Hurghada – the sekala

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Hurghada – the sekala

map 14 Red Sea
Location of Hurghada on the Red Sea

Two decades ago Hurghada was a just small fishing village with a number  of nice beaches. Today it is the most visited destination in the whole of Egypt with something like one million visitors a year and 200 hotels and 150,000 inhabitants. It even has its own international airport.

It’s located on the coast of the Red Sea and is a tourist strip, dozens of kilometres long. One of it’s attractions would be it’s beautiful clear water for diving and lots of coral reefs. Additionally the tourists, predominately Russian but also Greek can easily catch a bus from here to visit Luxor and Aswan on the Nile River. The scale of development along the coast is nothing short of astounding. Literally everywhere you look new buildings are going up.

The boat marina is in the “downtown” area called Sekala and is of international standard with lots of bars, restaurants and souks – small shops. Boats moor to finger berths either stern or bow to. However the marina itself is subject to constant swells causing the boats to rock about pretty much most of the time. It can get to be annoying for the boaties after a while especially when the wind picks up because it can get quite uncomfortable.

There is a Wi-Fi marina network, but it doesn’t seem to have enough bandwidth to cater for the amount of traffic. As a result the internet speed can often be less than 1Kb/sec, or more usually not at all. Found the best time is during the morning when it can be quite acceptable.  It’s workable but generally unreliable.

The main road gets busy with both people and vehicle traffic. It’s lined with all sorts of shops and can get glitzy in places given that it’s all for tourists. There is a preponderance of pharmacies, jewellery and souvenir shops selling shisha – large glass bottles with hoses like elaborate bongs for puffing smoke which is usually a fruit flavour. The rest of the place is pretty much like what we’ve seen in the rest of Egypt with unfinished buildings everywhere.

The Egyptians seem to have this penchant for starting out with grand plans for a project then losing interest. Whatever you look at will have a shoddy finish. A classic example is its “finished” buildings. They will go to some trouble making the frontage looks really nice but leave the sides completely untouched with holes showing irregularly through the raw, uneven brickwork.

Thurs 26 Nov 09

Morning: Another beautiful cloudless day. Water in the marina is literally the light blue colour of a backyard pool except not so clear. Pretty much a steady flow of people walking along the quay over towards the big motor launches. These are leaving in a steady flow and packed with tourists heading out through the marina entrance. There’s certainly no shortage of tourists.

Easy morning aboard. Inspected a small yacht berthed nearby looking a little worse for wear.  Appears to be abandoned but there’s no sign on it. Owner probably left it here to go home for a while maybe? Take a casual stroll around the marina complex to see what’s around. Heaps of different types of restaurants and shops of all kinds. Couple of bars one of which is apparently Russian owned that supposedly has girlie shows. The Wi-Fi internet is almost useless although Andy manages to have a Skype chat with Jenni.

197 yacht 198 marina
199 marina shops Top Left:   Unattended yacht in the marina

Top Right: Marina view

Left: Marina forecourse

 Afternoon: Three of us put our backpacks on and walk into Sekala just outside the marina gate. The usual grubby type of town except this one is perhaps amongst the cleanest I’ve seen with one exception. The butcher shops have sheep and goats penned up right beside the shop and slaughter them as required on the spot. Apparently because it’s a religious festival this week. Bits of ribs laying on the ground, carcasses hanging up with a shitty tail still attached and a rich smell pervading the area.

200 hurghada 201 penned sheep
street scene sheep for slaughter during a
religious festival
202 green light timer 203 killing sheep
green traffic lights with countdown timer a sheep being weighed for sale

Do some stock-up shopping and meet with an Irish couple Liam and Tracey of Happy Daze – a large catamaran, while they’re having a beer at the Roma Restaurant and bar. Order Nescafe coffees. A scruffy individual in one of those full length dresses and wearing a towel type turban in the Arab style approaches to tell me that one of my sandals is “kaput”.  Indeed, the stitching is coming away from a side flap. He shows me some heavy twine and needles and offers to fix it for £10.

