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.