All inclusive in Egypt- My experience

I sat on my bunk bed in the small, cramped and fairly dirty dorm room. I entered the WiFi code and checked my Facebook messages. One was from my Mum, ‘Having a great time in Egypt, you’ll have to come with us next year when you’re back, our treat!’. At the time that sounded absolutely great. I was backpacking in Malaysia at the time and was having a hard time falling in love with Kuala Lumpur. An all-inclusive holiday in Egypt sounded like luxury compared to this dank hostel in China town.

All inclusive holidays have never really appealed to me. Even before my sabbatical I’ve always loved being free when I travel. Freedom to go where I want, see what I want and do what I want. I likened all-inclusive holidays to a kind of holding pen for people scared of the real world. I was excited to find out for myself what this new travel experience had to offer.

Accommodation

As soon as we arrived at the large hotel we had to pass through a metal detector, albeit a metal detector that wasn’t working but nonetheless a metal detector. The air was thick with the sound of Russian voices talking passionately and I could smell rum even though it was before 11am.

We were whisked to our accommodation on a gold buggy, passing through landscaped gardens and beautiful flowers. Outside each block of accommodation was a small ‘private’ pool. At first glances it looked like paradise. I had my own bedroom and the luxury of two beds to choose from each night. The room was spotlessly clean and the beds were the comfiest I’ve slept in in my life. Every evening when I arrived back to my room there would be towels arranged on my bed. The first night was swans and the designs got more and more complicated cumulating in a grand elephant on my last night! It was a harsh reminder of my single status each night!

Probably the best room I've ever stayed in.
Probably the best room I’ve ever stayed in.
First a swan...
First a swan…

 

Then a flower...
Then a flower…
Lastly an Elephant! The cleaner must have been feeling creative!
Lastly an Elephant! The cleaner must have been feeling creative!

Resort

From the first night it was clear that we weren’t the target demographic of the resort. The announcements were in Russian, the music was in Russian, even the food menu at night was geared towards a Russian palate! I came to Egypt expecting to be enveloped in Egyptian culture but surprisingly encountered more Russian culture during my stay.

The resort was beautiful. As well as the pools there were nice gardened areas and quirky statues scattered around the place.  The pavements were lined with palm trees and at night fairy lights lit up the resort. It was lovely to see children delighted with the big stick of cotton candy made at a stall on the way to the restaurant. There were a few shops selling souvenirs too and I had fun haggling and talking to the owners who seemed delighted to have the opportunity to speak English!

One of the private pools
One of the private pools
The resort in the day
The resort in the day
Quirky creatures in the resort's gardens
Quirky creatures in the resort’s gardens
Palm tree lined walkways
Palm tree lined walkways

snow white and tweety

Food and alcohol

Let’s not kid ourselves, unlimited food and alcohol are a big reason why people choose all inclusive holidays. This particular resort had Mexican, Lebanese, Indian and Italian restaurants that you could book in to a certain number of times each week. Other times you could eat from multiple buffet areas.

The food wasn’t bad but it wasn’t amazing. On holiday I usually love to treat myself with delicious food but at this particular resort the food was passible. The Lebanese restaurant was the best, the food was served on a mini BBQ to keep it warm and I enjoyed eating Arabic food. The worst restaurant was the Mexican restaurant where I found pieces of metal in my fajita, God knows how it ended up there! In typical English fashion I complained to my family but did nothing about it.

Now, alcohol. If warm beer floats your boat you should book a holiday here pronto! I happen to like my beer ice-cold so I had to ask for ice cubes when I ordered my beer which was met with puzzled looks. At first I was amazed at the large list of cocktails but was disappointed to see that they were mostly made with the same few ingredients and cheap alcohol. Despite drinking all day I don’t think I got tipsy once which makes me think the alcohol was watered down.

I spent a few nights counting the stars on the rooftop bar and enjoying flavoured shisha. Sometimes I could hear the atmospheric call to prayer and was reminded that I was in Egypt.

Enjoying shisha on the rooftop bar
Enjoying shisha on the rooftop bar

Entertainment

For me, the best thing was watching people getting involved in the entertainment! All of the entertainment was in Russian so it was hard to get involved. Watching the enthusiastic Russians get involved with comedy shows and dance to loud techno music was entertainment in itself!

I did get involved in the aqua aerobics in the pool daily though, which was in Russian. It was fun to just splash around and share a smile with a Russian lady or two.

Most days were spent by the pool, reading and topping up my tan. After four months in cold England it was just what I needed. After a few days I did get quite bored so decided to try something new.

Many Russians booked ‘sexy photo shoots’ and it was fascinating seeing people in bikinis perch precariously on a rock and pouting seductively. No place was out of bounds in the search for the perfect photo-op. I saw people swishing their hair under the waterfall in the pool and clambering over the fountain in the main lobby!

