Taba holidaysThe sample prices are per person based on two people travelling!
The official language in the Red Sea resort of Taba is Egyptian Arabic, although English is spoken in the purpose-built resort complex of Taba Heights and in the two Taba town resort hotels.
The official currency in Taba is the Egyptian pound (EGP, LE or £). Banks and currency exchange offices in Taba town or Taba Heights resort are the safest way to exchange money, with streetside currency exchange best avoided. Most credit and debit cards are accepted in Taba Heights and a number of large outlets in Taba town, and in the major hotels at both locations euro and US dollars may also be accepted. For everything else, cash is king.
Tourist visa are necessary for most visitors to Taba, with citizens of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the US, Australia and Canada granted visas on arrival. The cost varies, with UK citizens paying £15, US arrivals US$15, Irish visitors €15, Australians A$45 and Canadians C$26. Citizens of most other countries are required to arrange their visas before arrival at an Egyptian embassy and should check online for procedures and costs. Visitors arriving at Sharm el Sheikh Airport or on foot at Taba’s border crossing are granted a free 14-day tourist visa restricted to the Aqaba Coast region.
Due to its desert setting at the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, Taba has a hot, arid climate that makes it a year-round holiday destination. Summer highs reach 40°C, with low humidity and breezes from the Gulf ameliorating the heat, and winter temperatures average around 22°C. Rain is scarce year-round in this desert climate, and visitors should remember that nights, especially in the desert, can be chilly outside the high summer season.
July and August are the hottest months, with air-conditioning a necessity and provided everywhere in the modern hotels and indoor resort amenities. Summer evenings are pleasant, with temperatures of around 27°C, and the sea is perfect for an evening swim. The best time to visit as regards weather is any month outside baking-hot July and August.
Taba International Airport is a small facility located 35kms from Taba and serving mainly seasonal charter flights as well as domestic and regional destinations. The airport is also used by the Egyptian military. Facilities are basic and include a duty-free shop.
Holidaymakers from the UK are served by year-round Thomson Airways flights from London-Gatwick and Manchester. Jetairfly offers a seasonal flight from Brussels and Transavia flies from Amsterdam. Egypt Air flies to Cairo and FlyDubai serves Dubai, with Finnair flying from Helsinki. Other services include Orenair from Moscow, Doha with Qatar Airways and Sharjah and Alexandria with Air Arabia. Flight time from London to Taba averages 5 hours.
Due to the lack of competitive flight services to Taba from the UK, there’s not much chance of a cheap flight unless you head for Sharm el Sheikh airport some 200kms or seven hours from Taba by road. Off-season or late-booking deals may be possible via charter airlines, and prices in the Taba luxury hotels are highest in the summer season. Ground transportation in and around Taba is by bus, taxi or organised tour. The direct long-distance bus route from Taba to Cairo is presently closed to foreign passengers.
It’s possible to arrive by bus in Taba from Eilat in Israel via the border crossing outside Taba town. There is a marina at Taba Heights with ferry sailings to the Jordanian city of Aqaba, but the trips are restricted to organised tour groups. The train journey from London to Cairo takes around three days and onward transportation by bus to Taba involves a long reroute through Sharm el Sheikh.
There is little organised transportation infrastructure in the region as until just few years ago, Taba was just a small Bedouin village set on a border crossing. Organised tours are the best way to get around, as the bus service is far from comprehensive and may travel through areas deemed unsafe for foreigners. Cairo and Alexandria can be reached by air with Egypt Air and Air Arabia, respectively.
The only domestic air links with the rest of Egypt are flights to Cairo with Egypt Air and to Alexandria with Air Arabia.
Long-distance buses leave from Taba Bus Station, a kilometre from the border, and run to Sharm el Sheikh and other Red Sea resort destinations, as well as north to Cairo via Sharm. Schedules change frequently so it’s best to ask at your hotel for bus times. The East Delta Bus Company connects Cairo with destinations on the Sinai Peninsula including Taba, but the journey is uncomfortable, with many unscheduled stops. Free hotel shuttle buses run around Taba and Taba Heights.
