Happily for us, the school calendar this year includes several long weekends. I find these holidays a bit too brief for international trips but they are perfect for exploring in-country locations.
There are plenty of short-break destinations in Egypt that are easily accessible by plane, train, or car. Alexandria and the north coast beaches west of there are popular. There is Sharm el Sheikh at the southern tip of the Sinai along with nearby St. Catherine. Dahab, Hurghada, and El Gouna are on the Red Sea. In the Western Desert are the oases: Siwah, Dakla, Bahariya, Farafra. And near Farafra, the White and Black deserts.
So with all these choices, you’d think it would have been easy for us to settle on somewhere nice to spend a four-day weekend. But this time around, not so much.
First off, while Egypt is crazy hot in the summertime, it’s not that way all year long. With an average temperature of 13.6 C (56F), January is the coolest month.
I would love to go snorkeling at Sharm el Sheikh or Dahab, but not until it warms up, and St. Catharine’s monastery looks interesting but it makes more sense to combine that with Sharm. Alexandria is great, but we’ve been there a few times already. It’s too cold for the north coast beaches.
Having ruled out the beaches, we started looking at a desert or oasis trip. We had planned a camping trip to the Black and White deserts in November, but after the Metrojet plane crash on October 31 the government stepped up security all over the country and they were nervous about tourists driving to the desert. On the way out of Cairo we were detained at a security checkpoint for over an hour before being told to return to the city. We didn’t want to risk another cancelled trip this time so we crossed the deserts off the list.
Andreas had visited the Siwa oasis with a group of friends last year and thought I would enjoy it. It is only a short distance from Alexandria so wouldn’t involve a long desert drive. But then last week we got a message from our school’s director, and then a similar one from our embassy, advising against travel to Siwa until further notice. So we scrapped that plan, along with all the other oases as they are even further into the desert.
Maybe we should visit our friends in Israel? Nope, to get there from here involves a long layover in Jordan, not enough time in the weekend. Same problem with Cyprus.
So we started looking at the coasts again, and finally settled on El Gouna on the Red Sea coast. It’s an upscale resort town with a nearby airport and if the weather is bad, at least the restaurants are supposed to be good.