Sharm el sheikh, the jewel of the red sea

At the southernmost point of the sinai peninsula the port and resort city of sharm el sheikh, one of the crown jewels of egyptian tourism, can be found embraced by the warm waters of the red sea. In a scant 50 years Sharm, as the city known familiarly to most egyptians and sun seekers, has grown from a sleepy fishing village occupied by a few bedouin souls to a vibrant resort city with a permanent population of over 35.000 and with millions of tourists arriving every year.

The city itself is subdivided into five homogeneous centres, namely Nabq, Ras Nasranyi Naama Bay, Umm Seed and Sharm El maya.

Together with Hay El nour, Hadaba, Rowaysat, Montazah and Shark's Bay, it forms a metropolitan area of 42 square kilometres, a figure that is somewhat deceptive because sharm hugs the coast and is seldom more than two kilometres wide. The city runs northwest from the point where the highway from Cairo ends at sharm el maya along the sharai el salem, or peace road, to nabq bay a distance of about 30 kilometres as the cvrow flies. The route is lined on both sides of the road with hotels, restaurant and entertainment and sports facilities, in short everything a vacationing visitor could possibly imagine. Almost all of this has been created in a little over 30 years.

Altough the history of sharm el sheikh is very short, the history of the south sinai region where sharm is located goes back to the times of the pharaohs.

In biblical times one of the most notable travellers to the region was the prophet Moses. There in the mountains to the north of where Sharm el sheikh is now located, according to the literature, he received the ten commandments from god, a belief shared by muslims, christians and jews alike. The mountain where this occured is called jebel Musa by the Arabs and known as Mount Sinai in the west.

There is a mosque at the top of jebel musa a mosque and at its base is the orthodox christian monastery of saint catherine; another important biblical landmark which dates all the way back to the 4th century bc and is widely acknowledged as being the oldest, continually operating monastery in the world. The area around jebel musa and saint catherine is called the saint catherine's national protectorate and is well a visit from sharm.

By 639 AD the arabs had conquered Sinai. A succession of islamic dynasties followed before sharm el sheikh came under the rule of the ottoman empire. It became a significant port named Sarm-us Seyh in the 16th century. Some attempts were made to mine gold here, although these mines were largely unsuccessful and unproductive.

After Sharm el sheikh once again became part of egypt in 1982, the egyptian government embarked on an initiative to encourage continued development of the city. Foreign investors discovered that the potential of the locality contributed to a spate of building projects and sharm has been growing in leaps and bounds ever since.

The results have been phenomenal. From one or two hotels in sharm in 1982 the number has grown to almost 400. they range from one-star crash pads for divers on a tight budget to five star-plus ultra luxurious hotels carrying the names of the most renowned hotel operators in the world and featuring world class service equalling that found anywhere else in the world.

There are also restaurants, both in the hotels and freestanding, to suit any taste from fast food take away to the most exuquisite and chic haute cuisine and because visitors to sharm come from many different countries, there is a wide range of national cuisines to be had. The nightlife in sharm el sheikh is modern and developed. The colourful handicrafts stands of the local bedouin culture are a popular attraction for purchasing souvernirs from sinai.

One cannot sit on the beach reading a book all day every day so when the need for a little physical activity arises sharm has plenty of options.

Sharm el sheikh is a favourite spot for scuba divers from around the world. Being situated on the red sea, it provides some of the most stunning underwater scenery and warm water, making it an ideal place to dive. Ras Mohammed is a national park located on the tip of the sinai peninsula. Along with Nabq, it has some of the most famous dive site in the red sea with deep reef walls, ship wrecks and coral gardens.

Visitors to sharm el sheikh can experience a variety of other water activities. Beach seekers find many activities such as snorkelling, windsurfing, kitesurfing, parasailing, boating and canceing. If staying wet all the times is not your thing, there are plenty of dry land activities to pursue. There's golf, including an 18 hole championship golf course, quad-biking excursions into the desert go-karting, horse, donkey and camel riding and every court sport you can possibly imagine.

Sharm el sheikh is not just a destination for holidaymakers it also has outstandings conference facilities and has hosted many high-level international and summit conferences.

Sharm el sheikh, the city of peace, is safe and secure in all times and it extends an invitation in the true spirit of egyptian, arab and bedouin hospitality to come and add to yoru collection of experiences and memoris in Egypt's jewel on the red sea coast.