famous historic sites in the world. You’ll start in Cairo, of course. Giza, Aswan, and Luxor are all on your list. A Nile cruise is, too. Just don’t forget to schedule some downtime. You’ll be exhausted after all that running around.

Hurghada is the perfect place to end your trip. The beach town is only three-and-a-half hours from Luxor. It has long stretches of white sand against the calm, clear water of the Red Sea. Coral gardens, dive sites, and shipwrecks lie just offshore. The vast Arabian Desert—the fourth-largest desert in the world—sits right behind the narrow coastal city. While the temperature hovers right around 86 degrees all year.

Until recently, Hurghada was a small fishing village. It was first settled in 1905. Scuba divers discovered it in the 1960s. But, due to the War of Attrition between Egypt and Israel, Hurghada didn’t develop into a resort town until the 1980s. That’s when new hotels, a pedestrian road, and even an aquarium were built around the traditional bazaar and cafes. Tour companies started offering windsurfing, parasailing, and jet skiing. Boats began ferrying people to uninhabited islands, where they could snorkel among huge schools of fish, just offshore. Plus quad bikes and camel rides became available farther inland. Europeans and Russians, looking to escape bitter cold winters, quickly caught on.

So you start putting your own Hurghada wish list together. In the morning, you want to ride a quad bike into the desert to have tea at a Bedouin camp before it gets too hot. You want to go scuba diving in the Thistlegorm, a British cargo vessel that German planes sank in 1941, to see motorcycles and rifles deep underwater. You want to plan a day trip to uninhabited Big Giftun Island to swim among angelfish, lionfish, and moray eels in the surrounding Abu-Rimata reef. Then you want to drink karkaday (hibiscus tea) and smoke flavored tobacco from a shisha pipe after haggling in the bazaar. It doesn’t take long for you to completely relax along the Red Sea.

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