Travelling is fun, exciting and eye-opening. However, at times it can also be very, very exhausting. So what do you do when you’re halfway through your holidays and realize you can’t possibly spend another day trapped in a car that seems too small, while the weather is too hot and the journey too long?
When my friends and I recently embarked on a road trip through Egypt, we naturally wanted to squeeze as much as possible into our 10 days of travel to ensure we’d get the most out of our “Egyptian experience”. After spending a few days in Cairo (which I will talk about in greater detail in another post), we were in desperate need for recreation and decided to follow a friend’s tip-off to drive through the Sinai desert and visit a series of ‘beach camps’ located right alongside the Gulf of Aqaba.
Following hearsay and loose directions, we finally reached an area called Ras Shaitan close to Nuweiba and Dahab, two of Egypt’s prime diving locations. Here, remote from any kind of infrastructure, we came across the infamous ‘beach camps’. They are typically little more than a small grouping of straw or wooden huts, a kitchen/dining area and a set of open-air toilets and showers, situated right on the beach with absolutely breath-taking scenery to all four sides.
Open-air kitchen and dining area right on the beach
None of the beach camps are specially advertised anywhere, the owners typically rely on good recommendations from visitors and online travel communities to attract laid-back and uncomplicated guests. Due to the simplistic nature of these camps, overnight stays are extremely cheap. A 2-bed bamboo hut will cost you around 60 Egyptian pounds per person (~ €7,50 / $11,00), the slightly more luxurious bungalows are usually priced at 80 – 110 Egyptian pounds (€9,00 – €13,00 / $13,00 -$18,00).
We stayed at Rock Sea, a camp that is owned by German immigrants who aquired the land when they befriended a group of beduins several years ago. At Rock Sea, visitors stay in one of 20 wooden bungalows or straw huts, and females travelling alone receive special discount prices. Breakfast is included in the price, and you can choose from a selection of dishes ranging from Beduin or Middle Eastern breakfasts to the more traditional continental breakfast. The restaurant also offers a daily changing á la carte menu. Since we stayed for a couple of days, I was able to sample quite a few of the dishes on the menu, none of which dissapointed me.
Traditional Middle Eastern breakfast
(menu – prices in Egyptian pounds!)
Electricity is only turned on for a couple of hours every day, and guests are encouraged to enjoy the peace and calmness of the sea and landscape without much distraction.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the camp, reading in one of the many pavillions by the beach, tanning in the sand and re-charging my body for the busy days of sight-seeing to come. At nighttime, everyone gathered in the giant beduin tent and sipped on cups of sweet tea while the beduins played their instruments and sang traditional songs. Now, back in Europe, I often miss the unique kind of peace and calmness I experienced during my stay in sunny Ras Shaitan.
If you’re in the area you should definitely give snorkelling or scuba diving a try, as both Nuweiba and Dahab are listed among the best diving spots in the world. From Nuweiba, you can also take a ferry to Saudi Arabia or Jordan, as both countries border the opposite side of the Gulf of Aqaba.
Not afraid of open-air showers and absolute quietude? Head down do the Red Sea and give the beach camps a try!