The Wonders of Sharm El Sheikh
A holiday in Sharm El Sheikh means a journey throughout an exquisite land with an incredible history. Despite its location on the coast (Sharm El Sheikh literally means ‘Bay of the Sheikh’ in Arabic), this is not a place for flouncing around on the beach all day, every day. There is simply too much culture and history to see and experience. Overlooking the Strait of Tiran at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, its location is highly significant and the primary reason that many of the historical attractions came to be here in the first place. Captured by Israel in 1956 and restored to Egypt one year later, its past has not always been friendly. However, it is fascinating to see the journey this little fishing village has been on, and through its vast array of historical attractions, it is very easy to see the myriad cultures and influences that have made their mark on it.
It is easy to explore historical Sharm El Sheikh. Be sure to visit the following attractions though, as these really are must-sees.
St Catherine’s Monastery
The oldest functioning Christian church in the world today, there are records of St Catherine’s Monastery going back to the year 565 ACE. Constructed under the instruction of Emperor Justinian I, the building as it stands today is an absolute joy to behold with an intricate tower and beautiful courtyard. Most interestingly, Sharm El Sheikh’s sometimes turbulent history has led this site to become particularly sacred to both Islam and Christian worshippers, as it has offered shelter and solitude to members of both religions. Pay particularly close attention to the bush in the monastery’s king post truss, reportedly the oldest known surviving roof truss in the world. Also take note of the Fatimid mosque, built within the walls of the monastery but never used since it is not correctly aligned with Mecca.
Al Musterfa Mosque
Another gorgeous and well-preserved religious site, this stunning building has a reputation as one of Sharm El Sheikh’s finest. A fully functioning mosque, you will be required to remove your shoes and females to cover their hair if you venture inside in time for morning prayer. The architecture is beautiful, and the interior has been intricately decorated with fantastic frescos and elegant structures. Morning prayer is an energetic and exciting affair—well worth getting out of bed for.
The Old Market
If you want to get a feel for everyday life in a specific place, head to the market. This is a rule that certainly applies to Sharm El Sheikh, where traders still gather on a daily basis to exchange goods, money and occasionally insults with one another. Wander the tight-knit stalls in search of all manner of unique presents and remarkable objects, but keep a watchful eye out for pickpockets.
All in all, there is plenty in the way of history and culture just waiting to be experienced in Sharm El Sheikh. So don’t lie on a beach all day—get out there and explore.