|HURGHADA TOWN EXISTED as a working town long before diving and tourism took over. The town runs along the Egyptian Red Sea coast in a roughly north-south direction.
The main town has two regions. El Dahar or Downtown is the north part of town, and Sakkala is the southern section. Between the two is the harbour El Mina.
To the south of town the road splits, with the right-hand branch looping up and over the hill. The left branch follows the coast out to the headland and the old Sheraton Hotel, a big round building on a headland to the south of town, and instantly recognisable as your dive boat returns in the afternoon.
Its even marked on the Admiralty chart. It is no longer a Sheraton and has been unused for the past few years, but say Sheraton and any taxi driver will know what you mean.
Many of the roads dont have official names or, if they do, they are in Arabic and not well known, so most roads are casually referred to by the names of landmarks on them.
Where places do have names, the translation to English is often phonetic, so Sakkala can also be seen spelt Sakala, Saquala and Saqala.
The road leading through Sakkala to the old Sheraton is generally referred to as Sheraton Road. It is lined with shops, restaurants and hotels, though most of the big resorts are further out of town to the south.
From the split in the road, the stretch out to the headland is less built up, then south of the headland all the big beach resorts begin with the Marriott Resort and continue south to Coral Beach and Makadi Bay, about half way to Safaga.
North from the harbour is a short stretch of the big resorts before Downtown gets going with packed hotels, shops and restaurants, then out of town to the north along the Cairo road youll find a few more resorts along the beach, though not as many as to the south.
There are cash machines throughout town, and in the arrival area at the airport. When you put a card in, you will be offered a choice of languages, so you dont need to read Arabic to get money out.
The machines all take UK bank cards. There are also plenty of small money-change offices in the hotels and about the tourist areas of town. The exchange rate is more than 10 Egyptian pounds to£1 sterling.
Pounds are split into 100 piastres, and hardly anyone bothers with notes smaller than 50 piastres, or coins.
Notes are generally grubby. The smaller the note, the more it looks and smells as if it has been used as toilet paper. Bear this in mind when paying for food.
Euros, and to some extent sterling, are also widely accepted. US dollars used to be, but that was before the Euro took over.
If you need a main bank branch rather than a cash machine, there is a whole row of them in the north end of town on the stretch of the inner ring road between the bus stations, south of the Bazaar and the Suk (soukh).
Prices for most things are very cheap by UK standards, but bear in mind that baksheesh is a way of life and is expected for just about any service.
Baksheesh is usually associated with tipping, but can also mean anything from charitable donations to bribes and blatant blackmail.
Focus - This underwater photography and video store stocks camera odds and ends and offers underwater camera rental, dive lights and video lights. It is located at the south end of town, just opposite the Liquid Beach Club and close to Papas 1. www.redsea-images.com.
HEPCA - The Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association promotes environmental issues in the Red Sea and, among other projects, maintains the dive site mooring buoys. You can support HEPCA by visiting its office and buying various HEPCA T-shirts and other goodies. It is located at the Marriott Resort, next to Aquarius Dive Club, www.hepca.com
Radio Shack - Its not specifically a diving resource, but if you need a battery charger or some electronic odds and ends to do emergency repairs to cameras, strobes or lights, it could come in useful. Its located southof town on the beach road, near McDonalds.
Red Sea Association - Association of dive centres and generally the governing body of diving, youll find the RSA next door to Bulls Restaurant, opposite the Marriott Resort.
Recompression Chamber - If you get that tingling feeling, it is best to contact your dive centre or tour operator representative and ask them to make whatever arrangements are necessary. Failing that, the chamber is located in the Naval Hospital, north of the harbour. The 24-hour emergency contacts are Dr Ahmed Saber, 065 449150, and Dr Mohaymen, 065 449150.
Scubatec - Dive centres generally have their own small shops, but for a wider selection, Scubatec is a dive shop that is not affiliated to any of the dive centres. It is located Downtown, close to the Hilton Plaza.
Titanic Aqua Park - This provides something to do if you are feeling energetic on decompression day, south of town past the Sofitel.
Bulls - Steak restaurant that has grown to include pizza/Italian and Chinese restaurants. Located opposite the Marriott Resort, past the old Sheraton to the south of town.
Chez Pascal - Traditional Italian restaurant at the north end of town, 100m on from Peanuts.
El Mina - Highly regarded seafood restaurant, popular with locals and tourists, on the seaward side of the road 100m north from Sakala Square towards the harbour.
Felfela - Bedouin-style outdoor restaurant serving a mix of local and international food, built into the headland to the north of the old Sheraton. There is usually a nice cool breeze and excellent views out to sea.
Hard Rock Café - Good fun and good value for an international chain, its located south of town opposite the Grand Hotel.
Liquid - Pleasant beach club during the day and thriving party club at night. Youll find it at the south end of town just after the Sheraton Road splits, 200m south from Papas 1.
McDonalds - We dont really expect healthy and adventurous travelling divers to flock to the Golden Arches, but they are convenient landmarks for guiding taxi-drivers. One McDonalds is located a kilometre south of Sakkala Square, and a second is along the beach to the south of town.
Moby Dick - Egyptian restaurant with chicken, omelettes and traditional food, 300m south of Sakkala Square.
Papas 1 - A lively bar popular with both dive guides and visiting divers, youll find this one towards the south end of town, just before the road splits to follow the headland out to the Old Sheraton. Budget-priced food can be ordered from the Pizza Rossi Italian restaurant next door.
Papas 2 - Those staying too far to the north for Papas 1 will find Papas 2 right at the north end of town, 250m from Easy Divers and the Empire Beach Resort. Papas 2 has its own kitchen with an imaginative menu. For a snack try the sate (peanut sauce) fries for 7 pounds. Papas 1 and 2 are by far the most popular hang-outs with divers.
