As I walked off the plane in Egypt, I could tell that I was in a strange and wonderful place.
Even the air smelled different. As expected, things were flat as flat can be, with gorgeous rocky mountains jutting up at the ends of the landscape. Waves of heat drifted across the sand and runways as we boarded the bus shuttle from the plane to the terminal. I was the only backpacker and possibly the only solo traveler in a horde of European package tourists. Anyone on my flight under age 30 had been locked in a honeymooner embrace and the PDA was abundant on my flight. Bleh! I could tell by the drooping sun that I had maybe an hour and half maximum, to get my stuff together and find a place to sleep for the night. As usual, I had only the loosest of plans.
Upon entering the airport, I was herded into a huge queue to get my visa stamp which allowed me to leave the Sinai peninsula and go into the main body of Egypt. This is strictly enforced it seems, so best to take care of it now. My backpack was almost the first one onto the luggage belt, which confirms that it was one of the last to be loaded onto the plane. Interesting. I would get screened less probably if I sewed a big, yellow, bio-hazard waste symbol onto my pack. I walked out of the airport, past an ocean of touts holding signs for tour groups, cruises, and packaged vacations. Then out of no where, they came.
The taxi drivers.
These guys make Bangkok taxi and tuk-tuk drivers look like angels. Yes, Im serious. I have never been assaulted by so many pushy, foul smelling, people wanting to drive me some where. They were even fighting and arguing among themselves over who could approach me, so I slipped past amid the chaos and found a nice English couple standing outside the airport. I am not sure why I approached them, maybe the dreadlocks made me feel welcome, or my backpacker radar detected them. It turns out that they are living and teaching English in Sharm. They told me how to exit the airport, and the price to pay for a ride to town. The taxi drivers were actually quoting me 20 ENGLISH pounds, 200 Egyptian. The correct price, (if I could not find a 2 pound service taxi) was 15 Egyptian! Talk about a markup! Not only that, but they were completely unwilling to negotiate the price, I am sure because so many package tourists pay it without asking questions…why fight with me when they can wait 10 minutes for a sucker to come out the doors? These guys are low.
Under the curious eyes of the armed police, I left through the airport gates and began walking on the main road directly at a red sun on the horizon, towards Na’ama Bay, which was about 10KM or 6 miles West of the airport. Per Lonely Planet, there was a good backpacker hotel there to crash in, and then I would make a move somewhere in the morning when I had more sense about me. Soon, I linked up with a German girl that was bound for the bus station to meet her boyfriend, and we negotiated a taxi together for only 25 LE. Things were looking better….until I arrived at my hotel.
It was not there!
Actually, part of it was there. It was demolished. Bomb, construction, whatever…all that was left was a falling concrete structure, and I would probably not have to worry about vacancy tonight. Thanks Lonely Planet.
So I hopped back into the cab, and after driving past the equivalent of the Las Vegas strip, I ended up in Na’ama Bay, Ocean Bay hotel for $35 a night – quite expensive by Egyptian standards, but at this point I was exhausted and desperate. I can tell that Sharm is definitely not my scene. This all seems to be very posh, packaged, neon, 4 and 5 star action. I will definitely make a move to the cheaper and rougher town of Dahab to the north in the morning.
My hotel is clean for the most part. I have an armed guard, metal detector to enter the premise, AC, and hot shower. There is a large sign with a skull and crossbones that says “Do not clean the teeths with water”. So I assume its not safe to drink either? 🙂 No worries, I am quickly reverting back to my Southeast Asia training and loosing the softness that traveling in Europe has put on me the past few months. There are many parallels to SE Asia here. There are police armed with AKs, foul random smells, insane driving, and the only thing more plentiful than the stray dogs are the flies. It sounds like I am complaining, but actually its quite the opposite…
I am home! 🙂