I previously introduced you to the Sinai Peninsula in this post. And in that post, I focused primarily on the Bedouin and on Islamic militants operating in the Sinai.
Among other topics, I described how violence, mostly in the north, has been increasing dramatically. There have been rampant shoot-outs and gas line bombings by Bedouins (or militants working under the cover of Bedouins). Even though most of the violence occurs far from tourist beaches, I discussed how vacation hotspots like Dahab and Nuweiba have had their economies decimated (I’ve never seen beaches so empty).
Egypt’s new president, Mohammed Morsi, has used this violence in the Sinai as an opportunity to clean house and tighten the reins in the capital. He has fired top generals and initiated the largest offensive in the Sinai Peninsula since 1973, called “Operation Eagle,” complete with missiles and helicopter gunships. However, despite frequent headlines in the state media about the assault, the operation showed almost no concrete results and the Sinai’s reputation continues to spiral.
In places like Nuweiba and Dahab, hotel operators and restaurant owners are understandably dejected. Foreigners will likely continue to stay away and the tourist economy in these idyllic seaside towns will continue to tank.
This post goes into more detail about the ruins of these former tourist hotspots…
We used this hotel, the Ciao Hotel, as a base for several days while we were in the northern part of the Sinai. This was near the town of Nuweiba:
It looks nice, no? Not the type of place we normally stay in, but nice all the same… However, you’ll also notice that it is empty. As it turns out, this was one of the few hotels still open in the region and the room was practically free. We were their first guests in weeks and they had no one booked after us. No one. Not for days or weeks or months or even years. Not a single booking for ANY date in the future.
We had arrived late at night and so could tell the area was fairly empty, but it was not until daylight that we realized quite how empty the Sinai has become.
Tattered couches along the beach behind our hotel… One of the staff told me that the hotels used to become so full that people would pay to sleep on the beach furniture or in the hotel lobbies:
The deserted beach behind our hotel:
It wasn’t until we had walked for miles along the deserted beach and passed countless abandoned hotels and luxury homes that the full impact of the Sinai’s abandonment really hit me. We walked for hours that first day and never saw another living thing.
I’m not using any tricks to make it seem more empty than it was or taking this picture at an odd time. It really was this eerily deserted:
My first thought was that this was just like Pripyat on the beach. That was an impression that did not change.
And this was no one-off event either… As I mentioned above, we were in the northern Sinai for days and never saw more than a handful of people for the duration of our visit. And most of them were the employees at our hotel.
Wandering through the ruins:
Deteriorating tourist infrastructure is everywhere:
Visitors used to lounge on those cushions, protected from the sun by the woven grass roofs:
This used to be a bar, conveniently located right on the beach:
These were “huts” that one could rent to be close to the beach or just for a different feel than that of a hotel, I suppose. They were equipped with running water and electricity and used to rent for a hefty sum each night. Now they have been stripped of anything of value and are slowly decaying along with everything else in the region:
Abandoned boats are scattered along the shoreline:
Usually, the only living things we ever saw on our beach patrols were this trio of curious and fun-loving dogs that were always excited to join us for an adventure when we set out:
Below is a particularly impressive luxury hotel we discovered (and that the dogs helped us to explore)… Well, at the least the shell of what would have been a particularly impressive luxury hotel:
Those are my footprints. No one else had been here in ages:
Between this particular hotel and the beach were elaborate terraces and pools, stretching for hundreds of meters in every direction, that I am sure would have housed spectacular gardens and landscaping:
At least the dogs were able to enjoy it:
Wandering through the abandoned hotel:
I became quite fond of our canine companions, particularly this enthusiastic lad pictured below. When we left, he ran after our taxi for miles to try and stay with us.
What can one do?
The state of decay and abandonment does not change when one gets away from the coastline.
This empty street was not an exception:
Abandoned houses and construction projects can be found everywhere:
Sunset on the Sinai? It’s not the fall of the Roman Empire, but it may be a while before the Sinai’s issues get sorted and it gets back on its feet:
In other words, it is a great time to visit.