Basata eco-lodge in Nuweiba, Sinai is the epitome of a relaxing holiday
Egypt

Desert Holiday in Nuweiba, Sinai

Do you find yourself longing for a holiday where the whole family can just go back to basics and get in touch with nature? Are you dreading going to a commercial and raucous family resort where you find yourself on one excursion after another when all you want is to sit still and soak up the sun? Two words for you: Nuweiba, Sinai.

What does Nuweiba mean?

Nuweiba is a coastal town in South Sinai, Egypt located on the Gulf of Aqaba. In Arabic it means “bubbling springs”.

Nuweiba weather

The beauty of Sinai, and Egypt in general, is that you can visit any time of the year. It can get pretty hot during the summer months of July and August though. We visited Nuweiba, a town and port located in South Sinai, during the February half-term. The weather was warm during the day. But we had to wear heavier clothes in the evening because it got chilly and breezy.

Huts on the beach and volleyball in Nuweiba
Beach volleyball anyone?

Getting there

We rented a car and drove there. We decided that next time we would be better off taking a coach since it is a 6-hour road trip from Cairo and we didn’t need the car there anyway. If you are arriving to Egypt by plane, then you can fly in to either Sharm El Sheikh airport, which is well connected and a couple of hours away from Nuweiba. There are also airports in the nearby towns of Saint Catherine’s and Taba but these probably need connections from Cairo. In all cases, you will need a taxi or bus to take you to your accommodation in Nuweiba.

Ashgar our camel during the safari
This camel’s name is Ashgar which means Blondie in Arabic

Where to stay

There are lots of hotels and camps in Nuweiba. My husband wanted us to stay at Basata, an eco-lodge that he frequented when he was at university. I had my doubts at first that it would be a good choice but I was in for a pleasant surprise.

The main hut at Basata eco-lodge in Nuweiba
The main hut where you can eat, relax and talk in a communal atmosphere

The ethos of Basata

Basata is Arabic for simplicity and that is exactly the ethos of the place. It is the first eco-lodge in Egypt established in 1986 by married couple Sherif and Maria El Ghamrawy. Everything is built using Egyptian architecture, traditional techniques and natural materials. The staff are doing a stellar job to conserve water, recycle rubbish and protect the environment. Seawater is used to flush toilets and wash dirty dishes and the eco-lodge does not use single-use plastic.

Recycling bins in the kitchen at Basata eco-lodge
Recycling bins separate the waste before taking them to the NGO Hemaya

Accommodation options

You can choose one of three options of accommodation. There are chalets with ensuite bathrooms, electricity and solar-powered water boilers. They were built using white stone from nearby quarries. The furniture, rugs, baskets and accessories throughout the eco-lodge are all produced by the local Bedouin tribes.

The chalets at Basata eco-lodge
The chalets made of stone offer more convenience and privacy
Double bed in a chalet with traditional furnishings
The furnishings are all locally and sustainably sourced

The second option is a hut made of straw, bamboo and palm trees. These don’t have electricity or running water so you need to use the communal bathrooms and showers. There is also a camping site for those of you adventurous enough to get your tents and sleeping bags. A clear perk is you get to sleep under the stars to the sound of the crashing waves.

The camping site at Basata eco-lodge
The camping site at Basata eco-lodge

Cooking and dining

In the main hut is a fully functioning kitchen where you can prepare your own meals as well as outdoor seating for you to eat, relax and socialise. It is up to you to bring your own ingredients, or choose from a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, pulses, pastas and canned food.

The fridge in the kitchen
Help yourself all day and night but remember the honour system

There is a fridge full of soft drinks, juices, dairy and eggs. Just note down whatever you took in a ledger and you pay at the end of your stay. There are mineral water dispensers to fill up your water bottles or make hot drinks. You can bring your own alcohol with you if you want, but there is a code of conduct you have to abide by, out of respect for other guests.

Freshly baked bread
Freshly baked goodies

If you would rather take a holiday from cooking too, a baker comes in every morning to make Egyptian “baladi” bread, pita pockets filled with feta cheese, flatbread with cheddar cheese, pizza, orange cake and anise biscuits. You can also opt in to the dinner which is a selection of Egyptian vegetarian or pescatarian dishes. During our stay, we had zucchini with bechamel, fish and chips, moussaka, battered cauliflower, pasta bake and cheese pastry – delicious!

