The Minibuses of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

‘Round round get around, I get around’

Sharm El Sheikh, a holiday town on the southern end of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, is a long straggle of resorts and hotels that seem to go on forever. European holiday makers keen to escape the cold flock to Sharm in non-Corona times, with Russians still arriving on masse during the pandemic to get sunburnt on the dusty coast.

Newly arrived in Sharm El Sheikh, I was keen to get to the supermarket to stock up on food for my stay. The stretched-out nature of the place means motorised transport is essential, otherwise you could spend most of your holiday just getting from your hotel to the shops and back. I walked up the main road from my accommodation, through the police barricade that blocked off the street, and looked for a cab to be ripped off by. The prices asked for the trip were outrageous, which I expected, and whilst shaking my head and moving from one cab to another I was approached by a local bloke who asked me where I was going. He then advised me to jump on one of the minibus transports instead.

I had seen the minibuses in other Egyptian cities, but had been a bit nervous about trying them out. For starters, I speak no Arabic, and was worried about not being able to communicate my destination. Secondly, these little vans have an unfeasible number of tiny, after-market seats installed into them, and I would often see them teetering down the road bulging with passengers. I wondered how on earth the punters jammed up the back ever get off. I imagined getting trapped in the back of one of the vans, mute, squashed and unable to feel my legs, watching the city fly by, eventually managing to alight without the faintest idea where I was. However, there is one main road that parallels the coast in Sharm, so I thought bugger it I’ll get on a minibus and see what happens.

The local bloke said to give the driver five pounds (5% of what the cab had quoted for the trip) and tell him my destination. The way the minibuses work is they cruise the main thoroughfares, pipping their horns at anyone walking beside the road, and pulling over wherever and whenever they are hailed. You simply wave one down, jump on, then get off wherever you like. I crossed the street, and it wasn’t long before a shiny blue and white minibus appeared. I waved, it stopped, I slid the door open and climbed in. Handing the driver my five pound note, I gave the name of the supermarket, he nodded, and away we went.

As he navigated the multiple lanes of traffic, the driver skillfully rolled my fiver into a neat cylinder, and jammed it between the van’s door frame and the roof lining, alongside several other little rolls. There was a young bloke riding shotgun in the front, who I assumed was his younger brother. With Arabic pop on the stereo, we cruised Sharm’s main road, slowing and pipping for each potential passenger. An older bloke got on and sat behind me, his fare appearing over my shoulder, which I handed to the driver. A cylinder was retrieved from the roof lining, and handed to me, which I duly passed on. Depending on the distance you are travelling, you pay a set price of a couple of pounds up to five pounds for the longer journeys. No haggling, no rip-offs, everyone seems to know everyone, and there is a nice relaxed vibe on board.

When we reached the supermarket, a girl in her early twenties who was sitting next to me opened the sliding door and got out, allowing me to clamber after her. I thanked the driver, the girl got back on, and the little bus disappeared down the endless road of resort fences and hotels.

After picking up my tucker I hailed another minibus, and squeezed on with my grocery bags. I told the driver the name of my hotel, which he repeated with the correct pronunciation, and then asked me to repeat the name after him. After a couple of attempts and lots of laughs he seemed satisfied, took my ten pound note, rolled and stashed it, and passed me my change.

I have since had many trips on the minibuses, and I’m here to tell you they are efficient, cheap and fun. I’d still be a little reluctant to get on one in the chaos of Cairo, but in an easy-to-navigate place like Sharm El Sheikh, they are definitely the best way to get around.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Questions from the Locals, Inside the Pyramids of Giza

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2 responses to “The Minibuses of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt”

  1. Changa Avatar

    Beach Boys. Too easy Spide

    1. Jim Clayton Avatar
      Jim Clayton

      Yeah that one was a gimme

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