Even though I was in bed very late I didn’t want to miss breakfast. So I got up just before 9:30am, well, because food is only served until 10am. Sleep is overrated anyway.
So for the first time I went to the dining area to see how the food is. Breakfast is served as buffet with a selection of bread, jam, cheese, salad, scrambled eggs, some warm dishes with potatoes or rice, and outside was an omelette station. Overall the selection was nice for a decent breakfast while either sitting in the A/C room or outside. One downside was that they served no traditional tea but just offering tea bags.
After breakfast I thought it would be nice going with a book to one of the pools. In fact, the hotel offers two larger pools on either side of my room and a third smaller one in a little alcove. It was clearly not high season as all sun loungers were free. So I made myself comfortable in the shade, and spent the morning swimming, sleeping and reading. It felt so good to just being lazy in the heat (it was hotter than I expected…). I was only disrupted by a guy who tries to sell tours. He had no success, but personally I found his approach towards the other tourists a bit awkward, as he actually woke somebody up at the pool and asked bout tours. For me this is not acceptable.
Around noon I finally get up and it was time to do some business. One reason I wanted to visit Sharm again was the opportunity of some diving, even though it was not a dive holiday like the last trip. Prior to the trip I did some research about several dive outfits and compared prices, and in the end I contacted Mr. Diver Centre located next to the Marriott Hotel. It had good review and contacting them via Facebook. Thankfully the dive centre was only 2 minutes away from the hotel.
The staff I met there were very friendly, and they highlighted the usual procedure of the diving day. I was also able to check their diving gear, making sure I have the right sizes. However, it was not clear where the diving tour the following day would go, so we decided that I would return to the centre in the afternoon. But I got a good first impression.
So I headed back to the hotel to have lunch (only served between 1pm and 2 pm). Once again it was served as buffet of salads (actually nice ones) and several hot dishes like potatoes chicken and vegetables. Outside you could get deep-fried fish, chips and pasta. The hot items on the buffet were hit and miss, but with the salads it was usually not too difficult to have a good meal.
After a filling lunch I took the chance to get comfortable next to the pool again to relax, sleep and swim a bit more. Having a lazy afternoon during your holiday is just amazing. Beats the cold weather back in Germany.
Though soon it was after 4pm and it was time to return to the dive centre, where the owner and main dive guide Ali was back from the day trip. And he was able to confirm where we could go the next day – heading to some of the local reefs. So my hope to get to Ras Muhammad National Park was not fulfilled – but I guess diving anywhere in the red sea is great, so I didn’t mind. Paying the €60 and everything was set up for the following day. As a nice extra they were able to tell me where I could get a bus ticket to go to Cairo – which was very helpful.
Yes, I planned to visit Cairo this time to experience a bit of culture. As the flights to Cairo would have costs over $200 I decided taking the 6-8 bus journey. I can hear some you say “Silly Boy”, and now I might agree with some of you….but more about that later.
Instead of taking a taxi I was advised taking one of the blue minibuses. And it is actually dead easy. I just waited at the side of the street, waved down one of the blue buses, and just took a seat at the back of the minibuses, telling the driver I had to go to Watanya Bus station (or rather showing him the note with the name of the station – as I could not pronounce it). It was apparent that this is the main mode of transportation of the locals. One thing I was not aware of was – when do I have to pay the fee. So I assumed when I got off the bus. However, when other passenger entered the bus, they paid straight away. Seeing that I just handed over E£20 to the driver via one or two passengers, and got E£16 back. Two local women next to me had a look at the change straight away, and some shouting to the front happened, and suddenly I got another E£2 in my hands. Apparently the driver thought I paid for two people – and it is only E£2 per person. Even though it was only €0,10 it was so great that the locals on the bus made sure I got the right amount of change. You hear a lot of scam attempts in Egypt, but not often the good stories about Egyptians are told. But they do exist, clearly.
After around 20 minutes on the bus passing so many hotels, seeing the mountains in the desert closer than ever, the bus stopped and I was told to get off. The Watanya Bus station is actually at the end of the Naama Bay strip of El Salam Road. The International Hospital is one the right side, while the offices of a number of bus companies is on the left. It is actually not the main bus station, but apparently buses do leave from here. You cannot miss the sign for the GoBus office there. If you do, it is time to get your eyes checked!!!!
Quick crossing of the street, and I was in the office of GoBus. More with hand language than words (I received some bewildered looks) I somehow communicated which bus I wanted and for what date, and after a few minutes I left the office with my ticket to Cairo for the VIP Bus on Thursday at 02:00. Great, all the planning was sorted. Unfortunately I was not able to get some good photos of the mountains and desert behind the hospital, though a few nice shots with a church and the mountains on the back were good consolation price. After that I just stopped another blue bus, and being an expert now just paid the correct fare and I was on my way back to the hotel, enjoying the view towards the Red Sea.
Getting of the bus I decided to check out the beach area instead of returning to the hotel. The Oriental had no direct beach access, but following a little path I arrived after a couple of minutes at the waterfront. I headed to the wrong entrance first (turning left from the street), so followed the road and saw the entrance of the beach belonging to the Gafy Resort, and this is the one guests of the Oriental can use. Obviously I had no ticket with me, but after a quick chat I was allowed to enter the area to have a look around.
it all looked nice, with shops and restaurants (not included in my AI package) around as well as quite a few sun loungers and parasols. And unlike at Sharks Bay you can walk into the water from the beach, as the corals are a bit further out in the water. But I was not interested in the water, I just took the opportunity to enjoy the sun setting over the mountain, covering the sky in an orange colour. Add the noise of the waves, the sea and the temperature, it was just beautiful. This is a moment when you really realise you are on holiday.
After enjoying this nice sunset I just followed the Coast Road, seeing more shops and one Shisha bar that was closed. I was thinking having a shisha here next to the sea and beach would be brilliant, being comfortable in these pillows, would be great. But at the time I thought it was closed.
Instead I returned to the hotel for a little rest at the pool bar prior to dinner. In addition of local beer the AI package included some cocktails as well as the local rum and whiskey. Obviously I wanted to do some research and check how the various drinks tasted. So for a good hour I had a go at the various drinks on offer, including my new favourite drink – pineapple juice. It was also a good chance to meet some of the other guests at the hotel, though overall the hotel was not very busy.
A quick shower followed the drinks and it was time for dinner. For dinner the buffet had more choices now outside, with a mix of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. As usual it was hit and miss. Though for dinner there was a little barbecue with freshly grilled meat. And I must admit, sitting outside near the pool, getting a constant delivery of rum & coke (one of the waiters made sure I never was empty-handed – no idea where this reputation comes from!!!!) and trying the various dishes was actually nice and relaxing. Did I had better hotel food before? I certainly had, but for the price I paid it was actually good enough.
While there was no real entertainment programme going one (it was just not busy), I still got to know the two girls from Belarus who worked as entertainers at the hotel. They were lovely girls, though if they had the choice they preferred spending time with the Russian or Belarus guests than with others. But I was told that they would all go to a big pool party the following evening, First diving followed by a pool party? The next day sounded very interesting indeed.
Though after a few more drinks at the bar I decided not staying up too late, as I had to be ready by 8am for my first highlights of the trip – going diving again. Thankfully, the comfortable beds made sure I was able to have a good night sleep – finishing my quite relaxing first day in Egypt.