Things to do in Nuweiba

Enjoy the beach

You can play volleyball, swim or snorkel in the sea provided that you don’t touch any of the corals. If you don’t own any snorkelling gear, you can rent some from the lodge and you can even rent a canoe or paddle boat. Jet skis and boats with engines are not allowed because of their impact on the environment.

Nuweiba beach
It can’t get more relaxing than this

Explore the desert

We went on a hike through the Malha valley and the Weshwashi valley before arriving at an oasis where we had lunch and tea prepared by the Bedouin guides. My daughter was too scared to ride the camel so we did the whole 5-hour hike on foot. But at least they carried our stuff and we had our hands free to pick up litter which we recycled back at the camp. The Bedouin guides can also arrange for you to camp outdoors overnight if that is your thing. In doing so, you would be able to visit other attractions such as the Coloured Canyon and hot water springs.

Oasis in Nuweiba
The oasis where we had lunch in the shade of the palm trees

Visit Saint Catherine’s Monastery

The Burning Bush at Saint Catherine's Monastery
The monastery’s official name is the Greek Orthodox monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai

I have visited Saint Catherine’s monastery three times already and every time I go I am taken back by its significance. It holds the relics of Saint Catherine as well as a fantastic library holding ancient manuscripts and books. We stopped at the Moses well and as the Burning Bush which is believed to be site where Moses spoke to God. The monks are quite strict when it comes to noise and they also don’t allow photos or videos to be taken inside the church. The monastery is closed on Fridays and Sundays as well as any other festival days in the Greek Orthodox Church calendar. It is open from 9 – 11:30 am otherwise.

Climb Mount Sinai

Saint Catherine's Monastery in South Sinai
I climbed Mount Sinai only once when I was a student at university and I am not keen on doing it again anytime soon! It is kind of a once in a lifetime thing!

There are lots of mountains in Sinai but perhaps the most famous of them is Mount Sinai. In Arabic it is called “Jabal Mousa” or Moses Mountain and it is believed to be the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Lots of pilgrims climb Mount Sinai every year. It takes anywhere between 5 and 8 hours and most pilgrims start at midnight so they can be at the summit before dawn. There are two ways to do it. You can either climb up on foot, which as you can imagine is quite a tiring journey up steep, crumbling steps. Another option is to use camels for most of the journey and then climb some steps at the end. Make sure you wear hiking boots and have enough water and snacks with you.

Simply chillax

After all, this is a desert holiday in an eco-lodge in South Sinai, with no TV or Wi-Fi, so you might as well chill. My daughter and I did our yoga on the beach every morning and during the evenings we read, played cards and talked to other lodgers. Basata has a quaint library where you can borrow books and board games if you forgot to bring your own. Habiba, the camp’s dog and half a dozen stray cats also kept us entertained. My daughter also loved gazing up at the stars and used a star gazing app on her tablet to find out the names of the constellations and planets.

What to pack

Whatever accommodation your family will stay in make sure to bring these with you:

  • Wet wipes
  • Toilet roll
  • Tissue paper
  • Toiletries
  • Towels
  • Swimwear
  • Flashlight
  • Water bottle
  • Food (optional)
  • Snorkelling gear (optional)
  • Insect repellant (during the summer)

If you booked a hut, in addition to the above, bring these too:

  • Bedding
  • Pillows
  • Blankets (during the winter)

If you are going camping, then you would need these too:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag

Looking for another desert adventure?

If you like the sound of Nuweiba, you might like other desert holidays in Egypt such as Fayoum or Dakhla. If you are more of a budget backpacker, then check out this great blog post about Dahab by Moheb Wessa aka The Wanderer Pharaoh titled Dahab Egypt’s expats & backpackers paradise.

Before you go, pin this article about Nuweiba!

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mirofromcairo
<p>My name is Miriam and I live in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, daughter and Labrador! I am passionate about reading and enjoy travelling and writing so much that I started my own family travel blog. My nickname at university was Miro hence the name for my blog - Miro from Cairo</p>

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