Trip Start Jan 26, 2005
25Trip End Feb 25, 2005
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Another waiter appeared and informed us that the dining room although open, was not really open. In other words it was too early for breakfast. Ridiculous I thought. The fact that the food was out and the doors open seemed to indicate that breakfast was served. Becoming increasingly tired of the sharp tones directly my way, I rose from the table with a hardened heart and a gleam in my eye that has often sent homework-lacking students scurrying for cover. I advanced to the front desk like a commando going into battle. The desk manager defended himself by offering breakfast boxes. I refused, insisting that the breakfast box issue should have been clarified when we checked in - after all we had made a point of saying we would be leaving early the next day. The manager then began to transfer blame to his colleague from the day before. His voice was conciliating; mine was not. The waiter continued to chime in with "Not open. Not open." At this point the chef, attracted by all the ruckus, appeared. He listened to both sides of the argument and then cordially invited us to return to the dining room and finish our breakfast. It was, after all, his domain and he could do what he wanted. The breakfast mood had vanished however and we gulped down the rest of our yoghurt and cereal, exited the dining room and soon after the hotel. My opinion of the hotel had plummeted.
I would still recommend the Empire Hotel, although be warned that breakfast is not served until....well, I don't know. For us it was time to be off to the Sinai.
Although most people go to the Sinai for sea-and-sand holidays, our idea was to explore the incredible landscape and experience something of life there. An internet search had introduced me to the company Sinai 4 You run by Angela Wierstra who arranged our tour there. We were to be met at the ferry by a driver and guide and would spend a few days in the land where Asia and Africa meet.
We arrived at Sharm-el-Sheik late as the ferry crossing was a bit rough. Security for the ferry was tight. Before boarding there was a complete check including x-raying the bags and a metal detector. The same procedure was repeated upon leaving the ferry. We wondered what you could possible pick up at the coffee bar that would warrant repeating the security check. In any case most people were too sea sick to pick up anything at all there, including coffee.
Upon arrival we had a few uneasy minutes as we did not see any one waiting for us. However as soon as I went to look for a phone I realized that there were other people waiting up the hill outside the gate. Seeing that sign with my name on was a very happy moment. We met our guide, Nasser, and driver, a Bedouin named Farg Allah and were then off to the Nabq Protectorate, located about thirty-five kilometers north of Sharm-el-Sheik and the site of the world's most northerly mangrove forest. Nabq was declared a protectorate in 1992 and has three important ecosystems: marine, sea grass and mangroves. Mangroves help stabilize the coastline as well as providing a rich habitat for birds and fish. Their root systems filter salt from sea water.
There is a visitor center with more information about the mangrove forest. Inside the protectorate there are two Bedouin villages where they live in their traditional lifestyle.
The aims of the protectorate are to protect flora and fauna from negative impacts, to identify different land and marine species, and to make the protectorate an economically sustainable entity, with income that can be used to further develop the area. To meet these aims strict rules have been laid down to prevent destruction of the habitat.
We enjoyed our visit to the mangroves and especially thought the idea of picnic lunches was fun. This turned out to be something we looked forward to every day and was much nicer than eating in a restaurant. However, it was much too cold to go for a swim and there was no where to rent any snorkeling equipment.
We were dropped off at the Tropital Dabah Oasis around 4:30 in the afternoon. Although this is a nice hotel, it is rather isolated and offers little for travelers to do. We went to the desk to see if there was a bus into town but it was much later. The reception offered to call a taxi but I didn't want to spend money on a taxi, especially as it is such a hassle and I wouldn't even have known how to explain how to get back to the hotel. So we spent the evening watching television.