Fort Arabesque, Hurghada 06-2021

I spent a LOT of time figuring out where to stay in Hurghada to maximise diving and snorkelling. Diving centres are mainly located in town, and snorkelling off the beach is best much further south in Makadi Bay. Fort Arabesque seemed to popup as the place most commonly mentioned for great local snorkelling but there were comments about it being old and staying next door at Sunrise Royal Makadi being a better option for food and just wading/swimming over for the better reef.

In the end I decided upon FA, only really because we were only staying for 2 nights (meaning the food options albeit limited would be adequate) and convenience to the reef for the best possible snorkelling was really what I wanted.

The location is incredible for the snorkeling - it is simply amazing with schools of tropical fish and colourful coral. This is the real reason to stay here and makes up for the negatives. Beach BBQ dinner is vastly better than the buffet, but needs to be reserved (they don't tell you this in advance). It comes with a series of salads and sides and you choose from a grilled main such as fish or mixed meats. All were nicely prepared and tasty.

Club 159 live singing each night is really lovely and turns into a little dance too. Drinks at Club 159 from the standard included cocktail menu are made much better than those from the beach bars. Air conditioning in rooms works well. They also have a PCR service at the hotel (didn't use it as didn't know, they need 72h notice). Not sure how much they charge.

The negatives however are several. On the beach there are a lot of people coming to sell services (treatments, spa, foot fish, juice, bikes, boats, photography etc.). Particularly on the first day. Buffet food is not very good. Minimal seafood considering at the sea. Meat is all overcooked. Pizza average too. Included drinks don't include fresh juices. Ants in the room. No Wifi in the rooms, only lobby. Loud music from the pool area can be heard at the beach. Quite a dated place. Mini fridge doesn't work well.

Prices for services are UK/expensive western Europe prices. Staff are excellent and happy to help. 

Alhalaka Fish, Hurghada 06-2021

I thought being located on the Red Sea would mean it would be easy to find a recommended seafood restaurant that served locally caught items. It turned out to be surprisingly difficult, maybe because there aren't many (any) decent review sites and so it was really going off Google reviews, most of which aren't the most helpful. Certainly finding out menus and prices was near impossible. In the end the choices near the marina were Alhalaka (4000+ reviews), Shellfish restaurant (5* on Google but only 7 reviews), or Starfish (6000+ reviews). I chose Alhalaka in the end only really because we hadn't walked up north of the marina and there was a fish market nearby that I wanted to see (which was unfortunately closed at that time).

Upon walking in we were directed upstairs. We were ignored up there for a good long period and staff hustled around quickly trying to get things done. Eventually we had a table and started the next wait for menus and service. I asked about fresh seafood and was told about the counter downstairs, right next to the entrance and somehow I'd missed it. It had both Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea options and get charged by weight. There's also some tanks, in which the largest bugs I've ever seen were clambouring. Medium Red Sea shrimp (320g for 6) was EGP450/kg and I also chose a Red Sea grouper (EGP195/kg, whole, uncleaned 500g) for it's beautiful red colour with blue-black spots that at least kept some of the beauty after cooking. They had bigger shrimp and other things from the Mediterranean but I wanted to stay as local as possible.

After choosing from the counter downstairs, they weighed and put them into a metal bowl before it was off to the kitchen. I was sent back upstairs to give a ticket to the waiter and I added some seafood soup and dip.

The food is very good and cooked very well. Bread was fresh, puffy and nice, and aubergine dip was good and really cheap. Soup was delicious with a lovely colour and containining prawns, clams and fish. Prawns had been grilled as had the grouper been butterflied and served sengari style. They tasted good and particularly the fish showed that the seafood lived up to their standing as a specialist restaurant..

However the service is chaos and it takes effort to get attention. Busboys in red shirts worked really hard and deserved tips. When I gave one specifically to one busboy he seemed shocked but thankful. Management staff who deal with orders and payments tried to make me pay for water we didn't have. When I informed him, his reply was it's only a little bit of money and I should pay it anyway, then wanted to deduct less than the actual amount charged for the water.

The bill was printed but the total was hand written so I had to ensure the counting was correct. They need to learn some honesty at the management level.

