Egypt is known for its Red Sea beaches, awesome Alexandrian seaside for long nightly promenades and most importantly, the Pyramids. We are not exactly known for a land of modern adventures, but this is quickly changing. The young people of Egypt are hip, modern and fit (well, at least most of them) and they are demanding a change in the usual vacation time traditions. The idea of sitting by the beach and reading a novel seems too mundane for those who seek the thrill of excitement. That is why sports tourism is growing.
We consulted one of the hip and happening Egyptian eco-tourism travel companies, Destination 31, about their take on the trend. A relatively new company, founded in 2009 by three friends, they have specialised in adventure tourism and extreme sports. “Adventure travel and sports tourism is picking up in Egypt and its popularity has been increasing significantly in the past 3 years. We do get several requests for rock climbing (which is a relatively new sport in Egypt); also, hiking & mountain trekking is becoming very popular,” said Omar Hossam, founding partner of Destination 31.
However, Hossam noted that there is a lack of diversity when it comes to the touristic sports available: “In the case of Sports Tourism most of the travellers are interested more in the ones abroad due to the diversity of activities there, especially water activities, such as white water rafting, kayaking and canyoning.”
Despite the fact that people choose to go to countries like Croatia and Slovenia for adventure travelling, Hossam said that there are some packages inside Egypt that are often demanded. “Most popular active trips in Egypt nowadays are desert safaris (in the Western Desert) due to the political instability in the Sinai Peninsula, but personally, I believe that Sinai is the most active destination in Egypt with unmatched diversity in sports and activities,” he added.
The company offers a lot of adrenaline-pumping trips that are worth checking out. Their main goal is to promote Egypt as the ultimate destination for tourism. In case you are wondering, the company’s name is very much related to the country, since “both the latitude and the longitude of the Nile Delta are at 31°00’00”,” Hossam explained.
So, here is a list of things that can be done all over the country, which is bound to get your heart pumping and the adrenaline running through your veins.
Trekking up Mount Catherine
Located in the South Sinai governorate, Mount Catherine is the highest point in Egypt, at a height of 2,629 metres. The mountain is a pretty easy trek, and the only challenge is concerned with low oxygen levels and the time taken to reach the top and go back down. It really depends on how fit you are, it can take from either sunrise to sundown or just under five hours. Some of the ultra-fit people even run up and down the mountain, encouraging other slow-movers to keep their spirits up. It is best done as a group activity, especially if it’s your first time trekking up the high mountain.
The nicest time to trek up the mountain is November, when the weather is neither too hot nor too cold. However, if you are not afraid of the cold, nipping wind of late December and early January, you might be able to catch the snow-capped top of the mountain. From there, you can view Saudi Arabia and Jordan. It is also worth it to check out the Saint Catherine Monastery.
Tip: The last few hundred meters are stone steps, so if you have weak knees, you might want to arm yourself with some knee-support bands or climbing sticks.
The trend of sandboarding started five or six years ago in the wake of enormous popularity in the Gulf. Now, every local travel agency has some kind of sandboarding excursion, whether it is a one-day trip or a week-long camp; it is bound to be an adrenaline-pumping experience with some barbecuing around a bonfire. You are bound to find sandboarding-equipped locations wherever you travel in Egypt. In Aswan, the bed and breakfast hotel, Ana Kato, offers one-day trips where you take a boat from the hotel and go to a nearby dune. They can even supply food and Bedouin tea and coffee.
There are two places in Egypt well-known for their windy seas: North Sinai and Alexandria, and these are where the sport mostly takes place. The trend is more prominent in Ras Sedr, specifically in a small compound called Moon Beach, known for its gnarly wind and angry sea. While not preferred for swimming, since the water is less than pristine, all the windsurfing dudes and dudettes go there to get their fix. In addition, the compound and its accompanying hotel are far from luxurious, so it is not for those who are iffy. However, the compound is barely the only place available; hotels all over the Red Sea offer the sport, but you run the risk of not having enough wind to egg on your sail.
Hiking in Wadi Degla
Right outside of Maadi is a jewel for all the thrill-seeking Cairenes out there: the Wadi Degla Protectorate. The park has survived many attempts of turning it into some awful, cement-covered facility. Essentially a valley, it offers different heights, paths and even terrains to get your hiking fix. The protectorate extends over an area of about 30 kilometres, and makes for a great and fun way to exercise. The busiest time for the valley is during the weekend when groups of people come to walk, run, or bike. Wadi Degla is also famous for its canyon, which resembles those found in Jordan or the Grand Canyon in the US. When heavy rain falls, small waterfalls form across the canyon and water gathers in small pools. Even though it makes for a great excursion, the canyon is a bit slippery on its own and so it is not advisable that you attempt to climb it during the rain. For first timers, it is best attempted in the safety of groups.
Tip: If you go to the protectorate quite early, you might be able to catch a glimpse of some of the wildlife lurking in the valley, such as red foxes, mountain rabbits and deer.
It is not a secret that the Red Sea is one of the best diving spots in the area, and the sport can be quite exciting. If you find looking at fish and corals boring, then you might opt for visiting the many wrecks that lie beneath the blue sea. One of the most popular ship wrecks is the Thistlegorm, which is accessible from Hurghada or Sharm El-Sheikh. The British war ship sunk in 1941 on its way to safe anchorage, when it was struck by German war aircrafts. The wreck is particularly popular due to the large amounts of cargo that can be seen while diving around. In addition, the site is known for the frequenting of Barracuda fish, sea turtles and eels.
For years, Egyptians have flocked to the UAE to be able to experience the sensation of jumping off a high cliff and not dying. This meant that in addition to the cost of the jump, you pay for a plane ticket and accommodation. The extreme sport is quite new to the Egyptian touristic experience. A new company called Bungy Egypt has adopted the art of flinging customers off high ramps in August. The jump location is Porto Marina in the North Coast, and the service is available from 2pm till 8pm until 15 October. They are in the process of creating a more permanent location in either Ain Sokhna or Cairo, but nothing has been announced yet. More information can be found on the company’s Facebook page, and it is a good idea to reserve a spot upfront since it might be a bit crowded over the Eid vacation.
Parasailing and water gliding
If you are stuck with your family on the beach and you are just aching for some kind of excitement, then it might be worth it to check out your hotel’s available activities. Most facilities around Sinai and even the North Coast offer parasailing. This is where they attach you to a parachute, which is in turn tied to a boat, and then the boat goes really fast and your are lifted to the heavens. Compared to other extreme sports, it might seem too mellow, but it is enough to get you out of the coma-inducing family holidays during the Eid vacation. Another option is the water-gliding activities, in which you sit on a floating plastic dinghy, which is either shaped like a banana or a donut. Again, the dinghy is attached to a boat and then they attempt to fling you off it several times.