Sharm El-Sheikh, city of peace

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Updated 23 November 2012

Sharm El-Sheikh, city of peace

Sharm El-Sheikh’s beautiful beaches and the desert activities make the city one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Middle East. Many hotels offer reasonable packages for groups and families who are looking for a new adventure.
The city is situated on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, overlooking the Red Sea. Sharm El-Sheikh is called the “city of peace”, referring to the large number of international peace conferences that have been held here.
Sharm El-Sheikh offers a dramatic mountain backdrop and stretches of golden beaches on outstanding waters. It has an international reputation as the most extraordinary diving destination in the Red Sea. Scuba diving and snorkeling is always a rewarding experience here, thanks to the crystal clear water, magnificent corals, exotic underwater flora and rare tropical fish.
The list of things to do at the seashore also includes parasailing. Take a jet boat and head for the open water while you are suspended from a parachute. If heights are not your thing, take a glass-bottom boat to see the Rea Sea underwater life. Beach explorers may enjoy windsurfing, kite surfing, boating, canoeing or simply lying by the beach and getting a suntan.
Ras Mohammed, about 20km south of Sharm El-Sheikh, is a must-see national park of South Sinai, located on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. It has famous dive sites in the Red Sea, with 800-meter deep reef walls and coral gardens. The quantity and variety of sea life are exceptional and put this diving spot among the best around the world.
For those who are looking for land activities, Sharm El-Sheikh provides many, such as biking, hiking, horseriding or simply driving to the Sinai desert and go camel trekking. One can go on a camel ride to the Bedouin tents and enjoy a real Bedouin dinner with them under the desert stars, away from the noise of the city.
Take a camel ride to the Moses Mountain and follow the footsteps of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) when he climbed Mount Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments from Allah. The climbing requires an individual to be in moderate shape. It takes about three hours to climb the 2,285-meter peak following the path of Moses, via a stairway of nearly 4,000 steps.
Some companies offer a package deal that includes exploring the desert on a quad bike or buggy and enjoying a cooked meal by the Sinai Bedouins. You could also just drink Egyptian tea and smoke shisha in one of the tents built especially to welcome tourists who are looking to experience the real Bedouin life in the desert and get a chance to see the sunset from the top of the mountain.
Millions of years ago, the sea covered Sinai. This left a brilliant legacy upon the landscape of the colored canyon, close to the coastal town of Nuweiba. The walls of the canyon reach up to 16 stories. One can easily say it is the most colorful and intriguing rock formation in all of Sinai.
The canyon mouth is accessible by car; it is perfect for a short hike of about 700 meters. As one ventures into the canyon, the walls narrow width to just a few feet in some places, which gives the place a secretive atmosphere. This canyon is most commonly compared to the Jordanian city of Petra, even though the canyon was not man-made.
The Pharaoh’s Island is also a must-visit. It lies just a few kilometers south of Taba, at the very top of the Gulf of Aqaba and just a few hundred meters from the coast. The island is one of the most blatantly picturesque spots in the entire gulf. Many boat trips take tourists to this location.
The Pharaonic Water Park, Cleo Park, is located in Na’ama Bay and it is the first themed water park in Sharm El-Sheikh. It is the perfect place for thrills seekers and water enthusiasts: it offers Cleopatra baths, Nile adventure river rides, Nile spring cruise, a young pharos oasis and slides.
For some fun at night, one can go to Na’ama Bay, by far the busiest place in Sharm El-Sheikh. It is open during daytime but it comes alive at almost midnight. Many say it is the heart of Sharm El-Sheikh, as everyone meets here after a long day at the beach. Na’ama Bay’s open-air area offers a huge number of local and international restaurants that are open until after midnight. Coffee shops offer live local music and shisha. Souvenir shopping can get quite hectic here, when friendly Egyptian sellers are trying to make a profit.
For a more modern and less chaotic night out, go to Soho Square. It offers complete entertainment for the whole family. The ice rink, bowling alley and kids’ arcade are perfect for the young ones to enjoy while parents can smoke shisha and have dinner.
Soho Square offers the best selection of restaurants from Japanese, Thai, Cantonese, Italian and Indian to Egyptian and many open-air coffee shops that offer shisha. There are also a few shops selling souvenirs and clothing.
II Mercato is another shopping destination in Sharm El-Sheikh. It is the open-air version of Dubai’s II Mercato and designed by the same architect. Apart from many restaurants and shisha cafes, it is a child-friendly place with open parks and game rooms. The shops filled with local and international brands and of course many souvenirs provide great presents for friends and family that weren’t so lucky to visit Sharm El-Sheikh yet.

