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Old City Sharm El-Sheikh


Page update - Aug 30, 2023

Where is the Old City located in Sharm El-Sheikh? Is it really old? What interesting things are there to see? What can tourists do? What to buy in the Old Market and what not to buy under any circumstances? Read the answers on this page.

By the situation of August 2023, the market and mosque in the Old Town are open without restrictions. However, the pandemic has hit business. And now Egypt has also lost most of its tourist traffic from Russia and most all its tourist traffic from Ukraine. About 2/3 of the shops are now open.

What is the Old City like?

This is a large tourist market located close to where the fishing village of Sharm el Sheikh once was. It is from there that the resort began to be built and sprawled out to the north-east.

As the Old Town looks like, see the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge it.

There are many shops, cafes, restaurants, and the very beautiful Al Sahaba Mosque in the center. The place is interesting, but only for one evening. In addition, it is a long and expensive way from many hotels. But first things first.

How to get there

The Old City is located at the southernmost part of Sharm El Sheikh. Its location is inconvenient for most tourists. Prepare to take a taxi or a shuttle bus. For a map of Sharm El-Sheikh resort with areas, beaches and attractions, see our page "Sharm El-Sheikh".

The first option is a shuttle bus

The shuttle-buses are blue in color and unmistakable. Please see the photo near, click on photo to enlarge.

Almost all mini-buses in Sharm head to or from the Old Town area. Unfortunately, there are no signs with the number or the destination on the mini-buses. Just in case, ask with the phrase "old town, old market" when boarding. If the driver says "yes" or nods then get in.

The fare depends on the distance - between 5 and 20 Egyptian pounds. See our review "Money in Egypt" for today's exchange rates of the Egyptian pound to the US dollar, UK pound, Euro and other currencies.

It is highly recommended to have Egyptian pounds to pay your fare. Shuttle bus drivers take dollars and euros, but it's inconvenient - there's almost never any change, and tourists often don't have small notes or coins.

It's better to exchange a small amount of currency for Egyptian pounds. Read our in-depth review of "Currency exchange in Egypt".

The second option is a taxi

Taxis are easy to catch on any busy street and there is no need to prebook. Taxis in Sharm El-Sheikh are blue and white in color. Look at the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge.

Every taxi in Sharm El Sheikh has a meter. And you have to ride only by the meter. If you negotiate with a taxi driver for a fixed price you are 99% likely to overpay.

If a taxi driver refuses to go by the meter or says the meter is broken, you better say "no" and get another one. In most cases, they quickly agree for the meter ride or the meter just self-repaired in some magic way.

The fare depends on the distance. For the latest taxi fares in Sharm El-Sheikh, have a look at our review "Taxis in Egypt".

Taxi drivers gladly take dollars and euros, but it's much more convenient to pay in Egyptian pounds. The tourists don't usually have small notes, and the taxi drivers don't usually have change. It's better to exchange a small amount of currency for Egyptian pounds. Read our detailed review "Currency exchange in Egypt".

For approximate fares to the Old City from different parts of Sharm El-Sheikh, see the table below.

From where Price in pounds (LE) Price (USD)
Nabq Bay 130 to 160 7-9
Ras Nasrani 120 6-7
Sharks Bay 110 5-6
Coral Bay 100 5-6
Gardens Bay 80 4-5
Naama Bay 65 3-4
Al Fanar and Maya Bay under 40 under 3

One more thing! Taxi drivers like to go the roundabout route to get their meter running. It's not just Egyptian taxi drivers, it's in all countries where there is a charge per kilometer. It's better to have a navigator on your smartphone (at least google.maps). You'll need a mobile internet connection for that, luckily it's quite affordable in Egypt. Read our detailed review "Cheap Internet in Egypt".

Entry fee

Free. This makes sense, as the Old Town is a big market, and markets everywhere are usually free to enter.

All sites inside the Old Town are also free to visit. And that makes sense too, as almost all of them are just stylised shops.

Entrance security control

There are security checks at all entrances to the Old City now (August 2023). This is not surprising as the Egyptian authorities are now very afraid of terrorism, and even more so in the resort regions. And all the more so in the Sinai Peninsula, as Sinai is a demilitarized zone.

