Laguna Vista Beach Resort, Sharm el Sheikh

We’re making idle chatter with our hostess when a rather grumpy couple climb aboard the shuttle bus. An onslaught of arbitrary complaints follow in Dutch. We roll our eyes. Great … it´s going to be a long ride! Especially considering that Laguna Vista is nestled further up in Nabq, the new suburb of Sharm el Sheikh. Perhaps sensing the rest of their travel companion’s desire to “let the holiday begin”, they eventually settle down and keep quiet. We make it to Laguna Vista’s reception around 9pm. Cigarette smoke infiltrates my nose. Wow. That´s been a while. Smoking in public places? The receptionist is friendly and suggests we take some dinner before the restaurant closes for the evening. The foyer is gorgeous! However, in the restaurant we find ourselves queueing for shrivelled potatoes and dried out veggies. Hmm, not great. But we’ll reserve our judgement for now … We’re guided to our rooms. The resort is beautifully lit at night. Our luggage is waiting for us. Room is nice and big, just been sprayed against the miggies.

We wake later than planned, shove on our costumes, shorts and tees and head for breakfast; a little hungrier than the night before. Again we’re greeted with dehydrated nosh. Okay, we didn’t pick this resort because it’s renowned for its food. We’ll eat what we can and enjoy the rest of the experience. We head outside for a quick recon. What looked like African huts in the photos, the cottage roofs look more like little pyramids. Nice suprise. The gardens are beautiful. Outdoor pools are well maintained and inviting, yet no one is swimming. The sun is warm but not too hot. Another plane flies overhead, smell of kerosine drenching their air. We organise some towels to soak up some sun. Getting a little hot, we slip into the water. Huh, huh, ooooh … our breath snatching the words from our belly. It’s freezing!! Okay, maybe 16-18 deg C but much colder than we thought. The warm sun concealing winter. We don’t swim long. Opt for a walk on the beach instead, which consists of teeny pebbles that blister tender feet. Aqua shoes are agreeable.

Coral reefs hug the coast of Sharm so most resorts have a pier that takes you past the owie-bits so you can snorkel and swim with stripey fish. Sunsets are gorgeous. Soft rosey-purple skies and luminous turquoise water as the sun tucks behind the Sinai mountains. Camels on the beach are led away by their Bedouins. Night lights flicker gently. Party music picks up. Tents with water-pipes get fuller. Remembering a guest comment that we’d read on the net, we head back to catch an early dinner. Yummy! What a difference. After dinner we take a nightcap in the lounge bar, where a pianist is accompanied by a violinist. Lovely relaxed vibe. Happy with our choice of resort, we enjoy a good night’s rest.

We meet up with our hostess to book some excursions, trying to find the right balance between immersing ourselves in this exotic location and our much-needed destressing at the pool. “Aqua-jogging!” we watch a sporty Italian trying to entice guests to relinquish their loungers. The idea is to hop up and down in bikini’s to music that’s way too loud. Surprisingly, there are some takers! The water being too cold, they go in up to their ankles. We’re surprised by the amount of Italian and Russian guests. We later hear rumours that an Italian company has purchased Laguna Vista. More rumours suggest a thriving buzz of Eastern European women seeking romance who are taking full advantage of the lack of Egyptian women working in Sharm.

During some of the excursions, we come across the same Dutch couple from the shuttle. It doesn’t look as if their holiday is turning out as planned. They’re complaining about the food, the people, the pushing, the culture, and … possibly wondering why they left their comforts at home. Isn’t it funny how we want to discover exotic worlds but through the standards and expectations of our familiar surroundings? “The tourist sees what he has come to see. The traveller sees things as they are.”

A metre high promise greets you at each roundabout in Nabq, “Charming Sharm”. Created to pander to the needs of its visitors. Tourists can choose between row upon row of sun temples and souvenir shops. However, the beauty of Sharm is not this fake world, but in it’s people and natural heritage. On one side of the city, you have the alluring Red Sea, and the other side, the Sinai desert. You can’t help but be drawn into it’s magic. Marcel learns some Arabic/Egyptian words and grows a beard to match his Sheik turban. The locals respond favourably and share a part of their world with us. We are charmed by the tour guides and staff at Laguna Vista. Our room attendant, Saber, is thoughtful and evens greets us by name. At the pool, Mohammed is jovial and eager to share encounters of our different worlds.

A few nights before we leave, we discover you can dine outside on the balcony. Groan. We’ve been rushing through dinner in the ambience of a loud canteen only to discover peace and quiet, candle light and romantic garden lighting. We take our time. Especially with the bottle of red wine we ordered – EUR 25,00 a bottle! Have you got a special occassion? Be prepared to fork out EUR 250,00 for a bottle of Moët!! Do we mind? Nope. Not really. All things considered, we’re grateful to have a bottle of wine in a Muslim country.

In those first couple of days, we feel that we’ve “done Egypt” and don’t really want to return. By the end of it, we’re even more captivated by its culture, history and natural wonders. With so much of the world we’d like to see, it’s unlikely that we’ll return to Sharm, but we’re certainly planning our next Egyptian destination.