The Greek, Hurghada 06-2021

I really wanted to try camel when in Egypt. I remember my last trips to Egypt, Jordan and Morocco did not allow for this, and the guides often said it wasn't that easy to find (certainly not where they took us) and we only came across it at a butcher. Luckily there were a few options I had researched in Hurghada that offered this - The Greek, Moby Dick and the much further away German meathouse Bordiehns. In the end after reading review after review and not being able to decide, The Greek won simply for good reviews and being so close on the Marina. It also had a seafood soup with a delectable picture online (which I can't find any longer so maybe it's gone because they didn't look the same...)

Our waiter was very thoughtful and kind. He made sure we were okay multiple times, and when another table cleared he moved us there for a clearer view of the marina to people-watch and look at the boats on the Red Sea. It was after dark so less atmospheric than say sunset, but still nice. Guava and strawberry juices were fine and started off the evening.

I only wanted to try the seafood soup and they were kind enough to give us a half portion to share. Warm, creamy with nice shellfish flavour and seafood pieces too.

- Branzino (bory fish stuffed with carrots, zucchini, shrimps) EGP95 - wasn't expecting this butterflied dish with a tomato stew inside. The stew was very simple and mild in flavour. The ornamental birds were an interesting decorative touch;
- Camel steak EGP250 - I can't remember which part of the camel they said it was, maybe the shoulder? In any case it was a thinner steak than expected, although my request for rare came out perfectly rare. They obviously know how to cook steak. To me it seemed like a very nice tender eye fillet although with a slightly stronger flavour. To my partner it was much stronger and gamier than beef. It had a little chewiness to it but I enjoyed every mouthful.

Apparently camel is a developing meat source in Australian butchers, and maybe I'll have to try seek it out after this experience.

The Boutique Hotel New Marina, Hurghada 06-2021

This lovely hotel (although with slightly deceptive descriptions of the room balconies) was well located at the corner of the marina, and a short walk to a large supermarket, all the marina shops, the included beach club, and general street festivities. We were primarily in the area for scuba diving and it made a good base for that.

Included breakfast had options of Egyptian (pictured) which was a nice ful, a way too salty falafel (salad and bread helped to balance) and egg. They also had other ones such as English which I don't have a picture of but was quite inferior.

The fresh morning mango or guava juices were thick and excellent. It meant for a good full stomach before the long boat out to the beautiful Red Sea.

Red Dragon, Hurghada 06-2021

After 4 long and hot, packed days of touring from Aswan, Abu Simbel, Luxor and now finally to Hurghada, we were ready for a rest. Our hotel on the marina in Hurghada meant we could have a little swim at the beach club to feel the Red Sea for the first time, before a restful evening enjoying the views.

A walk along the marina looking for takeaway left me at Red Dragon for sushi - fish from the Red Sea and a little bit different preparation to what we'd been having recently.

The nigiri platter EGP310 was a simple order and the manager let me substitute a few things, namely the salmon and tuna, since that is common and also it wasn't from the Red Sea, which I specifically wanted. Basically they were all subtituted for eel and so the final dish was 2 nigiri shrimp, 4 nigiri eel (unagi), 2 nigiri octopus, 2 nigiri squid fried, 4 ura shrimp, 4 ura eel, 6 maki crab. They were all fine without being outstanding. The ratio of rice was quite high but it meant for a slightly more filling morsel.

Simple and adequate.

Cafeteria Al-Hassani, Dendera 06-2021

We had an unforgettable hot-air balloon experience just after sunrise (the winds were too strong before sunrise) that morning before packing up in Luxor and heading toward Hurghada. The one temple stop for the day was Dendera, which turned out to be one of the most well preserved (or restored at least in the ceilings) with stunning blue ceilings and the faces of Hathor on all the pillars.

Before driving to Hurghada, an early lunch stop at this place somewhere near Dendera on what seemed like a roadside stop near the highway was a completely empty cafe. Although it was Covid and summer and most of Egypt was empty of tourists, the day before in Karnak had showed us that there are still plenty of tourists there even if it is low for them. Our guide often took Russians from Hurghada on tours to Luxor and so it was surprising not to find any of them eating here. Maybe it was more of a dinner stop on the way back for them.