Having a drink outside the resort, cold beer at last!
Having a drink outside the resort, cold beer at last!
Me and my Mum in our matching Egyptian print dresses bought from the gift shop.
Me and my Mum in our matching Egyptian print dresses bought from the gift shop.

Snorkelling and Scuba diving

For some reason I didn’t quite belive people when they said that the Red Sea was the best place to scuba dive. I went on a days snorkelling trip with my family and had an absolutely great time. I loved being on a boat and actually seeing Egypt rather than an artificial oasis. While snorkelling I faced my biggest fear: Conger eels! I actually managed to stay still in the water and watch as they cavorted amongst the coral.

Snorkelling fueled my passion for the sea and I was soon booking Scuba diving trips daily. For most trips I was with the same group of people, advanced scuba divers from England. I learnt an awful lot about the Red Sea and diving from them. One day I was paired with an Egyptian guy from Cairo and it was great to hear his opinion of Egypt.

The actual scuba diving in the red sea was world-class. I had hoped to see a shark but unfortunately it was the wrong time of year. I did see Napoleon fish as big as a ford fiesta, shoals of brightly coloured fish and more sea turtles that I could count.

Sunbathing on the back of the scuba boat
Sunbathing on the back of the scuba boat

The Beach

To get to the beach you didn’t even have to leave the resort. You just walked through a passageway under the road to reach the resorts private beach. I found this quite weird and wondered why they did this. The beach itself was ok. There were too many rocks to actually swim in the sea so I just enjoyed a paddle. because the beach was also part of the resort I found it quite boring. There was no unusual people to watch, no one trying to sell us trinkets. Just my family and scores of Russians!

selfie

Can you spot the Russian doing a manly pose?
Can you spot the Russian doing a manly pose?

Area/Neighbourhood

If you head outside of the resort there are shops, bars and restaurants. The area the resort was situated was quite quiet but it was easy to take a taxi to a local shopping centre. It was nice to have a look around the shops and enjoy a decent meal and cold beer, but to me it just didn’t feel genuine. The majority of people at the centre were tourists. When I travel I want to see how local people live but there was no opportunity on this type of holiday.

Staff

The staff at the resort were charming. They were witty and so friendly and were so curious about England and English culture. They did seem quite overworked though which was quite upsetting. Many work long hours each season to provide for their families. One bar staff was quite creepy with me each time I interacted with him, so much that I would ask my Dad to get a drink for me whenever he was around.

What did surprise me was the lack of women, both inside and outside the resort. During my time in Sharm El Sheikh I saw just one Egyptian woman. Where are all the women?

Would I recommend an all-inclusive holiday?

Personally all-inclusive holidays are just not for me. I prefer to interact more with the local people and during my tie there I felt like I was in a protective bubble. Saying that they are good value for money and a great for a relaxing beach and pool holiday. I would recommend them to families or couples who want to just get away for a week and have no worries whilst they’re there.

Would I recommend Egypt?

I wouldn’t say that I saw the real Egypt during my time in Sharm El Sheikh. It’s a resort town and much of it is built just for tourists. When you stay in an all-inclusive you are removed from the country you are staying in, in a way it’s like a separate world.

I would visit Egypt again for the scuba diving. Next time I visit I would book a full 5 days of scuba diving, with a day at each side reserved for unwinding by the pool. The diving in Egypt is amongst the best in the world, I was reminded of this when I scuba dived near Koh Phi Phi last summer. It just doesn’t compare to the variety and sheer number of fish in the Red Sea.

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Have you ever been on an all-inclusive holiday? If so what did you think? Would you go on one again?

 

 

 

2014, Reflections and travel summary

2014reflections

As I write this I’m tired, aching and with flushed cheeks after spending the day walking through Delamere forest in the bitter cold. I have a cup of tea at my side and I’m sat in my warm and cosy room, as comfortable as can be.

2014 was the year where I appreciated what I had in life and where I forged new goals and exciting changes to my life. I spent a lot of time with my family and friends and tried and failed to settle back in to small time life. It was a year filled with much happiness but mush frustration and boredom at my lack of travels, at times I felt like a caged bird who just wanted to break free.

At the start of the year I bought a DSLR and started to study and take an evening class in photography, something that I’ve always wanted to do. Throughout my life I’ve always inhibited my creative side, preferring to think of myself as an academic. My travels in 2013 made me realise that I can be whoever I want to be, I’m the only one holding me back.

I didn’t blog as much as anticipated in 2014, for some reason I found it hard to find motivation to write after working hard all week. This will definitely change in the future as I will have a lot to write about.

Travel, It’s what I love the most but it’s something that I’ve not done enough of in the past year. Having a few weeks annual leave doesn’t help the cause but I could have been more pro-active. I did explore local areas of interest with friends throughout the year though. England is a country rich with history and you are never far from a castle, a stately home or an area of exceptional natural beauty.

 

March 2014, Poland.

