The southern coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, between Tiran Island and Ras Mohammed National Park, features some of the world’s most amazing underwater scenery. The crystal- clear waters, rare and lovely reefs and an incredible variety of exotic fish darting in and out of the colourful coral have made this a snorkelling and scuba-diving paradise. Unfortunately, the proudly brash resort destination of Sharm el-Sheikh, which comprises the two adjacent bays of Na’ama Bay and Sharm al-Maya, does not always reflect this serene underwater beauty.
Commonly described as Egypt’s answer to Las Vegas, Sharm draws in legions of European holidaymakers every year on all- inclusive sun-and-sea tour packages. Over the past decade the march of concrete sprawl along the coastline to cater for these crowds has been relentless.
Sharm has both adoring fans and harsh critics, and opinions tend to fall solely in either camp. Defenders of the town, particularly resident expats and package travellers, claim that Sharm simply is what it is, namely a pleasure-seeking European enclave on the edge of Sinai. It is also touted as being a great destination for families who want to bring the little ones to Egypt for a beach holiday.
On the other hand, critics accuse Sharm of being sterile, and claim that its airbrushed facade covers up some serious environmental degradation which has led to pressing issues of sustainability. Independent travellers who are turned off by gated resorts would be wise to skip Sharm, passing through only en route to the more low-key and backpacker-friendly town of Dahab.