Tasneem Mahmoud
Last updated: 5 July, 2012

Travel: Hurghada vs. Sharm El Sheikh

The Egyptian regions Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh have become Egypt’s most popular leisure destinations for both domestic and international tourists. They are famous for water sports and their spectacular beaches.

Hurghada started off as a remote fishing village. From the 1980s it became enlarged and developed by both Egyptian and foreign investors. It stretched for 36 km along the seashore and gradually developed 20 km of waterfront hotels.

Sharm el Sheikh similarly began as nothing more than a fishing village, but has had more of a political significance. The most important port and naval base for the Egyptian navy, it was captured by Israel during the Sinai conflict in 1956, but then returned to Egypt in 1957. The Israelis captured it again during the 1967 Six-Day War and it remained part of Israel until 1982 when the Sinai Peninsula was given back to Egypt.

Na’ama Bay, a holiday resort located in north Sharm, is Sharm el Sheikh’s prime tourist destination because of its internationally recognized bars, restaurants and lively nightlife.

Over the past ten years, the resort has become very – I would say too – tourist orientated, which has taken the aesthetic remoteness away from the region and transformed it into a commercialized beach party and nightclub arena. With the majestic 5 star hotels and Vegas-like downtown, you forget that you are in one of the most historical, cultural and curious Middle Eastern nations.

On the other hand, the smaller less tourist populated Hurghada resort of El Gouna provides the perfect balance between leisure activities and insightful displays of Egyptian ambiance.

El Gouna is famous for its award winning architecture and remote deserted islands just boat rides away from the Abu Tig Marina. With the Tuscany style hill villas scattered around the turquoise lagoons, back dropped by the distant Sahara mountains, this is a spot to vacate yourself from daily life while at the same time experiencing the traditions of the country.

With only one small downtown area and one marina, the natural landscape dominates the resort more than the dynamic features of Na’ama Bay. Even the coral reefs have been subjected to less humanly contact.

So despite Na’ama Bay being termed the leading tourist spot in Sinai, El Gouna’s architectural and aquatic features remain more true to the real Egyptian feel.