Controls are not strict. Tourists go through a metal detector. Police officers ask to open the bags and see what is inside. They don't get inside too much, they only look fluently.

Opening hours

From 9 am to 11 pm (9-00 to 23-00).

In fact, there are two modes of operation in the Old Town market.

The first mode is from 9 am to sundown. At that time, half of the shops are closed. The cafes and restaurants are closed. If you're interested in shopping, this is the best time. The vendors haven't usually gone into 'work mode' yet - they don't disturb, shout, or bust their prices.

Most importantly, there are almost no people around. You can go into any shop and have a look at the selection in peace. See how the Old Town street looks in the daytime by clicking on the photo near.

From sundown to 11 pm all the places are open. It gets more interesting. But the noise is often horrible. There are a lot of people.

How old is Old Town really?

Of course, it's not old at all. Everything there was built in the 90s and 00s in order to attract tourists. It's hard to say whether Sharm el-Sheikh has a real old town or not, because it was just a fishing village before the 60s.

Some guidebooks write phrases like "the old town is away from the tourist areas and you will see real Egyptian life there" or "this is where ordinary Egyptians go" or something similar. TOTALLY FAKE!

Sharm El-Sheikh is purely a tourist town. There is no "real Egypt" there and never has been. If you want to see "real Egypt", you have to take the Sharm-Cairo bus.

Al Sahaba Mosque

The second largest mosque in Sharm El-Sheikh, but definitely the most beautiful. In addition, one of the newest mosques in Egypt - opened in March 2017, it was built between 2011-1017.

The minarets are 250 feet (76 meters) high and the main dome is 118 feet (36 meters) high. But the most interesting thing is the unique architectural style, which is fundamentally Ottoman, but with bright Fatimid slimness, features of Art Nouveau and Maghrebian touches. It is well worth a look.

Everyone is allowed inside the mosque, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. Entrance is free.

In front of the mosque there is a small square with beautiful decorations, a small fountain and gorgeous cacti. All this is made for photo tourists. See the photo.

The Rock and Waterfall

If you are looking at Al Sahaba Mosque from the front entrance, go right. There are a large rock (man-made) and a waterfall on this rock in a section away. Climbing to the top of this rock is the second local attraction.

The rock is not tall. See how it looks in this photo.

The waterfall is turned on only in the evening. More often the cliff is fenced off during the day. There is a restaurant at the top where you can sit and enjoy the view of Old Town with a cup of tea or coffee.

What else to see and do?

The Al Sahaba Mosque and the Rock are the only two attractions in the Old City. Everything else there is shops and stalls, but some of them are decorated to look like attraction.

The Papyrus Museum is a large and interesting papyrus shop. There's no obligation to buy, and you can view a variety of papyrus for free.

Andrushka Art Gallery is just a souvenir shop, mostly selling lamps. There is not the slightest hint of an art gallery there.

Camel Bazar is a souvenir shop that sells figurines of camels, but nothing more.

There are also a few other pseudo-attractions in the Old Town, which are actually shops. But there's no point in describing them.

Is it worth buying something there?

It depends on what it is.

Souvenirs

Prices for souvenirs are fairly regular, not cheaper or more expensive than in other tourist markets in Sharm or Hurghada. For an overview of the best gifts and souvenirs, with prices and advice on how to choose, see our review "Gifts and souvenirs from Egypt".

Now (August 2023) the situation is special. Air travel has been closed to most countries for some time, and traders have accumulated large stocks of goods. Naturally, they want to sell them and get their money back.

In such a situation, price is no longer of fundamental importance. Now they are willing to give away many goods at huge discounts. For example, they give away sand-bottle paintings for 1 US dollar, even though the regular price for one is 5 US dollars. And they do not haggle, they offer them.

Take advantage of it. This is likely to continue until the end of the 2023-2024 winter season.

IMPORTANT!!! Don't buy everything

Vendors in the Old City even sell souvenirs that are not allowed to leave the country. For example, they sell live corals in mini aquariums. It is strictly forbidden to take corals out of the country and the fine is 1,000 US dollars! As these corals look like on the stall, see the photo below, click on the photo to enlarge.

