Once upon a time Hurghada was a small fishing village, located next to the Red Sea with a number of beautiful beaches. Today it has become the most visited tourist destination in the whole of Egypt. Hotel upon hotel line the shoreline. Tourists come for the warm sun as well as for the diving and snorkeling opportunities.
“Are you looking for a restaurant? Why not try the steak restaurant over here,”
the youngman shoves a blue flyer into our direction. I
It is early morning, and we are neither looking for a restaurant nor for a steak, but we decline politely: “We are vegetarians”. “No problem, we have vegetarian food!” the tout urges.
In the hotel restaurant, meanwhile, tattooed Russians are heaping boiled eggs and tomatoes on their plates, while an elderly man with a hearing aid and very short shorts shuffles to his table. The buffet in the Triton Empire hotel is huge and of reasonable quality, considering the very affordable room price. Admittedly, Hurghada is not at all running at its full capacity these days, even over Christmas, but the atmosphere in this holiday destination is much more relaxed than we had expected. By far most of the tourists are just enjoying sunshine, beach and nice food.
Not only a beach destination
Hurghada, in spite of being just a beach destination, is a large and sprawling town that actually consists of several separate parts: The original fishing village of Saqala has developed southwards into a commercial area leading as far as the beach. Along the beach, an enormous strip of hotels – confusingly called the “village” – stretches even further south for another 10 km or so. And the city and provincial administration along with another bunch of hotels are located in the far north, in a quarter called Al Dahar. This is where we meet the steak tout every time we walk up or down the street.
In Saqala, an older East German couple is heading for their hotel belonging to a big tour operator. “Is it good?”, we ask. “Oh yes, the taxi driver who brought us said it is a very good hotel!” A few days later the caretaker of the the citadel in Qusair will say the same to us, about the Princess Hotel, one of the most run-down places we have ever stayed in. But of course the German couple’s hotel was several notches above that.
Mediocre food in Hurghada
On our last evening we give the New Steak House a try and get a defrosted, somewhat doughy-tasting Pizza, and the Falafel we had ordered along with it never show up. “Are you looking for a restaurant? Why not try the steak restaurant over here,” the tout chats us up the next morning. “No, thank you, the Pizza was not very tasty there!” “Oh really? No problem!”