Chalkmarks: Quad biking through the Sinai desert, Egypt

CUE the Indiana Jones theme tune. I’m riding through the Sinai desert on a quad bike. It’s like a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

There is the huge blue sky, the sun beating down and a dry wind with only rough rocky hills and high mountains ahead. Far in the distance I can just make out the oasis that is Sharm El Sheikh on the Red Sea coast.

A traditional cotton headdress covers much of my face to protect me from the swirling sand.

No wonder I’m thinking about historical figures like Alexander the Great and Napoleon who marched across this desert. It’s also where Moses saw the burning bush and received the Ten Commandments.

I feel like I’m on an epic journey. But it’s a bouncy and bumpy ride.

Instead of going in a straight line, I’m all over the place, making a wiggly worm through the sand.

It’s very helpful having our guide put me behind him as our group of seven sets off single file. But no sooner do I speed up than I have to squeeze the brakes to slow down again.

Soon I have stiff hands and also have to adjust myself frequently on the seat just to stay on this four-wheeler.

The sun beats down on the dry, windy Sinai desert

Being a great adventurer is seriously hard work, it seems.

But it’s worth it when we meet the Bedouins – their camels a stark contrast to our shiny red quad bikes.

Since ancient times, this group of nomadic people have lived outdoors in this harsh open desert that is three times the size of Wales.

I feel privileged to be following in their footsteps.

When we turn off our engines, it’s very quiet with only the sound of squalling from birds carried on the breeze.

We stop at a Bedouin camp where we’re invited into a large circular shelter covered in hanging cloth, for tea.

We walk past the camels sitting at the entrance and if we want we can climb on and have our pictures taken. It’s exciting to step in to this culture that might not be around come the next century.

All too soon we leave and fix the black and white scarves around our faces, and press on into the desert.

I don’t know what’s in the Bedouin tea but now I’m skimming along, cruising over rocks and overtaking the others. As we drive on, the guide points out abandoned tents and even relics of a cinema.

Chalkmarks Red Sea Natalie Chalk
Snorkeling in Sharm El Sheikh on the Red Sea coast
Chalkmarks Natalie Chalk
Exploring the reefs, corals and colourful tropical fish in the Red Sea

The spectacular birds still swirl above.

While I like to imagine myself an explorer, this experience is open to any regular holidaymaker.

It might feel remote, here in the desert, but the hotel and its crisp linen and hot water are only half an hour away.

Here you can go from dusty to dazzling in just a matter of hours.

I’m staying at the five-star Grand Hotel where the level of luxury seemed overwhelming after the Bedouin tents. On arrival I’m presented with a wet towel to dab at my brow and a welcome cocktail.

The menus are exciting with 12 spots to eat including Indian, Mexican and Mediterranean food. There are five bars with some offering live music.

Then in my room, from the balcony, I have a clear view of the sea.

The hotel has a jetty for snorkeling, which is another highlight of Sharm El Sheikh – with reefs to explore, corals and colourful tropical fish.

If I wanted to just relax, I would never need to do anything energetic. There are sun loungers surrounding the 10 swimming pools and even impressive four-poster beds, from where I can gaze at the night sky full of stars.

But if you prefer flashing lights then it’s time for a change of clothes ready to hit the nightclubs.

At Taj Mahal, party goers are bouncing around a warehouse-sized venue with a swimming pool and two huge elephant statues. A giant screen behind the DJ box plays a montage of cartoons to the beat of the music. He then screams down the microphone “everybody jump.” We do!

Then there’s Soho Square inspired by London even down to the red telephone boxes dotted around. This street is fizzing with shops, restaurants, bars including the Queen Vic Pub, an ice rink and clubs. But more surprising in this desert climate is the Ice Bar.

Everything from the seats, to the drinks bar is carved from ice – giving everything a frosty blue hue. We are given thick duvet-fleece overcoats to help keep warm, but even then the experience is only bearable for a quick drink.

The boom from the Pangaea Night Club leads us quickly upstairs where no one was fearful of the dancefloor. There are plenty of empty seats with ravers stomping as dance classics rained down.

After dark, they really turn up the volume with a chorus of clubbers pumping their fists to the bass line.

It truly is, in the words of the song, Midnight At The Oasis. It’s time to put the camel to bed.

Suggested contents and articles.
Suggested Contents
Chalkmarks picture wins The Sunday Times Big Shot competition!
THIS is my favourite shot taken while hiking the seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria. The landscape was stunning.
Leave behind the drama, it’s calmer in Varna
IF you’re think summer holidays are best on the Med, think again. Natalie Chalk heads to bluest Black Sea resort.
Lisbon’s best kept food secret revealed
TABERNA da Rua Das Flores is a city secret in Lisbon. From the outside, it's unimpressive yet inside the food is extraordinary.