Diving In Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Sharm el-Sheikh, often known simply as “Sharm”, is a city situated on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, in Janub Sina’, Egypt, on the coastal strip between the Red Sea and Mount Sinai.

Sharm el-Sheikh is the administrative hub of Egypt’s Southern Sinai province which includes the smaller coastal towns of Dahab and Nuweiba as well as the mountainous interior, Saint Catherine’s Monastery and Mount Sinai. Sharm el-Sheikh is known as The City of Peace referring to the large number of international peace conferences that have been held there. Sharm el-Sheikh is also known for its glamorous lifestyle, attracting millions of people each year.
Sharm el-Sheikh is on a promontory overlooking the Strait of Tiran at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. Its strategic importance led to its transformation from a fishing village into a major port and naval base for the Egyptian Navy. It was captured by Israel during the Sinai conflict of 1956 and restored to Egypt in 1957. A United Nations peacekeeping force was subsequently stationed there until the 1967 Six-Day War when it was recaptured by Israel and officially renamed Mifratz Shlomo, Hebrew for “Gulf of Solomon”; but the name “Sharm el Sheikh” or “Sharm” stayed in general use. Sharm el-Sheikh remained under Israeli control until the Sinai peninsula was returned to Egypt in 1982.

A hierarchical planning approach was adopted for the Gulf of Aqaba, whereby their components were evaluated and subdivided into zones, cities and centers. In accordance with this approach, the Gulf of Aqaba zone was subdivided into four cities: Taba, Nuweiba, Dahab and Sharm El-Sheikh. Sharm El-Sheikh city has been subdivided into five homogeneous centers namely: Nabq, Ras Nusrani, Naama Bay, Umm Sid and Sharm El Maya. Tourism industry in Sharm El-Sheikh is considered the core of development. The development in the city offers an exclusive world of luxury and elegance. A fantasy world of space and style is there comprising glamorous low density resorts, exclusive sports’ facilities, unparalleled food courts and shopping centers. The land plan shows that the total area of Sharm El-Sheikh is expected to be about 42 km², in the year 2017.
Before 1967, Sharm el-Sheikh was little more than an occasional base of operations for local fishermen; the nearest permanent settlement was in Nabk, north of Ras el-Nasrani (”The Tiran Straits”). Commercial development of the area began during the Israeli presence in the area. The Israelis built the town of Ofira overlooking Sharm el-Maya Bay, and the Nesima area, and opened the first tourist-oriented establishments in the area six kilometers north at Naama Bay. These included a marina hotel on the southern side of the bay, a nature field school on the northern side, diving clubs, a now well-known promenade, and the Naama Bay Hotel.

After the Sinai was restored to Egypt in 1982, the Egyptian government embarked on an initiative to encourage continued development of the city. Foreign investors - some of whom had discovered the potential of the locality during the Israeli occupation - contributed to a spate of building projects. Environmental zoning laws currently limit the height of buildings in Sharm el-Sheikh so as to avoid obscuring the natural beauty of the surroundings.

The city has played host to a number of important Middle Eastern peace conferences, including the September 4, 1999 agreement to restore Palestinian self-rule over the Gaza Strip. A second summit was held at Sharm on October 17, 2000 following the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, but it failed to end the violence. A summit was held on August 3, 2005 in this city on developments in the Arab world such as the situation in Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Average temperatures during the winter months (November to March) range from 15 to 35 degrees Celsius and during the summer months (April to October) from 20 to 45 degrees Celsius. The temperature of the Red Sea in this region ranges from 21 to 28 degrees Celsius over the course of the year.
Sharm el-Sheikh was formerly a port, but commercial shipping has been greatly reduced as the result of strict environmental laws introduced in the 1990s. Until 1982, there was only a military port in Sharm el-Sheikh, on the northern part of Marsa Bareka. The civilian port development started in the mid 1980s when the Sharem-al-Maya bay became the city’s main yacht and service port.

Sharm el-Sheikh’s major industry is foreign and domestic tourism, owing to its dramatic landscape, year-round dry and temperate climate and long stretches of natural beaches. Its waters are clear and calm for most of the year and have become popular for various watersports, particularly recreational scuba diving and snorkelling which some consider to be among the best in the world. Coral reefs, under water and marine life, unmatched anywhere in the world, offer a spectacular and dazzling time for divers. There is wide room for scientific tourism with diversity in marine life species; 250 different coral reefs and 1000 species of fish.

These natural resources, together with its proximity to European tourism markets, have stimulated the rapid growth of tourism that the region is currently experiencing. Guest nights also increased in that period of time from 16 thousands to 5.1 million. The total number of resorts increased from 3 in 1982 to 91 in 2000. Highly reputable management companies have been attracted to invest in this city such as Hyatt Regency, Accor, Marriott, Le Méridien, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, and others, with categories from three to five stars. Franchises like Hard Rock Cafe can be found in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Sharm also home of a state of the art congress center, where many policital meetings have been held of international tenure. Peace conferences, ministerial meetings, world bank meetings, arab league conferences for mentioning a few. It is rightly located along peace road and have been lately re-branded by Swiss hotelier Nicolas Solari to be a Maritim outlet. it feature 5300m2 of meeting space.

The night life of Sharm El-Sheikh is also quite attractive. In 2005, Little Buddha, a sushi bar, nightclub, and bar, took the title of having the longest continuous bar in the Middle East. Other popular bars include: Camel Bar, The Tavern, Pirate’s Bar, Movenpick Beach, and The Mexican. If dancing is appealing to you, then Sharm has much to offer. Clubs such as The Bus Stop and world renowned Pascha throw parties almost every night of the year. These nightclubs and restaurants contribute greatly to the lifestyle led by Sharm el-Sheikh’s visitors each year.

The colorful handicraft stands of the local Bedouin culture are a popular attraction. Ras Mohammed, at the southern-most tip of the peninsula, has been designated a national park, serving to protect the area’s wildlife as well as its natural landscape, shoreline and coral reef. A number of international hotels and noted restaurants are clustered around the centre of Sharm, known as Naama Bay, with golf courses and other leisure facilities further up the coast.
[Source: Wikipedia]

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