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Sharm El Sheikh - August 2008
By ExplorerTravel
I've been to Sharm a number of times and its always interesting to see how the place has changed. My last visit was two years ago so the first change I noticed when we arrived that the cost of your visa (on arrival) is down to US15. The visa itself has also changed from the previous 2 'postage stamps' (1 orange, 1 blue) to a larger single sticker complete with hologram. The visa and immigration process, along with luggage collection did seem to be a lot quicker than last time and when we left the arrivals hall, I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the all the old style taxis had been replaced with newer cars. Presumably, the old taxis have been passed on to various science museums.

We spent our first full day in Sharm down on the beach at Na'ama Bay and it struck us that although there were a number of people around, the resort did seem a lot quieter than last time we had visited in August. Conversations with people who work in Sharm as well as other frequent visitors went along with our line of thought. The number of British visitors seems to be around the same and there did seem to be a slight increase in visitors from neighbouring Arab countries. The big difference in numbers seemed to be a drop in the number of Russian visitors. This may be due to the fact that in the past, Egypt has been an easy destination for Russian tourists due to they could just purchase their visas on arrival. Stricter visa application procedures in other countries had meant that it was harder for Russians to visit places in Europe but in the last 12 months or so, an agreement

between Russia and many EU countries has meant that it is now easier for Russians to obtain Schengen visas so they may well be visiting different destinations.

After a few nights in Sharm, we took a trip to the Old Town which is a short taxi ride away. The official price is 15LE (around 1.50) but sometimes as a tourist, it can be tricky to persuade a taxi driver to take you for that. However, we managed it and we were soon in the Old Town. We headed for a Thai restaurant we'd used before and once again the food was excellent and good value for money. After the meal, we headed around the various shops to buy some fruit which is cheaper and more plentiful than in Na'ama Bay. As much as Na'ama Bay had seemed quieter, the Old Town was far busier than I remembered. There also seemed to be more shops than when I was last there 2 years earlier. We spent about 45 minutes wandering round and we bought 3 bags of fruit then headed back to Na'ama Bay.

In between my diving trips, we spent the days at the beach alternating between laying in the sun, snorkelling or just relaxing in the sea. From the beach, its hard to believe just how good the snorkelling can be but within a short time I had seen Parrotfish, Angelfish, Butterflyfish, Surgeonfish, Picasso Triggerfish, Clownfish (Nemos), Porcupinefish, Pipefish and a Yellow Edged Moray Eel.

I also saw two Scorpionfish having a bit of a fight. This is something quite unusual. I've never seen Scorpionfish behave like this out on the coral reefs, never mind in Na'ama Bay. There is a more serious angle to this though. Scorpionfish are very difficult to see as their primary defence is camouflage. Their secondary defence is a row of poisonous spins which run along their spin and as a result people can step on them by mistake. You won't find Scorpionfish in the sand but there are a couple of very small pieces of coral in Na'ama Bay where they like to hide so it is very important that you NEVER stand on the coral. There are a lot of creatures in there who can cause you a lot of pain and the Scorpionfish is one of them.

So our two week holiday soon came to an end. It has been two years since I was last in Sharm and the resort is expanding all the time. Among the new additions to the centre of Na'ama Bay is a new TGI Fridays and a number of hotels. New shopping malls are also being completed. Further south in the Old Town, the streets seemed busier than ever but the biggest area of growth was north of the airport in Nabq Bay. The evidence is there for all to see that Sharm is aiming to boost the number of visiting tourists and maintain its status as the number one resort in Egypt.

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