Taba, Egypt’s stunning northernmost destination
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.”