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Saudi Arabia’s AlUla lands interactive art exhibition

AlUla is an archaeological marvel — boasting golden sandstone canyons, colossal arches and rock formations — that has played host to numerous ancient civilizations, making it a significant cultural crossroads. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 20 January 2020

Saudi Arabia’s AlUla lands interactive art exhibition

  • Famed for its rock formations and archaeological treasures, the valley’s dramatic landscape inspires creative concepts

JEDDAH: The Royal Commission for AlUla has collaborated with Desert X to bring an interactive installation to the area for the first time.

Desert X began in 2017, in California’s Coachella Valley, as a way to connect modern art with desert communities and cultures.
It is Desert X’s first international collaboration and starts on Jan. 31, running through to March 7, as part of AlUla’s Winter at Tantora festival.
AlUla Valley is famed for its rock formations, dramatic desert landscape and archaeological treasures.
Neville Wakefield, artistic director and co-curator for Desert X, said the exhibition would bring together local artists and ones from further afield.
“You discover that the same things that we find artists following in southern California — the interest in the environment, natural resources, cultural memory, trade and migration — they’re common for everyone,” he told Arab News. “What’s interesting to me about Saudi Arabia is the demographic, it’s a very young nation. I hope this opens the door to encourage a new generation of artists to emerge and take (their) place on an international stage and vice versa.”

Outdoor exhibition
Site-specific exhibitions differ greatly from a gallery setup in a museum with a controlled or fixed environment. Curators and artists face more external factors that could hinder the installation process from the weather to safety measures such as falling rocks. Wakefield said the uncertainty made shows such as Desert X exciting. “It really is about engaging with the landscape.”
Artists were brought to the Kingdom on a site visit last year to process the surroundings and create their own installation proposals.
They were selected based on their response to the landscape, not only its physical nature but culturally, historically and socially.
Riyadh-based artist Muhannad Shono said he would have done anything to take part in Desert X.
“I wasn’t going to let it slip through my fingers,” he told Arab News. “We don’t get a lot of chances with free access and support to visualize and bring to life something in the desert — an enchanting and romantic place to set up an installation.”
He changed his mind about the concept several times before finally embracing his design — a sculptural path.


• Desert X began in 2017, in California’s Coachella Valley, as a way to connect modern art with desert communities and cultures.

• Artists were brought to the Kingdom on a site visit last year to process the surroundings and create their own installation proposals.

• They were selected based on their response to the landscape, not only its physical nature but culturally, historically and socially.

“I wanted to trigger things we’ve experienced as children in the audience. For example, finding a treasure map of the desert and an X that marks the spot where oftentimes, you reach the spot and find nothing there. The chest is empty — either with nothing there or that someone got there first. But the journey and adventure are amazing,” said Shono.
The Saudi artist wanted to give people a chance to unleash an inner curiosity that would set them on a purposeful discovery, not one of materialistic value but to find meaning in themselves.
He said the installation was not easy to find. “It goes further and higher and the more you go, the more you discover yourself. Alone with yourself and that’s what’s important,” he added.

Humans and nature
Tunisian-born and US-based artist Lita Albuquerque has often explored the relationship between humans and nature. Her AlUla project also draws on her passion for cosmology.
“I’ve been working on a narrative about a female astronaut who comes to this planet to see interstellar consciousness. She wants to teach us about our relationship to the stars,” she told Arab News.
The astronaut visits through different periods of time, the artist explained. She comes from the future but also visits the past “as if she’s birthing astronomy, giving us this whole map of the stars down the valley.”
The astronaut sits on a boulder positioned at the western end of the valley, looking eastward down the entire valley.
“It looks as if she is offering something, and below her are 99 blue circles of different diameters that correspond to the aligned stars above. She’s a little bit bigger than life-sized. It’s surprising to see her in such a grand space,” Albuquerque said.
She first visited AlUla last September and got to see the whole region while scouting for sites.
She has worked in desert sites since the start of her career, so Desert X was a natural step for her. “I felt like I was part of Desert X from the very beginning,” she added.