Quad Biking in Hurghada

What It's Like In: Hurghada, Egypt

What It’s Like In: Hurghada, Egypt

Of all the tourism hotspots in Egypt that are suffering from greatly reduced tourist numbers since the start of the Arab Spring, it’s the lack of travelers in the Red Sea beach towns like Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh that is perhaps the most puzzling. Far removed from the protests of Tahrir Square, tourists can fly directly to Hurghada without ever stepping foot in capital city Cairo. The lingering question that most would-be adventurers are reckoning with, then, is this: What’s it like in Hurghada?

It is, frankly, tourist city. I’ve never been anywhere so focused on ‘excursions’, and tons of the hotels were the all-inclusive model where you never even had to leave the property if you didn’t desire.

camel safari in the desert of hurghada

On The Streets

In my experience, I felt more in danger (and really anytime I was within spitting range) from local camels than from any of the ongoing political tensions in the country. Compared with the column of tanks that lined the street just outside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Hurghada is downright quiet – there’s barely even traffic down the main seaside drag. The only real hassle of note I experienced was that there were so few tourist around that every single vendor tried to make a sales pitch to me, but even some of these turned into interesting conversations after moving past that initial salesmanship stage. The tourism-focused waterfront strip of town is mostly shops and small restaurants,  and further inland is largely residential. No matter where I walked, I always felt pretty comfortable.

Desert Camp in Hurghada Egypt

Food

I was less than impressed with the food offerings in Hurghada. There are lots of places that do a mediocre job of catering to foreign tastes, but I only came across a handful of options anywhere near the main tourist stretch serving local food. The best bet I found was a string of restaurants on the waterfront selling seafood dishes for pretty reasonable prices. On the positive side, beer is much easier to find than great food is!

 

Sinbad Submarine Ride in Hurghada

Costs

Egypt generally is cheap these days, and especially in places like Hurghada where tourism is the main source of income there are great deals to be had. International chain hotels like the Hilton or Marriot go for less than $50 per night, whereas cheaper local options are around $7. My food budget averaged out to around $12 per day, but that included perhaps more beer than is reasonable in a socially conservative (and high-tax) country. The biggest potential cost, then, will depend on your ‘activities’ priorities. For SCUBA divers, 2 dives per day should start around €45, with discounts definitely negotiable for longer stays. Activities like Quad Biking and Desert Safari and all those other Lawrence-of-Arabia fantasies go from €20 per day per person, but expect big groups and perhaps not the full-throttle adventure you’re hoping for.

Shopping Centers Abound In Hurghada

Peculiarities

It really is sort of strange to walk through an area that should be teeming with tourist crowds and to find very few people. The one demographic that was still visiting in large numbers, at least when I visited, was Russians. I think I actually used more Russian here than I did English, in part because it helped me block out some of those countless calls to ‘have a look’ at every single shop I walked past. It really is mind boggling how such a small place can support so many giant souvenir shops. Taxis can also be a bit dodgy and always push for a little more… but then what tourist trail town have you been to recently where that WASN’T the case?!

Mosque in Central Hurghada Egypt

Sights

As many ‘activities’ as there are around town, Hurghada isn’t really huge on sites per se. There are a couple of pretty mosques in the city center and a neat boatyard where you can watch renovations happening on dhows and sailboats. Aside from that you’ll probably spend most of your time either looking for a cheap thrill out in the desert, hanging out on the beach at one of the city’s resort hotels, or heading off into the Red Sea for diving and watersports. As much as I prefer adventure and cultural travel, those beaches aren’t all bad!

Beaches of Hurghada in Egypt

 

What do you think? Do you see yourself heading to Hurghada anytime soon? Let us know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “What It's Like In: Hurghada, Egypt”

  1. Stephen,

    I enjoyed reading your travel stories about Egypt.

    I spent 5 years (1982 to 1986) working in Egypt in a consulting assignment for the Egyptian and United States governments. I am a Consulting Earthquake Geologist/Engineer located in San Francisco.

    In December of 1981 a surprise earthquake occurred in the Aswan Region directly beneath Lake Nasser (the reservoir created by the Aswan High Dam). The Egyptian Geological Survey and Seismological Institute in Cairo immediately concluded that the 1981 earthquake (Magnitude 5.7) was caused by filling of the reservoir behind the high Dam, and larger earthquakes will cause the dam to fail exposing more than 54 million population living below the dam to destructive flooding.

    Shortly after the earthquake, I was immediately contacted by the US State Department appointing me as chairman of a scientific/engineering delegation to travel to Egypt to advise on the threat of the High Dam’s potential failure.

    Back to your comments about Russian language being spoken in Egypt; they were taught by the Russian involvement in Egypt to design and build the Aswan High Dam.

    Due to political bickering over the Surz Canal and about financing the building of the High Dam, during the 1950s between the US, UK, France, and Egypt, the US; J.F. Dulles, the US Secretary of State threatened Nasser with canceling the High Dam funding if Egypt would not agree on issues related to the S. Canal. Nasser called their bluff and contacted the Soviets about helping to build the High Dam. The Soviet government immediately agreed and a Russian designed and constructed Aswan High Dam was completed in 1970.

    I completed my assignment to lead a major project to assess the earthquake safety of the Aswan High Dam in 1986; making 26 trips (San Francisco to Aswan). I supervised a large crew (~30 people) composed of US earthquake scientists and engineers working cooperatively with Egyptian scientists and engineers.

    All the Egyptians spoke and understood the Russian language because of their association with Russian workers for more than 12 years.

    Best regards,

    Lloyd S. Cluff, Consulting Earthquake Geologist

  2. Hey Lloyd, thanks for your insights into the development of the language in Egypt – I had no idea before reading your comments that there was such an interesting Cold War background to the area!

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