It’s possible to rent a car in Taba, but those wishing to tour the region by hire car should check their government’s website for travel warnings. Taba is located in an isolated region, with organised tours the best way to see nearby sites of interest, although this doesn’t give the freedom of self-drive. Roads in the area are sparse and mostly in poor condition, and local drivers ignore the rules of the road. Signposting is rare and in Arabic but, for drivers prepared for the conditions, self-drive can be a fantastic way to explore.
Taba resort lies in two areas, the original Bedouin village of Taba which is now home to two huge hotel resorts and the recently-opened Taba Heights resort complex, offering a choice of luxury hotels and amenities, and located some 20kms from Taba village. The azure-blue Gulf of Aqaba fronts the region and the arid mountains of the Sinai Desert surround the village and the resort complex. In spite of its remoteness, there are a good number of attractions and things to do, both within the hotel complexes and the region’s dramatic desert scenery.
Pharoah’s Island is just offshore and is a hub for snorkelling, diving and other water sports, all of which are easily accessed by a short boat trip. Here, you’ll find some of the warmest and clearest waters in the world, with coral reefs teeming with marine life including angelfish, puffers, moray eels, parrot fish, octopus and turtles. Don’t miss the tiny 12th century Crusader castle at the peak of the island, once occupied by the historic Arab leader Saladin. The island’s picturesque fjord has featured in many Egyptian movies.
If the mysterious desert attracts you, there are several ways to experience it up close and personal. Quad bike safaris are for the adventurous, with endless dunes opening up as you whiz past at high speed. For a more relaxing desert trip, a Bedouin-led camel safari is a journey back in time to when the comically bad-tempered beasts were the only way to travel. Another option is a jeep safari, travelling with a guide to explore the dramatic, deserted canyons of the desert peaks.
The tiny town of Taba has little in the way of landmarks, but the ancient land surrounding it holds remnants of its long history and areas of dramatic, unspoilt beauty. Set at the foot of Mount Sinai, St Catherine’s Monastery is the most-visited attraction here for its UNESCO World Heritage site status and its fame as one of the Christian world’s oldest still-functioning religious sites. Dating from the 6th century, the monastery contains the Chapel of the Burning Bush, the legendary site where Moses heard God’s voice issuing from the flames.
Castle Zaman, a rebuilt Crusader castle overlooking the Gulf of Aqaba, makes for an enjoyable daytrip from Taba for its magnificent views and luxurious visitor amenities, including a first-class restaurant, a swimming pool and candlelit evening atmosphere. Several hours’ drive from Taba is the Sinai Desert’s spectacular Coloured Canyon with its sandstone hues of red, purple, magenta yellow and gold, a popular visitor destination that is only accessible by guided tour. To the southwest of Taba is a protected area which is well worth a visit for its geological formations and indigenous wildlife.
The desert regions and waters around Taba are now designated as the Ras Mohamed National Park and hold some of the world’s best dive and snorkelling sites. Part of the area is the Waterworld Marine Park and underwater observatory at Taba Heights, the perfect setting for a watery holiday. King Solomon’s Pillars are impressive natural geological landmarks a short drive away, and a fascinating daytrip can be taken to Petra, Jordan’s Rose Red City.
Due to its recent popularity as an international holiday resort, Taba isn’t exactly the hottest nightlife centre in Egypt. Most evening activities take place in the resort hotels in Taba Heights and the village itself. All-night parties and international DJs have yet to arrive, but the hotels themselves organise nightly events suited to most visitors, including traditional dance displays featuring seductive belly-dancers.
Outdoor discos, family-friendly shows, cocktail happy hours, dining to the sound of traditional music while watching the spectacular Red Sea sunsets or even enjoying the Egyptian version of a Broadway musical are all great ends to a day on the beach or a tour around the region.