Ah Poland, It sounded so exotic to me, so different to anywhere I had ever visited before. I was certainly not disappointed. During my time in Krakow I stayed at Mosquito hostel, a really friendly and social hostel. I had a ready made group of friends and I loved socialising each night in the various bars and clubs of Krakow.

In the day I honed my photography skills and satisfied my interest of WW2 history. I went on two walking tours; one of the old town and one of the Jewish parts of Krakow. I visited Schindlers museum , the salt mines and spent a harrowing day at Auschwitz too. A day I will never forget.

The food was amazing too, I loved the Polish pizza and Pierogi; Oh and the beer and vodka was cheap and plentiful! It was hard socialising with fellow travellers knowing that I was going back to a 9-5 and couldn’t just pop on the next bus to Hungary like they could.

poland, Krakow

pol2

polmos

April 2014, Egypt.

Just a week after arriving home from Poland I was back on a plane heading to a completely new continent, Africa! I was travelling in a very different way and staying at an all inclusive resort in Sharm El Sheikh. I had a very relaxing two weeks enjoying beer in the sun but felt trapped just staying in the resort.

I did manage to get out of the resort. I went snorkeling in the Red Sea with my parents then spent 5 further days scuba diving in the Red Sea, one of the best experiences of my life! The amount of different fish and the sheer numbers of them is indescribable and it just took my breath away. My scuba diving skills improved immensely and I kept up with the other scuba divers who all had years of experience.

pool, Egypt

smile

scuba diving, Egypt

June 2014, London.

It’s no secret that I’m absolutely mad about culture. I love nothing more than spending my days gazing at amazing architecture or discovering ancient artifacts in a museum. I travelled down to London solo to do just that. One of the perks of solo travel is that there is no-one telling you not to go to your third art gallery of the day!

I managed to go to the V&A, the British museum, the National portrait gallery, the Natural history museum and the national gallery. I loved wandering around Chinatown, It reminded me of Asia! I saw Maleficent in Leicester square and went on a walking tour of London, the same day that the trooping the colour was happening at Buckingham palace.

London

 

British museum

 

British portrait gallery

 

July 2014, Italy.

It had always been a dream of mine to visit Italy, the language, the food, the art and the wine all appealed to me greatly. I decided to go on a mini backpacking trip around Tuscany and I visited Pisa, Lucca, Florence and Siena. I loved my time in Italy but it just didn’t feel exotic. In hindsight that statement sounds weird but It felt similar to Spain and the places I visited were a lot more touristy than I naively expected.

I loved Pisa. It was so laid back, unpretentious and the leaning tower (and leaning Cathedral and Baptistery!) were so quaint and quirky. Lucca was equally charming, I found the people to be friendly and welcoming too. I ate a delicious pizza and enjoyed a leisurely glass of wine watching the world go by, Italian style.

Florence, I just didn’t get the hype. I’ve never seen a higher concentration of tourists in my life! I loved the city but It did not feel Italian at all. I spent my days tactically calculating how to avoid queuing up for tickets to each attraction and eating copious amounts of gelato. I did visit the Uffizi and the Accademia and loved the culture and artwork. Even a culture buff like me sometimes gets sick of seeing paintings of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, no matter how beautifully they are painted.

Siena was another touristy town. I loved the architecture but once again didn’t feel like I was in Italy. I treated myself to a posh hostel in Florence on my last night and spent most of the day lounging by the pool.

leaning tower of Pisa

street view, Lucca

ponte veccio

 

The future.

I love new year because it’s a blank canvas, the year is what you make of it. 2015 will be a year of great change for me and will certainly include a lot more travel than 2014!

 

How was your 2014? Did you achieve your goals? Was it the year that you decided to take a change and travel? As always I’d love to know your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m heading to Egypt!

 

If you follow me on my Facebook page you will know that I will be heading to Egypt next week!

I’ve only recently come back from Krakow, a place where I spent a very reflective 6 days drinking Polish beer and vodka and learning about the very dark history of Krakow from Medieval times through to World War two.

Now it’s time to travel to my fourth continent and experience a very different side to travel. For the past three years I have travelled on a serious budget, even sleeping in $1.50 a night dorms in Cambodia and taking 10cent train rides through rural Sri Lanka.

Now it’s time to experience all inclusive travel!

I will be staying in Sharm El Sheikh which is located on the tip of the Sinai peninsular lining the beautiful Red sea. I’m excited to spend two weeks basking in the warm sun and using the PADI I gained in Thailand by scuba diving in the Red sea. I want to see Nemo or maybe even a (friendly!) shark.

Recreate my ‘endless summer’ of 2013!

I’m also excited to have my towels transformed in to beautiful statues on my bed each day, sad I know.

Although Sharm may not be classed as ‘real Egypt’ because it doesn’t have magnificent cultural icons like Cairo, I’m looking forward to just soaking up the atmosphere in the souks and observing daily life in Egypt!

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Have you every travelled to Egypt or Sharm El Sheikh? If so what did you think of it? Have you ever travelled on an all inclusive holiday?