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THE EGYPT DIARIES: THE ULTIMATE WINTER TRAVEL DESTINATION

I never thought Egypt was a destination that I would visit soon, but boy am I glad I did. When my dear friend Kerstin invited me on a press trip with ETI Austria to Egypt for a week, I didn’t have to think twice: let’s do it. Here’s everything we got up to, where we stayed at and what it’s like visiting Egypt as a tourist.

Before traveling to Egypt, I never heard of the place ‘Marsa Alam’. However, after visiting it I definitely understand why it is rapidly growing into a populair tourist destination. Located on the western shore of the Red Sea, this place is mainly increasing it’s popularity due to the beautiful clear beaches and broad marine wildlife. Whether you want to enjoy a relaxing holiday, explore ancient Egypt or spent all your time snorkelling in the Red Sea, this is definitely a place you want to put on your bucket list in 2020.

Sarah Witpeerd at  Palace Port Ghalib Egypt

There are probably a few things you need to know before traveling here which will help you in planning your trip.

  • The main language is Arabic, however a lot of the locals speak fluent English and German.
  • The currency used in Egypt is Egyptian Pounds. 1 Egyptian Pound converts to €0,05 euros. A lot of the places accept Euros as well, but I found that paying in Egyptian pounds was usually a bit cheaper.
  • Avoid drinking the tap water. The hotels and excursions provide bottled water. Keep an eye out for drinks with ice cubes in them, because it usually comes from the tap.
  • Egypt is located outside of the EU, so that means no free unlimited internet access. You can buy a SIM card at the airport or hotel for about 8 euros. It provides you with 16GB internet. The connection isn’t always perfect, but you are able to send WhatsApp messages and scroll through Instagram. Don’t try to upload larger files though, that probably won’t work. Keep that in mind if you plan on doing some work during your holiday. The WiFi connection at the hotels isn’t super reliable and mostly only available in the lobby.

Where we stayed: The Palace Port Ghalib 5*, Marsa Alam

The Palace Port Ghalib is the most luxurious hotel to stay at in the area. With its beautiful beaches, several swimming pools, stunning architecture and unlimited buffet it has a lot to offer. This all-inclusive 5 star hotel definitely provides you with everything you need for the perfect holiday.

The Palace Port Ghalib at Marsa Alam, Egypt
Sunset at beach Palace Port Ghalib, Marsa Alam
Sunrise in Marsa Alam, Egypt

The rooms were very clean and comfortable, it was equipped with all the regular necessities such as beach towels, fresh linnen, toiletries and bath towels. Honestly I can’t say a bad thing about it. The people working there were one of the kindest people I’ve met and my friend and I were always chatting with them during breakfast, lunch and dinner. The palace itself is very big, so we often found ourselves wandering around in beween meals, exploring new parts of the area. We loved walking around the little harbour and strolling past the bars and restaurants in Marsa Alam. There was always something going on, either at the hotel or at the little harbour near the hotel.

We spent most of our time either at the beach or at the buffet. Our all-inclusive wristband gave us acces to all the beach areas, but we enjoyed the one in front of the palace the most. The comfortable beds, view of the Red Sea and access to the beach bar was all we needed for a relaxing day.

Beach at Palace Port Ghalib, Marsa Alam

The local culture

One of the things people kept telling me before traveling to Egypt was either: ‘you are blonde, the people are going to admire you there’ or ‘be careful what you eat, you could get stomach aches’. Both were true, but not in an annoying way. I definitely can confirm that being a blonde woman in Egypt definitely has its pro’s and cons. My friend and I were feeling very chatty during our holiday, so we always used it as an advantage. The locals would easily come up to us, chat, ask where we’re from etc etc. We always enjoyed chatting with them and learned more about their culture and ways of living too. Yes, they call out your name probably a million times a day, but honestly it didn’t bother me too much. The people there were so kind and live under such different circumstances than we are used to, the least you can do is chat and say ‘thank you’.

