Great deals to be found in an extremely quiet Red Sea resort
Unlike Sharm El Shiekh, there are no restriction on travelling to Hurghada, but recent events have meant many tourists are staying away from Egypt's other major diving destination.
Numbers here are way down. It's not quite a ghost town, but one local store keeper told me he has seen a 60 per cent decline in sales this winter compared to last.
That fall in visitor numbers has inevitably been translated into a fall in prices for those tourists who do make the trip. I paid €30 for two boat dives, lunch included. A deal I was quite pleased with until my hotel receptionist told me she could have got me the same deal for €20. Perhaps.... but I wasn’t going to grumble.
On the boat there were as many dive guides as there were divers. I dived with a big Polish man called Pawel and our guide Mahmood.
The dives were nice. We saw a large ray and a bigger moray. But the highlight for me came at a fish cleaning station when Mahmood took out his regulator and let one of the cleaner fish clean his teeth. I had not seen that before, it was a neat trick.
Lunch was beautifully prepared and delicious. And the whole day was passed at a leisurely pace. The only time there was any hint of hurry was when we got back to the pier and people were anxious to get away before the sun went down. I was one of them.
The bargains don’t end with the diving. Two days in my hotel with breakfast included was 290 Egyptian pounds, less than €35, or about €17 a night. It's insane - especially when you consider that one night in Gatwick with no breakfast cost me £56, or about €72, on the return journey.
If the dive boats are quiet, the beaches are more so. You won’t have to worry about reserving a sun lounger. Hussain, our bar tender, said that normally the beach runs at 70 per cent of its capacity in February. This year it’s running at about 30 per cent, and many of those are residents taking advantage of the diminishing tourist numbers to enjoy the beaches more fully.
On the beach I bumped into Omar, a local dive guide. He said that Hurghada used to have around 15,000 foreign residents. Now it has about 5,000. The recent ‘terror' attack was to blame. In it two Austrians and a Swedish man were wounded by knife-wielding terrorists. At least, that’s one version of the story. If Omar is to be believed, ‘terrorists’ is an exaggeration. Omar had heard that the attack was undertaken by disgruntled hotel employees. They had, allegedly, not been paid for several weeks and took their frustrations out on the guests. Nearby police promptly shot them.
So is it safe here? Yes, in my opinion. There are military checkpoints on the roads into Hurghada where Egyptians, but not tourists, have to show ID cards. But if you didn’t travel outside of the city you wouldn’t notice them. There is an increased military presence on the streets in Hurghada, but it's not excessive. Nothing you wouldn’t see at any major airport these days.
Do I recommend it? Yes. The value for money is unbelievable and the Egyptian people are great. And... they need the revenue. Without it the country will only become more unstable. So come to Hurghada, the water is beautiful!
Read our recent report on the situation in Sharm