Tracy and Liam immediately jump in demanding £5, which our chap looking from them to me agrees to. He takes my sandal away leaving me feeling a little foolish sitting there with just one sandal on, but returns in about half an hour with it all stitched up. Cost about Aus $1.00. Sincere encouragement from the Irish couple to bargain. About half the price is about what you should end up paying for anything.

Back at the boat Roger tells us that we all need to contribute US$400 and €200 to top up the sailing kitty. That should see us pretty much through the Red Sea to Aden as far as fees and fuel goes at least that we can predict at this time. Check the marina notice board for the location of a bank so that I can get some US Dollars and Euros.  Where there was supposed to be a bank turns out to be empty premises. Go back to the boat to find the internet working okay now so go online and check the various exchange rates.

204 traditional yachtLeft: traditional yacht in the marina

Later while taking another walk I find a different bank called HSBC in the marina complex. Withdraw Egyptian Pounds from the ATM and then exchange it for US Dollars and Euro’s at the bank counter for a reasonable price. The only limitation is that the ATM will only allow withdrawals of £3000 EGY at a time (about AUS $600).

Alice has arrived. Say g’day. Tracy and Liam come over to Jenzminc to take a look. They are impressed and express a desire for something smaller than their catamaran which has five cabins. They stay for a quick drink then depart to do some last minute tidying up. They’ll be flying out of Hurghada tomorrow because they’ve had some problem with their sailing permit apparently caused by the Egyptian authorities, and have to leave their boat here. Later in the afternoon Alan and Hailá come around for a chat.

1645hrs: The droning monotony of numerous amplified calls to prayers spreads out over the marina. They don’t seem to be as expressive here as in other places. A rather convoluted boring and loud moaning sound.
205 minaret
Right: local minaret

Evening: Andy and Roger go out socialising. Andy has a long and interesting chat with a Swiss man named Walter Hedinger off Sepia who is an electrical designer and who knows quite a bit about using the SailMail communications software.

Fri 27 Nov 09

Not much happening today. Many of the commercial power cruise boats heading out of the marina are loaded up as usual with tourists. Earlier in the morning two young Egyptian men stood at the end of the finger taking photos of each other combing their hair and posing with the yachts in the background. European tourists sometimes wander past Jenzminc looking curiously at us. Sometimes we get a smile and a hello.

Lots of sleeping and reading books. Roger and I walk into town which is just a couple hundred metres away and tour the shops. Touts outside almost every shop or restaurant trying to get us inside. One of them outside a cafe/bar where you order coffee or beer asked, “Where you from”?
“Australia”
“China?”
“ Aus- tray-liah” (with more emphasis),
“… China?”
“ Do I look Chinese to you?” (Is my accent that bad?)
“Oh … where you from?”

Sekalas main road is busy during the day but at night it really comes to life. Many of the shops don’t open until the afternoon and work until late in the evening. Lots and lots and lots of shops, pretty much all selling mostly the same stuff; cotton clothes, souvenirs including an abundance of shishas, jewellery that is mostly silver and gold, and chemist shops. Every second shop seems to be a jewellery shop. There are heaps of barber shops too.

 206 shops hurghada  207 jewellery shop
Hurghada shops shisha’s for sale

We grab a table in a cafe. Roger has a beer while I get a coffee. He settles in so I leave him there and return slowly to the boat. On the way I find a place selling ice creams in wafer cones at £5 a scoop. I’ll have three scoops please. Back in the marina there’s another ice cream shop which is selling ice cream cones at £10 a scoop. Not a bad mark-up if you can get away with it. Walk around the far quay to check out the large commercial motor yachts. All the gardens are being watered with “grey” water i.e. washing up type water and it stinks to high heaven. The various pubs and night time establishments have a wonderful night
belting out all kinds of amplified music until about 5 am.

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