But they're still selling anyway, because they don't care if you get fined at customs afterwards. Be wise! Read our in-depth review of "What you can and can't take out of Egypt".

Food and drink

The prices of food and beverages are very high. For example, they charge 0.50 USD for a juice packet (200 ml). Or rather, they ask for 1 dollar for 2 juices. That's a lot of money. In Cairo, the same juice costs 5.25 Egyptian pounds. The prices are 2-3 times higher than in Cairo.

Such a mark-up is usual in the Old City on all foods and drinks - juices, sodas, crisps, biscuits, waffles and other snacks. Don't forget that prices in Old Town will be twice as much as indicated in our review.

Where to buy food and drink?

If you want to buy drinks and food at an adequate price. Then come out of the Old City through the west entrance - it's right opposite the front entrance to the Al Sahaba Mosque. Go 1,000 feet (300 meters) forward, and you will come to Salam Street and across the street you will find big (by Egyptian standards) supermarkets Metro Market and Awlad Ragab.

The supermarkets will offer you not only food, snacks and drinks at normal prices. But also hygiene products, baby products and other essentials.

IMPORTANT! Be extremely careful while crossing the road. Egypt has a record number of traffic deaths, as we explained in detail in the review "What not to do in Egypt".

Should or NOT go to the Old Town?

This is an open question. But there are a few cases where we VERY highly recommend going:

Case one. If there have no or very few souvenir shops in the area of your hotel. This applies to hotels in the Al Fanar and Maya Bay areas. For holidaymakers in the more northern areas, it is easier to go to the shopping areas of Naama Bay or to SOHO Square.

Case two. If you are going to the Aqua Blu (Albatros) water park. It is just around the corner - 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) and 25 Egyptian pounds for a taxi. Just as sunset the water park closes and Old Town opens in full. Ride from the water park to the Old Town and then back to the hotel.

Case three. If you intend to take a boat or yacht trip on the sea. The best place for this is the port of Sharm El-Sheikh. It's just 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) away and 25 Egyptian pounds for a taxi. After the boat ride, go to the Old City and then back to the hotel.

Important and useful to know

- Only Muslims are allowed into the mosque on Friday noon. Why? Read the review "Friday in Egypt";

- There are several tour agencies in the Old Town, and their prices are clearly lower than those of the hotel guides. You can go to Ras Mohammed, the Coloured Canyon, Mount Moses or St Catherine's Monastery for less;

- There are several shops selling local alcohol. The prices are about 20% higher than in Egypt on average. For all prices see our review "Egyptian liquor".

Have a nice walk around the Old Town and the market, and read our interesting and useful pages about Egypt (see the list of the pages below).

TIPS FOR TOURISTS

What Don't Do in Egypt

Cheats of Tourists in Egypt

What to Take to Egypt

Sharks in Egypt

To Egypt With Kids

How NOT to Get Poisoned in Egypt

National Holidays in Egypt

Weather in Egypt by Month

MONEY AND EXPENSES

What Money in Egypt

Money Exchange in Egypt

How Much Money to Take to Egypt

TRANSPORT

Taxi in Egypt

Cairo Metro

From Hurghada to Cairo

From Sharm to Cairo

From Hurghada to Luxor

From Cairo to Ain Sokhna

Intercity Buses - Guide

GIFTS, SOUVENIRS, CUSTOMS LAW

What to Bring from Egypt

What You Can & Not Bring in Egypt

What You Can & Not Take out of Egypt

ABOUT EGYPT

What Language is Spoken in Egypt

Who Are the Modern Egyptians

Friday & Weekends in Egypt

Ramadan in Egypt

TELECOM

Internet in Egypt Cheaply

RESORT REGIONS

Sharm El Sheikh

Naama Bay

Hurghada

Ain Sokhna

Mediterranean Rivera

BAD HABITS

Alcohol in Egypt - Prices & Rules

Local Egyptian Alcohol

Cigarettes & Smoking in Egypt

Vape and iQos in Egypt

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