Breakfast at Palace Port Ghalib, Marsa Alam
Om Ali served at the Palace Port Ghalib buffet, Marsa Alam

The food was something I had to get used to. Since we had an all-inclusive arrangement, it gave us access to the breakfast-, lunch- and dinner buffet. At first my friend and I both felt a little overwhelmed. Navigating your way through the different buffets definitely took some time to get used to, but once we found the things we liked it was actually super tasteful. During breakfast they would serve pancakes, local pastries, salads, scrambled eggs, yoghurt and one of my favourite things: ‘Om Ali‘, a local Egyptian dish very similar to English bread pudding. Once we discovered this, we probably had it every single day. During lunch they would serve a lot of typical Oriental or Mediterranean dishes, but also more Western food like fries and crêpes. The dinner buffet served different cuisines every day of the week. It switched between Oriental, Italian, Asian, BBQ night and Mediterranean night. I personally loved the Oriental and Mediterranean night the most because they served some really good food like falafel, lots of salads, tahin, homemade humous, baba ganoush, lots of rice and veggies and local pastries. After a few days I did get some stomach aches, but nothing unbearable. Just be sure to drink a lot of bottled water and you will be fine.

Pastries during buffet at Palace Port Ghalib, Marsa Alam
Buffet at the Palace Port Ghalib, Marsa Alam
Dutch blogger Sarah Witpeerd at the Palace Port Ghalib restaurant in Marsa Alam

Safety

People also asked a lot about the safety in Egypt, because over the last couple of years political conflicts are increasing. Personally, I felt 100% safe in Egypt. We mostly stayed in very touristic areas, so we never encountered any ‘unsafe’ situations. When entering the Palace, we probably went through a million securities and checks. Even at the airport we got a double security check. We also went on some day trips to different areas of Egypt, but those were also touristic destinations. I will write a separate blogpost about our activities and day trips with the travel agency!

One day we had a day trip to Luxor, which was about a 5 hour ride away from Marsa Alam. We were confused, because on Google Maps it showed it was only a 3 hour ride. The driver then explained us that they built separate roads for the tourists that have a police post every 5 to 6 kilometre for security checks. It is forbidden to use the ‘off-roads’ and they are only used by the locals. Knowing that, I even felt more safe.

Of course you always have to be wary when traveling around: watch your stuff, don’t drink out of the tap, don’t get into a car with strangers. Just the usual. Luckily everything was pre-booked by ETI Austria so we didn’t have to arrange too much. If you are looking to book a day trip, the hotel itself provides a lot of trips which are completely safe. As long as you respect the culture, the people & are alert it is totally safe to visit Egypt.

Blogger Kerstin (kerstinloves) and Sarah Witpeerd in Marsa Alam, Egypt

What you should pack

We visited Egypt in November, which is described as a ‘cold’ time by the locals. For us however, it felt as mid-summer. We stayed there for a week and it was always sunny, about 28 degrees and clear sky. Locals told us that if you come during the summer season, temperatures can go up to 40 to 50 degrees Celsius. Crazy!

In terms of packing, I would definitely advise to pack light. At the beach and pool you can get away with walking around in your bathing suit or a light dress. When going to the buffet, the dress code was ‘casual chic’. Out of respect for their culture, we usually wore midi-skirts and dresses and something that didn’t reveal too much cleavage. However we also saw people with beach dresses and crop tops, so the rules aren’t too strict.

Blogger Sarah Witpeerd at beach of Palace Port Ghalib, Marsa Alam

If you plan on going on a day trip however, I would advise you to cover up a bit more. We visited a lot of historical, ancient places and I felt uncomfortable showing too much skin. I would advise to pack light colours and materials such as linen or cotton. I brought some linen trousers and a linen blouse so I could always cover up my shoulders and chest area. It gets really hot in these places, so make sure it’s sweat-proof and avoid wearing darker colours such as black, dark blue or grey.

Other than that I would advise to pack as you would for any beach holiday. You can go a long way with some summery clothing items, lots of SPF 30 or 50, your toiletries and a pair of sunglasses.

Have you ever been to Egypt? Or is it in your list? If you’re Austria or Germany based then make sure to check out the travel deals from ETI Austria. They provide some amazing trips for a really good price.

*Disclaimer: I was kindly invited to tag along on a gifted press trip with Kerstin provided by ETI Austria. All opinions expressed in this post are, as usual, 100% my own.

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