Peanuts - Another lively bar with its own dedicated diving regulars, just along from Papas 2.
Young Kang - Good-quality and value-for-money Chinese restaurant in the Bazaar area, and this one does not serve sharkfin soup.
Bazaar - Across the road from the Suk, the Bazaar is the area of shops that locals visit to buy general goods such as clothes, shoes, televisions, fridges, cookers and pots and pans. Prices will still be raised for tourists, but it is a lot cheaper than in the obvious tourist shops. If you want a shicha (hubbly-bubbly) pipe to take home, search the Bazaar and design your own from bits and pieces. You can even test it in the shop. Dont ask a taxi for the Bazaar, because you could get dropped off at any old tat shop. Go to the Suk and cross the road.
Chiropractor - Twisted your back shifting luggage or dive kit Youll find a chiropractor on a side road along from the Sakkala McDonalds. In the same building are dentists and doctors.
Egyptian Bakery - Traditional pitta bread freshly baked, in Sakkala Square.
European Bakery - Downstairs from Bulls Restaurant is this bakery, which used to do hot bacon rolls until a strict Muslim bought the business. Its south of town, opposite the Marriott Resort.
Sakkala Square - At the north end of Sakkala and just south of the harbour, Sakkala Square is another area for local shops. It is also where the minibus routes end, so travelling across town you have to get out in Sakkala Square to change bus.
Suk - There is no Suk in the Hollywood sense of narrow alleys with stalls and high walls. If you ask a Hurghada taxi for the Suk, you will be taken to the food market near the bus station to the north of town. All meat is fresh, and for a couple of pounds extra they will wring its neck, pluck it and cut off the head and feet.
Telephone Central - The cheapest place from which to make international calls is located 400m north of Papas 1.
Apart from the beach and shopping, there are all the usual water activities, from snorkelling trips to the islands to wind and kite-surfing. Day trips include desert safaris by camel, 4x4 or quad bike.
Luxor or Cairo for temples and pyramids mean long day trips, so are best visited as a two-day package. If the many trip kiosks in town are confusing, ask your dive centre for advice.
1 Bus station
2 Bazaar (general market)
3 Suk (food market)
5 Bus station
7 Sakkala Square
10 Duty-free shop
11 International Telephone
13 Radio Shack
14 Duty-free shop
16 Titanic Aqua Park
Restaurants & bars
1 Chez Pascal
3 Papas 2
4 Young Kang
5 El Mina
6 Moby Dick
8 Pizza Rossi
9 Papas 1
10 Liquid Beach Club
13 Pizza Hut
15 Hard Rock Cafe
1 Easy Divers (Empire Beach Resort)
3 Sea Horse Diving Centre (Sea Horse Hotel)
4 Divers International (Hilton Plaza)
5 Scubatec (dive shop)
6 Voodoo Divers (Mirelle Hotel)
7 Recompression Chamber (Naval Hospital)
8 Bluewater Dive Resort (Arabia Beach Resort)
9 Easy Divers (Grand Azur Horizon)
11 Dive Too (Seagull Resort)
12 Focus (underwater photography)
13 Red Sea Association
14 Old Sheraton
15 Aquarious Dive Club (Marriott Resort)
16 James & Mac (Giftun Resort)
17 Euro Divers (Grand Hotel)
18 Divers Lodge (Inter Continental Resort)
19 Emperor Divers (Hilton Resort)
20 Colona Dive Centre (Magawish Resort)
21 Sub Aqua Diving Centre (Solfitel)
22 Undersea Adventures (Dana Beach Resort)
23 Dive Point (Coral Beach)
24 Extra Divers (Iberotel Makadi)
|Peanuts at the north end of town is a popular bar with divers |
|as is nearby Papas 2 |
|Independent dive store Scubatec |
|Felfela, a Bedouin-style outdoor restaurant |
|Get your fresh bread from the Egyptian bakery |
|You can buy all sorts of items in the Bazaar |
|The noted El Mina restaurant near Sakkala Square |
|Divers in one of the most popular bars, Papas 1 |
|A boat prepares to leave the jetty - yes, theres diving too! |
|the European Bakery - no more bacon rolls. |
|Food bought in the Suk can be very fresh |
|Young Kang Chinese restaurant - shark fin is not on the menu |
Many hotels have their own resident dive centres, though you are not tied to diving with them, and centres offer pick-upservices to collect divers from hotels all over town.
North of town
Sinai Divers - Calimera Hotel, www.sinaidivers.com
Blue Water Dive Resort - Arabia Beach Resort, www.blue-water-dive.de
Divers International - Hilton Plaza, www.diversintl.com
Easy Divers - Empire Beach Resort & Grand Azur Horizon, www.easydivers-redsea.com.
Sea Horse Diving Centre - Corniche Hotel, www.redseahorse.com
Voodoo Divers - Mirette Hotel, www.voodoodivers.com
Dive Too - Seagull Resort, www.divetoo.net
South of town
Aquarius Dive Club - Marriott Resort, www.aquarius-redsea.com
Colona Dive Centre - Magawish resort, www.colona.com
Dive Point - Coral Beach Resort, www.dive-point.com
Divers Lodge - Inter Continental Resort, www.divers-lodge.com
Emperor Divers - Hilton Resort, www.emperordivers.com
Euro Divers - Grand Hotel, www.euro-divers.com
Extra Divers - Iberotel Makadi Bay, www.extra-divers.de
James & Mac - Giftun Resort, www.james-mac.com
Sub Aqua Diving Centre - Sofitel, www.sub-aqua.de
Undersea Adventures - Dana Beach Resort, www.undersea.co.uk
Start a Forum discussion on this topic