Hurghada

People generally end up in Hurghada, 506 km southeast of Cairo, 395 km south of Suez and 269 km northeast of Luxor, for one of three reasons: they've landed an absurdly cheap package tour, they're a diver, or they're stopping off en route between the Sinai and the Nile Valley. In fact, the city is viewed in an ever more disparaging light as increasing numbers of Eastern European package tourists swamp it year-round. Twenty years ago the town centre consisted of one
ahwa
where fishermen would congregate and a couple of stores; nowadays, hotel developments stretch for 25 km down the coast and the booming real-estate business means there is furious (and hideous) construction of apartment blocks inland. In some ways it is an ideal location for a new tourist development: it is in a virtually uninhabited region, a long way from the Islamic fundamentalist strongholds; the hotels and holiday villages that have been built are largely self-contained, with the exception of fresh water, which is supplied from the Nile Valley; and they employ workers from the major cities. Unfortunately, the area has been developed too quickly since the first constructions in 1992 and frequently without adequate planning controls. However, the beauty of the sea and surrounding mountains is indisputable, some parts of town feel Egyptian in a way sanitized Na'ama Bay fails to, and (despite the heavy tourist presence) plenty of folk are genuinely friendly and anything goes.

Ins and outs

Getting there and around

Most visitors arrive at Hurghada from the airport, 6 km southwest of the town centre. Arriving at either bus station
 you will need to take a short minibus ride unless you plan to stay at the hotels near the Upper Egypt Station. Expect to pay for baggage, especially if it takes up seating. Public transport will drop you in Dahar centre, from where there are microbuses on to Sigala, and then it's another change to get to the resort strip.

Dahar
is the base for most locals and backpacking travellers, cheap eats and budget accommodation abound here. Two kilometres south, the area known as
Sigala
begins, satiated with mid-range hotels inland and more expensive ones by the seaside. The 'heart' of package-tour Hurghada, the area is filled with restaurants, dive clubs, caf├ęs and nightlife haunts, although this was originally the old fishing village of which just a few old buildings linger on.

Although it is easy to walk around the relatively compact town of Dahar it is necessary, when trying to get to the port or the holiday villages to the south of town, to take cheap local buses and minibuses or the town's taxis, which are among the most expensive in the country. Alternatively cars and bicycles can be hired from some of the hotels. Ferries to Sharm El-Sheikh and Duba depart from the port at Sigala's northern tip. Further south, high-end 5-star resorts wind down the coast back to back with no end in sight. The road continues south all the way to the Sudanese border.

Information

There are two useful free publications called the
Red Sea Bulletin
and
In My Pocket Hurghada
, which can be picked up in hotels and restaurants.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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