Our last stop in Egypt was Sharm El Sheikh, a tourist hub at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Technically in Asia, the city is a quick flight across the Red Sea from Hurgada and is sometimes known as the “City of Peace” in recognition of the many international peace conferences that have taken place here over the years. That name was a bit harder to maintain after Islamist terrorists set off a series of bombs, killing 88, in an attempt to damage the tourist industry and thus Egypt’s economy. To be sure, the attacks certainly did damage the economy though it didn’t have the longer-term impacts the perpetrators had presumably hoped for. In more recent years then-President Hosni Mubarak flew here during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and it was here that he resigned.
Our experience was significantly more peaceful, this proving to be one of the more beautiful places we have been in some time. We kept looking around at the lush gardens and beautiful pools, lounging in our beautiful room wondering how in the world this could be only a small amount more expensive than the Oberoi over in Hurgada. Take my word for it, if you need to choose between the two, come to Sharm!
As much as we liked our five nights here, it sure started badly. Our flight across the Red Sea was an afternoon flight so we didn’t get to the hotel until perhaps 7:00 PM or so. Except when we got their the hotel said their records showed we hadn’t prepaid our reservation so they were going to put a large “hold” on our credit card to charge us when we checked out. Except we had prepaid the reservation and had both an email attesting to than and could show them our credit card statement online that had the charge. In the small number of cases where something similar has happened the management takes a copy of the email, gives us our room, and figures out their mistake. Not here. Their response was effectively “You made that reservation on Hotels.com; we’re not responsible for it.”
Oh my God. We ended up spending an hour sitting in the lobby, first explaining it to them, then arguing with them, and then finally getting Hotels.com on the line. The help desk there got it straightened out and finally the front desk gave us our key. When Mark explicitly asked for an apology – it was clearly and completely a mistake in their system – they declined to do so.
A bad way to start, but it ended up well. Mark gets pissed about stupid behavior like this so he prepared to talk with the general manager the next day. He Googled the guy, saw his photo and then at breakfast when he saw the guy went right up told the story. To his credit the GM didn’t try to explain or justify or anything like that. He apologized and said he would fix things. Ultimately he offered us an upgrade (we declined; we liked the room we were in better), comped our dinner that night (including wine; nice touch), and saw to it that for the next four days staff bent over backwards to make sure we had a nice stay.
And we did. There wasn’t much to do besides just hang out at the beach but that’s always one of favorite things to do. The one thing Hurgada had over Sharm El Sheikh was that the snorkeling there was better, but otherwise there was nothing not to like about hanging out, reading, swimming, eating, enjoying the lush grounds … you know, the usual. A nice way to finish our month-long stay in Egypt.
Except it wasn’t quite over. We were to catch a flight to Cairo and then a connecting flight through Dubai to Brazil. And I think the airport at Sharm El Sheikh was probably the worst airport experience we’ve had ever, anywhere. The security lines were just insanely long, slow, and messy. It was crazy, at least 30 minutes, probably closer to 45, before you could get to the check-in counter, check your bags … and go through security again. It’s not as though security was tight, though. As we finally got right near the front where one guy was slowly checking IDs as people kind of massed around him, trying to get his attention so he would take their ID and let them through, I saw a Chinese woman just walk past while he was distracted and go to have her stuff x-rayed.
So a terrible finish to go with our terrible arrival. In between, though, it was close to perfect. Now on to Brazil!