Today we flew from Iraklion airport (Crete), to Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt), near the northern end of the Red Sea.
The day began early, after removing the prized carton of Swiss Chocolate from the mini-bar fridge to go back into my overnight bag for return to the plane.
The NodePonies managed to break out of my main suitcase and decided on a window seat for the flight today. Well, in truth, that wasn’t much of a decision because they are all window seats.
The flight out of Crete was uneventful other than it being so hot high up into the flight levels that the climb performance of the aircraft was suffering a bit as a result, and it took a while longer than usual to reach 29,000 feet.
We got a great view of Crete along the way out, and then some time later, made
landfall into Egypt.
Our flight plan took us over the Nile Delta and over Cairo, before turning toward
Sharm El Sheikh. This gave us a great view of the Nile delta and the intensive
agriculture that exists in this huge oasis surrounded by incredibly unforgiving
looking desert terrain.
We managed to spot the pyramids near Cairo, as we flew past. That was very special, because its hard to imagine a more iconic building shape – or one so closely associated with its location in the world – than these pyramids. I’d love to visit them on the ground one day.
We passed the top of the Red Sea at Port Said (at the start of the Suez Canal). Many large vessels were parked in the Red Sea waiting their turn to start their journey through.
Onward over more unforgiving terrain, showing evidence of erosion and
weathering over a huge period of time, and through to a desert plain by the
waters edge, at the strange oasis that is Sharm El Sheikh.
After an abbreviated VOR/DME approach into RWY 04R, we cleared customs and went to our hotel.
As you can see from the photographs, this is definitely a desert.
All the resorts along the road seem to exist for purposes including developing
Melanomas by lying for hours in wooden beach chairs (41C today,
and this is late summer); diving (no time to look into it, but this appears to be a
major drawcard), drinking, smoking, swimming (beach or in pools) and generally hanging out.
These places are set up for you to stay on the property and use it, rather than there being no obviously significant local tourist destinations other than the resorts themselves.
This makes it more like Palm Springs than Las Vegas; like Palm Springs, it has many resorts, but not the ‘theme park’ or ‘nightlife’ aspects (well, there is a casino here, actually, but its pretty subdued compared to Vegas).
There are, however, some things quite unlike Palm Springs:
- Relatively few women
- Smoking is common (including widespread use of Hookah pipes in the hotel, and especially in the restaurant).
- Each resort hotel features (a) a gate guard who runs a mirror under your vehicle to check for ‘stuff’ before opening up and (b) a metal detector at the hotel entrance.
We had a long lunch today, at an outdoor cafe behind the rows of sunbathing chairs, watched people in social groups smoking Hookahs, and ate a meal that had much in common with Lebanese and Greek food.
Both brands of ‘local’ beer here came in cans but were served in Heiniken
glasses. We figured out the reason when we read the back of the can; both beers we had, while labelled “EGYPT’S QUALITY BEER” are in fact made by a subsidiary of Heiniken 🙂
The one carton of hand-managed Swiss chocolate is safely in the hotel fridge here for its overnight stop, and two more are taking their chances in the aircraft for the whole trip back.
Tomorrow will be a far longer day, with a likely 6 hour flight duration over a complex flight path to a landing in Muscat (Oman). We selected Muscat because it looks to be more authentic to its historical origins than the more built up (and super-scaled) areas of Dubai and Qatar.
Looking forward to seeing it. I think it may (also) be quite hot there…!