Taba, Egypt’s stunning northernmost destination

Outings in Taba usually start in evenings when Bedouins light bonfires and begin receiv­ing guests, offering food, music and dances.

Taba Fjord Bay.

2017/01/22 Issue: 90 Page: 24

The Arab Weekly
Haitham Salah

Cairo - Unlike just about every other place in Egypt, Taba’s weather is the same in the summer and the winter: Mag­nificently mild. This, however, is not what makes this small town near the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Sinai peninsula a must-visit.

Taba visitors are obliged to be part of its Bedouin culture as soon as they arrive.

“Taba is particularly about its people and how they fill those who visit them with joy,” said Yu­nis Ahmed, a tour guide who has been helping visitors explore the deserts and mountains of Taba for more than a decade. “None­theless, when it comes to natural beauty and the breathtaking sites of the town, one will find it hard to count.”

Outings in Taba usually start in the evenings when Bedouins, who live in the desert hinterland near tourist villages, hotels and beach­es, light bonfires and begin receiv­ing guests, offering food, music and dances.

Participants often dance and lis­ten to music until the early hours of the morning when the sun shines on the beaches of soft sand and clear water.

Coral in stunningly large num­bers include some of the world’s rarest and most eye-catching. Div­ing and snorkelling cannot be more interesting anywhere else.

Diving is especially a memora­ble experience in Fjord Bay, 15km south of Taba.

Amany Hijab, a 41-year-old post­al worker, recently visited the bay.

“It is one of few places that fit ir­resistible as an expression,” Hijab said. “While it is open, the place is full of privacy and diving in the bay is very rewarding to the eyes and the senses.”

Another must-see attraction in the Taba area is Castle Zaman, built on a hill that overlooks the Gulf of Aqaba. Standing on top of the castle, visitors can see the bor­ders of Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea.

The castle has several chambers and halls worth exploring and its own beach, which is open to visi­tors. The castle is on the road con­necting St Catherine Monastery with Jerusalem.

The monastery stands at the foot of Mount Horeb where, according to the Old Testament, Moses re­ceived the Ten Commandments. The area is revered by Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Founded in the sixth century, the monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the oldest still in use. Its walls and buildings are of great importance in the study of Byzantine architecture. The mon­astery also houses a rare collection of early Christian manuscripts and icons.

Climbing the St Catherine Mount has always been an impressive, challenging experience but, after hours of trekking, climbers are re­warded with a view of the moun­tainous landscape of the Sinai pen­insula.

Taba hotels and tourist villages are starting to see signs of life again after the bombing of a Russian pas­senger plane over Sinai in October 2015 scared many tourists away and forced several tourist facilities to close.

Tourists visiting Egypt in gen­eral, and Taba in particular, will notice an enticing change: Accom­modation, transportation and food prices are noticeably low. The price drop has been precipitated by the recent flotation of the Egyptian pound, a move that sent the Egyp­tian currency lower against all for­eign currencies.

Tourism expert Magdi Selim said the pound flotation has turned Egypt into an affordable destina­tion for everybody.

“For a few hundred dollars, tour­ists can come to a place like Taba and have a memorable vacation,” Selim said. “I am sure that no other place can offer that much for such a low amount of money.”

Haitham Salah is an Egyptian travel journalist.

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