Egypt, Sharm-El-Sheikh

We have a friend who goes to Egypt every year with his family to do water sports. In particular, he has always said what a fabulous country it is, so as a group of 25, with kids ranging from 6 to 16 we went on an adventure.

The first thing we noticed was the price, it’s not often you can go away as a family of 4 for around £2k for 10 days all-inclusive including flights. At the time we booked, terrorism was at its height and everywhere seemed to be on high alert. However, still tons of Brits travelled to Egypt without any problems, so why couldn’t we enjoy a holiday for a fraction of the cost of the Caribbean and also experience clear water and blue sky.
Then came the considerable unrest in Cairo, and my realisation of how close to Iraq we were! 1,427km to be exact. Yet in my mind, it was literally next door, so of course, I started panicking… After checking with the UK travel advice government site, it was bought to our attention that the extremists, Daesh-Sinai, were most likely to target westerners in busy places like Cairo. Therefore, technically, we should be safe.

Consequently, after rationalising my thoughts of “why have we booked here”, I came to realise that I travel into London a couple of times a week for work and we’ve had terrorist attacks in the city. Bearing this in mind, it hasn’t stopped me commuting. Of course, terror threats can happen anywhere, and at any time so I’ll be damned if a small minority prevent us from enjoying ourselves.

And it was fine, there wasn’t anything to worry about. I mean, we got home alive……

What I should have worried about was the fact that my (then) youngest, Finn would come home from school with a nasty stomach bug, throw up all over himself in the car (on route to the airport) and then shit his pants as we pull up at Gatwick. As a result, £85 later, donning an entirely new outfit from Joules (the only children’s shop in Gatwick) we hear the tannoy calling our names as the flight is about to leave!

I’m sure you can imagine the utter carnage of two very sweaty stressed-out parents, an autistic child freaking out about a new place and potential imminent death, plus another kid throwing up into a McDonald’s bag as we run to the gate, was nothing short of disastrous.

Of course, you aren’t supposed to fly if you’re ill however we were in a situation that we could not get out of – on route to the airport!

Not only was that bad timing, but to then explain to an autistic child that although you were on your way to the airport (albeit in his mind on route to World War 3), we are now no longer going to meet your friends and have fun with them. Of course, it just was not an option. Therefore, instead, we whispered “oh yes, he’s always a slight colour of green. Yes, he often smells of vomit but he hasn’t been sick, honest.” We board the flight, and then the death stares of the other passengers ensue while Josh is LOUDLY asking me how many British Airways flights have crashed in the past 12 months.

So far so good. Let’s get sat down to fly towards a war zone!!

Somehow we manage to get through the 5 1/2 hour flight with only a couple more bottom blasts and head in bag scenarios, we land and Beard turns to me looking a tad green in the cheeks and says “my stomach doesn’t feel too great.”

Fucking marvellous!

As we get off the plane, the heat slams us in the face like an overbaked salmon slapped around your cheeks. It’s so baking hot, take your breath away kind of weather, that it is hard to breathe. In other words, there was literally no air in my lungs. Never have I debated abandoning my family and crawling to passport control purely for the respite of air conditioning before!

How on earth are we going to cope in this heat??

Moreover, if I thought that was stressful, the process through passport control to our transfer and onto our hotel was an interesting one. Armed police with steely looks on their faces and baron wasteland that was the perfect setting for tumbleweed to roll past. Plus throughout our journey, military checkpoints where the van was checked by armed guards – not the warmest welcome I’ve ever received but in a weird sense, I felt kind of safe knowing all this shit is in place, just in case, even if it does make it all very very intimidating.

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On arrival, there was one good thing. The snorkelling and scuba diving. We hired a private boat for the day and spent the day jumping into the clear water and looking at the world below. It was literally the perfect day with lovely crew tending to our every need. The water was warm and refreshing, such a contrast to the incredible heat of the sun.

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Throughout our 10 day holiday, we had numerous hurdles. Firstly the fact that my darling son spread his germs to over half of the group. Each morning was like Russian Roulette – it was like Cluedo, who had escaped the dreaded head in the sink, bum on the toilet night of hell!?
Yet the funny thing was, we actually bought it to Egypt with us, it wasn’t even from food poisoning which we all thought we would get!

Secondly, we had the child who went for a sleep under a palm tree.  That poor boy managed to get severe heatstroke. Because despite him wandering off from the activities (unbeknown to anyone) and falling asleep in the shade, as the sun crept around, he was utterly exposed. I will never forget his sickly limp body struggling to get up. It was awful.

Thirdly, struggling to deal with the same meals for lunch and dinner day in day out. As well as the constant barrage of “looky looky” whenever we dared to leave the hotel. Not to mention the worst thing, EVER! The men leering over our friend’s daughters who yes, do literally have the most beautiful long blonde hair you’ve ever seen, but Beard especially did NOT like that, and would never let them leave his sight.

Finally, after all of that, the final extravaganza was our other friend’s son, who managed to electrocute himself.

Yes. You heard correct.

Through utter negligence of the hotel, they allowed a generator in the gardens of the hotel to remain unlocked.  Moreover, the shock through his arm shut off the entire hotel’s electric circuit. Safety is not a key feature in Egypt, but thankfully, by him wearing flip flops resulted in far fewer injuries than there could have been! After being rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment, he was able to be discharged with a very burnt hand and arm, and everyone feeling shook.

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All in all, Egypt just about worked for us because we were in a big group. Regardless of all the dramas and near arrests as we challenged the hotel about their health and safety. Contrary to popular belief, we all had a laugh and enjoyed each others company as we always do. Primarily, the key in these sort of situations is making games in the pool for all the kids, Enjoying beers in the sun and taking strolls along the beach to watch the sun set amongst the palm trees.

If we had gone as just the four of us, I don’t think there would be any positives, and I would never go back. However, if you’re the type of people who like to spend all of your time in an all-inclusive resort, then you may well like it. However, I want to explore. And here, we just didn’t find it safe enough to do so. That being said, I might go back in a few years. Maybe.

I always remember, ever since I was 8 years old, I’ve always wanted to do a cruise down The Nile, but we never did get a chance to do it. Despite plans, as a single parent, my Mum would never have afforded that kind of holiday, and I think that boat has sailed now. Especially with how the world is now, I don’t think I will ever get to see The Ancient Pyramids, but if there was a (safe) opportunity to, I might be swayed to go back just for that.

Currently, our point of view on Egypt is we’ve ticked it off the list, and it did nothing for us. Despite the cost of the holiday, nothing makes up for the whole experience of many near-death experiences, and we didn’t even come into contact with war….

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