There are many glorious reasons to come to Egypt. The awesome pyramids of Giza. The mighty temples of Karnak, Luxor, Phillae, Abu Simbel.
The Valley of the Kings where the pharaohs slept for 30 centuries. The cataracts of Aswan where Agatha Christie fired her imagination with G&Ts. The glittering coasts where the windsurfing can be as fine as the seabass.
And now you can add one more grand attraction to that fabulous list: you can get a cold beer for about £1.
Yes, £1. Or £1.50 if they are really pushing it. Why so cheap? Because, in a turbulent time when the British pound has taken a proper battering — against the U.S. dollar, the euro, the Swiss Franc — several other currencies have taken an even greater thumping, amongst them the Egyptian pound, which has repeatedly dived ever deeper — like scuba experts seeking sunken archaeology off Alexandria.
All of which means that a sun, sand and sundowner holiday in Egypt is one of the best global bargains for holidaying Britons.
Enticing: Sean Thomas checks into the Tui Blue Crystal Bay resort at the designed-for-tourism town of Hurghada
A cracking and specific example is the sleek, modernist and swiftly-being-refurbed TUI BLUE Crystal Bay resort, halfway down the long Red Sea coast at the designed-for-tourism town of Hurghada.
Helpfully, you can fly here direct from multiple cities in the UK, avoiding messy changes in Cairo and the like.
To be honest, Crystal Bay Hurghada is not the place to come if you want pharaonic tombs next door, or a sense of communing with the god Anubis. Indeed, you can spend much of your time here largely unaware you are even in Egypt.
However, it is pretty much the perfect place to come if your not-too-expensive holiday needs are: guaranteed sun, fun, music, chill-out zones, gyms, sweet lagoons, nice beaches, cabanas, good hummus, generous buffet breakfasts, tennis, iced coffee, windsurfing, scuba diving, swimming pools the size of Cheshire and brilliant minty mojito cocktails for about £1.98. You will only notice the price if you inquire because the Tui Blue brand is all-inclusive, from booze to food: the cheapness of Egypt, here, is reflected in the overall budget-friendly cost of your package. Hurrah!
Tui Blue Crystal Bay offers guests ‘swimming pools the size of Cheshire’, Sean reveals
Sean says that Tui Blue Crystal Bay is ‘pretty much the perfect place to come’ if your holiday needs include guaranteed sun, nice beaches and cabanas
The Tui Blue brand is all-inclusive, from booze to food. Above is one of the guest rooms at Tui Blue Crystal Bay
There are other attractions outside the large luxe hotel complex, if you get bored of lying around paying pennies for pints.
One long, lovely day trip (about £79 per person) will take you to some fine snorkelling. It starts at the hotel, buses you to Hurghada’s amiably scruffy little harbour, with its friendly shisha caffs: then the boat pootles out and the busy townside beaches yield to exquisitely pale, gold-sand archipelagos of islets, with near-Ibizan chill out vibes (think bean bags on the sands) and all of it surrounded by almost-Maldivian turquoise waters.
Snorkelling here is genuinely excellent. In summer, the visibility is about as good as it gets: you will be surrounded by nemos, parrotfish, shoals of zebra fish, darting schools of silver this and iridescent that, occasional turtles and flamboyant fairytale lion fish, and you will find them amidst big, thriving, legally protected corals, where you float above blue-lipped giant clams and under wheeling sea eagles.
Then it’s a short jaunt to the island for sweet rum cocktails and multivarious salads, calamari and fish fillets.
Hurghada is known for its marine life. Sean says that ‘snorkelling here is genuinely excellent’
TUI (tui.co.uk) offers holiday packages to Hurghada, Sharm El Sheikh and Marsa Alam with flights departing from Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Midlands, Glasgow, Gatwick, Manchester, Newcastle and Stansted. Prices from £527 pp.
My advice, however, is to save your appetite for that night’s barbecue at Crystal Bay: succulent kofta kebabs, pink-perfect lamb cutlets, skewers of chicken and peppers, all dished up with dips, salads, fuuls (Somali stew), and fluffy rice, beneath a luminous Red Sea moon. Highly agreeable.
Well, the dancing goes on until 3am. The water park next door opens at 10am. The kids’ club lazes about all day. There are pricier rooms if you want a swim-up pool right in front of your sliding glass door.
These also entitle you to use the private cabanas, where waiters come and go with an embarrassment of daiquiris and delicious water melon, bowls of cheesy French fries and chunky club sandwiches.
Alternatively you could do a different trip inland, to the actual Sahara Desert, where you can meet Bedouin families, marvel at semi-wild camels, race across the bumpy dunes, rescue injured falcons, have a go at making flatbread, and — peak moment — laze back on cushions on a rocky plateau and watch the Sun god Ra sliding behind the serrated mountainscapes, as the warm wind lyrically whirrs across the twilit emptiness.
Then it’s back to the hotel, to watch the days come and go, under the generously relentless sun, amid the riffling poolside parasols, until you lose all sense of hours, and days.
If you stayed here long enough you’d probably forget the month, or even the year. And perhaps, in a timeless place like Egypt, that does make it quite Egyptian, after all. As well as really good value.