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Taba Heights, a different Egypt

Traveling to Egypt over and over again has never lost its charm for us. As „regulars” of Hurghada, we’ve tried to squeeze in other locations in the so generous country of the pharaohs. So, last summer, we decided to go the extra mile and reach to the edge of the country, to the east of the Sinai Peninsula, in Taba Heights.

The resort is located 20 kilometers south from the eastern most touristic destination in Egypt, Taba, found in very close proximity to the Israeli-Egyptian border (about 10 kilometers) at the Gulf of Aqaba. Tourists have the possibility of travelling directly to Taba International Airport, 35 kilometers from Taba Heights or arrive at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport, as we did, and then be transferred by car to the resort – a longer trip (2-3 hours depending on the traffic and how “Speedy Gonzales” is your driver), but none the less very fascinating as it takes the road between the mountains and the sea, crossing through Dahab and further up. An interesting thing for tourists coming here is that you don’t need a visa to cross from Eilat (Israeli city situated closest to Taba in Egypt and Aqaba in Jordan) to Egypt if you intend to spend no more than 14 days for your holyday.

Conceived as a closed resort, Taba Heights is atypical for the Egypt we are used to; it’s small, very neat, trimmed to the smallest detail and isolated from the rest of the world. Set between the dusty reddish-brown or “cinnamon” colored (as most people describe it) Sinai Mountains and the blue-watered Gulf of Aqaba, the resort offers a unique view on both and, even further, across the water to the neighboring Saudi Arabia – it’s wonderful to see the lights flickering on the other side of the Gulf when the night falls.

Taba Heights is made of a series of high end hotels: Hyatt Regency Taba Heights (5 stars), InterContinental Resort Taba Heights (5 stars), Marriott Beach Resort (5 stars), Sofitel Taba Heights (5 stars) and The Three Corners El Wekala Golf Resort (4 stars de luxe); each hotel has its own strip of beach (except Three Corners) and various swimming pools. We stayed at the Marriott and we have good things and a few bad ones to share, but that’s a totally different story to be told on another occasion.

Most of the vacation packages are offered with an All Inclusive option, but you can find Half Board as well; we recommend the latter if you know you’ll be travelling to visit different places or if you are here to scuba dive. In case you are left without lunch during a rest day there is just one shopping center in the… center of the resort, a few restaurants, one supermarket and one pharmacy (from what we managed to find)!:)

Talking about scuba, there is only one diving center in the resort, the famous award winning Red Sea Water World which serves all the hotels, situation which leads to a crowded center and a risk of not finding any spots left on the boats if you haven’t previously made a reservation; the services are top of the top, even though the European personnel’s attitude is somewhat cold for our taste. A sense of army boot camp stayed with us after diving here. Furthermore, the prices are matching the high standards, so a bit expensive, probably as a result of a lack of competition, hence of the held monopoly.

When it comes to the dive sites there are about a dozen of them altogether, but the schedule is very cleverly organized during a week to make sure you will not dive in the same spots the whole vacation. Depending on what you want you can choose from a full day boat (8am-4pm; two dives) to a half day boat in the morning (8am-1pm; two dives) or afternoon (2pm-4pm; two dives), with the possibility of adding a third dive to the full day boat. 

The Gulf of Aqaba, having a maximum depth of around 1 800 meters is, however, smaller in size than the Gulf of Suez which borders the Sinai to the west. That doesn’t mean it is less beautiful when it comes to the underwater realm. An array of fish species are present in its waters while the differing depths allow for every diver, beginner or more experienced, to enjoy scuba here. Our favorite dive sites were the “Fjord” where you could find a fresh water spring in a “bucket” in the middle of the sea (interesting how the temperature fell as soon as you descended in the well; also look for the orange phosphorescent anemone found on the wall) and “Saladin’s Fortress” (or “Salah Ad Din Fortress” or “Island of the Pharaoh” – “Geziret Faraum”) from where you have a view of the four surrounding countries: Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Actually, right on this spot we had the unique “privilege” of hearing training underwater some of the four countries’ armies’ submarines. We will never forget that sound and the feeling of disorientation looking around to see from where a missile should appear and take you along for the ride, neither the small wave propagating on the surface of the water after a few deaf thuds. Sometimes you get more than you bargained for:).

As for the non-divers, the area is rich in history, with every step finding out another tale (biblical or not) which happened hundreds and thousands of years ago. We would visit again anytime Saint Catherine’s Monastery for the spirituality which you physically sense and for the fact that each time you are there you discover something new. In the next vacation here maybe we’ll find the time to hike Moses’ Mountain or Mount Mousa, a longer trip which starts at sunset and which has you climbing the mountain in darkness. Good to know also that Taba Heights is renowned for being a golfing location.

We just couldn’t give up more diving days to travel to places like the “Colored Canyon”, to make a reservation at the wonderful Castle Zaman or to take a trip to Jerusalem (trips to Dahab, Sharm el-Sheikh or Cairo are also available for the interested), but we did choose to “sacrifice” a diving day and travel to Petra in Jordan, another story worth to be told at length, difficult to depict in words, which didn’t feel at all as a “sacrifice” in the end.

There are other things to do or places to travel to when in Taba Heights, but that’s up to you to discover on your own.

Keep in mind that in this part of Egypt it can be hotter than in other parts due to the humidity and the Sinai Mountains which act as a shield around the resort – well, you get the picture – making you feel as in a greenhouse.

All in all, a great vacation with mixed activities in a “different” Egypt than the one we were used to.

More photos here


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