There was noticeable dust on the indoor tables which we were able to select any. The specialty of the house was chicken, and so chicken it was. And what an excellent chicken it turned out to be - a leg of perfectly grilled chicken, slightly crisp in the skin, served with chicken-flavoured rice, noodle soup, a bit of fresh salad, vegetable stew and some bread.

A great local meal for sustenance before the long drive. They also had a pay-for toilet (although free since noone was policing that day) and a small tourist shop, so I imagine it does get the crowds usually.

Wannas Art Cafe, Luxor 06-2021

After the previous evening of wandering through western Luxor and having a constant number of touts offering us museum tours, hot air balloons, Nile boat rides and restaurants, we thought going somewhere close to Villa Sunrise and before the boat areas might be nice. Wannas had incredibly high reviews (4.9 on Google) and given we had eaten a lot of meat/fish recently and that Middle Eastern is probably my favourite vegetarian food, this vegetarian/vegan place looked a good idea. We wandered down a neighbourhood street, with some families on the streets looking on.

Wannas has a local art gallery attached too, and the owner was only too happy to let us have a look at some of the art pieces. Then it was off to the also art decorated restaurant side, along with the several curious cats hoping to get some of our dinner too.

White beans and tomato tagine EGP45, aubergine tagine EGP40, and a nice salad (can't remember which, maybe oriental) was served with bread and rice. Although some dips would also have been nice (and tend to be served with all meals anyway), we knew the meal sizes were generally too big for us and so a smaller simpler one was fine.

All the dishes were nice, flavoursome and healthy. 40mins wait for food was longer than expected given we were the only ones in the cafe. However as it was quiet summer/Covid season, I think they probably started the kitchen for us. It gave us time to play with the cats and and look at more art.

Cairo Plaza Restaurant, Luxor 06-2021

Our private guide brought us here and it's the only place I told him he shouldn't have. 

It's a buffet style that is FILLED with tour buses and boats chartering them from the other side of the Nile. The quality reflects this. Lukewarm food, stale bread, flavourless watery tahini. Fried fish was good though, crisp and soft, and chicken was ok. Otherwise other food items were pretty tasteless too. There are so many restaurants around it should be easy to find something better. 

Juice was ok.  They charge in Euro (reflecting the touristness) with a good rate actually of 1:15 EGP.

The outdoor area looks nice to sit in although in summer it is too hot to enjoy that anyway.

Unnamed falafel restaurant, Luxor 06-2021

Our guide was keen to take us for a traditional Egyptian breakfast in Luxor, his hometown. With a bright and early 6am start, this unnamed hole in the stone wall building which was indescriptly next to what looked like a plain open sandy walled off section (like an empty carpark) already had some locals waiting outside for their morning falafel.

The turnover of fresh fried falafels filled the air inside, but definitely not in an oil-saturated air way.

Breakfast was served with a traditional ful (fava beans with a boiled egg to mix in), crisp falafels which were very good, salad, pickles, potato fries (average and not crisp unfortunately), aubergine strips, and a soft cheese with cumin. And of course extra cumin and chilli to sprinkle as required.

An excellent and delicious Egyptian breakfast indeed. I'm sure a local will be able to find the location again for me if needed...

Villa Sunrise, Luxor 06-2021

We wandered around the east banks of Luxor and didn't really find anything particularly interesting to eat - there was a nice looking falafel stand and African Cuisine looked ok, but in the end just ended up back at the accommodation. Given the quiet season and us being the only guests at this very cheap place, we thought we'd boost their business a little by getting food too. The upstairs terrace does have some nice views over the Nile and during the day you can see all the way to the temples on the other side.

Tagine fish meal 80EGP was a fish they called moosa (I think, which may be dover sole) from the Red Sea. It was deliciously soft, with some acquired taste bitterness from lime peel that I enjoyed the contrast of. Kofta EGP90 was a simple rough beef mince.  Babaghanoush was a very strongly garlic and chunky version that I really liked alot. Boiled vegetables with dill was simple, plain rice with noodles, but the bread was a bit old and stale. 

A let down compared to the other places we'd eaten were the mango juice EGP25 which was not very sweet, slightly watery.

Overall a simple and nice meal highlighted by the fish stew and babaghanoush.