If you’re feeling lucky, the Hilton Hotel complex in Taba village has its own casino, as does the Hyatt Regency in Taba Heights. All the favourite games such as blackjack, poker and roulette are offered, and there are nightly shows and events at both venues as well as sophisticated bars and cocktail lounges.
Taba also boasts the weekly Friday night El Wakala Street Festival featuring entertainment, food and traditional music, and Egypt’s many national holidays are celebrated in similar fashion. Scattered around the village are restaurants with attached bars and lounges that are perfect for a drink and conversation with friends before heading off to the casinos.
A good spot for early evening alcoholic refreshment is the Hilton resort’s Nelson Village Pub, and the Marriot’s soundproofed Cave Bar is great for contemporary music and dancing. Bedouin nights are offered by several hotels and include displays of belly-dancing.
Egyptian cuisine is a mix of the diverse civilisations active in the region over several thousand years and is found along with a wide selection of international foods in Taba and Taba Heights hotels and restaurants. Traditional dishes rely heavily on legumes and vegetables, with the fertile Nile Valley the source for many ingredients. Vegetarians will be in culinary heaven here, as will lovers of fresh seafood dishes.
Pita bread, known as eish masri, is the backbone, eaten with every meal and used to mop up dips and sauces. Kushari, a pasta dish flavoured with tomato sauce and containing chickpeas, caramelized onions, lentils, rice and garlic, is the national dish, and ful madames, fava beans served with garlic, lemon juice and oil, dates back to the Pharaonic era. Fatta is a delicious meat dish prepared with stewed beef that is layered with fried bread and rice in a vinegar and garlic stock.
Another dish dating back to the time of the Pharoahs is feseekh, offered during the spring festival and consisting of salted, dried and fermented grey mullet served with lemon and bread. Eaten as a dessert in most Middle Eastern countries but served for breakfast and as a snack here is halawa, made from sesame seed paste which is mixed with pistachios, almonds and pine nuts and served with lashings of honey.
A speciality here is the soft, mild gibna domiati white cheese made with buffalo milk. It’s either eaten on its own with bread or used in dishes such as sambousak, a fried pastry, or the mesh dip, where it’s combined with tomatoes. The cheese itself is aged for up to three years in sealed cans before it’s eaten. Falafel, kebabs and macaroni béchamel are other popular dishes which are well-known to most visitors, and aubergines and vine leaves are widely used in main dishes.
The gems in Taba’s crown are undoubtedly its glorious beaches and the warm azure seas of the Gulf of Aqaba, with the added bonus of far fewer tourists than at the other large resorts on the Red Sea Riviera. Several of the hotels at Taba Heights overlook the soft sands of Taba Heights Beach, so you’re just a step away from the breathtakingly clear waters and their famous dive and snorkelling sites. A little farther along the coast are tiny, deserted bays perfect for picnics and swimming.
Even though most of Taba is modern and constructed for the tourist trade, there’s an air of romance about it due to the closeness of the mysterious desert. Taking a desert safari by camel into the remote Sinai and spending a night in a Bedouin tent under an endless canopy of sparkling stars is an unmatched romantic experience. The Bedouin guides come from families whose lifestyle has followed the same pattern for millennia, an aspect that will enhance your experience.
The resort hotels in Taba and Taba Heights are more than happy to welcome families with children, and the excellent amenities ensure the holiday of a lifetime for all family members. Kids will love the sand and sea, and most hotels offer children’s pools, play areas and organised activities, keeping the little ones happy while their parents enjoy an afternoon’s spa service or a game of golf on the Taba Heights professional-standard course.
Adventure holidays in Egypt invariably involve water sports and desert trips, with Taba no exception to the rule. Diving options here are among the world’s best, with incredibly clear waters and pristine coral reefs. The resort’s dramatic setting backed by the mountains, dunes and deep canyons of the Sinai Desert gives endless opportunities for exploration by jeep or quad bike. For visitors who’d rather be on the sea than in it, Taba Heights’ new marina offers sailing and fishing.