A Holiday in El Gouna
We left London to go on a long journey, stopping at El Gouna along the way. What a fantastic decision! Friends of ours had moved to El Gouna and suggested we visit - even for a few days. We have 2 boys, one 2 years old, and the other, 2 months....
Firstly, a day time flight, in my opinion is optimal as you get to see a lot more of the world. And a beautiful flight it was actually. Flying over the Alps, the Mediterranean and then the Sahara, we had a view of many different terrains and how quickly they can change. But the best moment was approaching our landing in Hurghada. Peering out the window you get a good taste of what you're in for looking down at the clear water and coral reefs of the Red Sea.
Landing in Hurghada was a different story. Although forewarned about people trying to sell visas to you, it was still a nightmare. We attained our visas in London to avoid this but they still demanded to see them. Sadly, I had to be a little forceful in saying no as these people are not officials. But we made it to official passport control. The stoic, clinical procedure was much more comforting as this is more what we're all used to.
The friends we stayed with kindly offered to send a driver to fetch us at the airport. Our driver was holding his sign with my name on it and so we climbed in the van and off we went. We were only ever told to go to Hurghada and they would sort us out from there. We weren't even aware that El Gouna existed. Whilst driving through Hurghada, I was expecting to turn off at any point, but we left Hurghada behind us, driving off into the desert -at sunset - with who could speak no English. How do you communicate over a language barrier. I'm not usually very rattled by things like this, but carrying a 2 month old and the rest of your family with you can get you fairly panicky fairly quickly!
Fortunately there was a phone call from our friend's assistant, fluid in Arabic and English who could assure us that this was all correct!
El Gouna itself
Having arrived after dark, we were reacquainted with our friends but hit the sack after a long day. I awoke to the usual amount of light in the room for a morning but when I opened the blackout blinds, the brightness hit me!
Coming from London's low skies...it was quite a shock. But a beautiful one. Crisp blue skies and the expectancy that bright days bring. Our window looked over the pool in which we spent a lot of time!
Snorkelling or diving in the Red Sea has been on the bucket list for years but it was even more beautiful than I dreamed. A lot of travel pics are too often edited and augmented to add more life to them. Therefore I never truly believe what I see in these photos, but under the surface of the Red Sea, it's as brilliant and vivid as you're led to expect - a different world completely.
I booked a day out with Blue Brothers Diving to snorkel some reefs. There was a lot more time spent on the boat than anticipated, but it seems 2 hours of snorkelling (in two 1-hour slots) was about right for a day.
On the day, I was certainly the nerd kid, because when it came time to get in the water, I was the only one snorkelling. All the cool kids, as in everybody else, was diving. Anyway, I got over myself and disappeared around the reef. It was elliptical in shape and the coral bed flat. I then skirted the edge of the reef, going all the way round and back to the boat. The coral bed is about 3 feet under the water and then on the edge it drops off about 15 meters or so.
The colours were unbelievable and the sea life breathtaking. I followed a turtle for a while, gliding in his path and was so close I could have touched him. But the rules are, you don't touch, you just look. I don't think anybody told me that, but you feel it. Accidents happen though and at one point I scraped my foot on some coral. It was still swollen about 4 days later...Some antiseptic cream did the trick.
General Life in EL Gouna
El Gouna is extremely safe since it is a gated community run by a company called Orascom. They have control of who can go in and out with plenty of guards at the gates. Also, we discovered, respect is basically a law and any staff who are seen disrespecting tourists, anybody for that matter, is laid off. The rules are strong, but it creates a good balance.
Tuk tuks are the best.
We were lucky enough to be darting around on one of these, courtesy of our hosts. There are plenty of Tuk tuks around and driving a 3 wheeler on the right side of the road keeps you alert. Something on 3 wheels doesn't take corners like something on 4 wheels. Convinced I was going to topple on the 1st corner I took too fast, I quickly learned sensible speeds.
We found a Coptic church which has it's own beauty. Orthodox Christianity being something quite different from Western Christianity, it was fascinating to step into that world.