The international airport in Hurghada has become the main hub for resort tourism on the northern end of the Red Sea coast. Not only are small towns such as Quseir and Safaga within easy reach, but a number of world-class resort compounds, such as Soma Bay, Sahl Hashish, and Gouna, are an easy transfer away.

The town itself, however, is another matter. In fact, when tourism experts get together to discuss development, it's usually only a matter of time before Hurghada comes up as an example of what to avoid. A gold-rush approach to building hotels has left this tourist town an ugly mess. The beaches have been divided between the resorts, and there is almost no public space from which you can see the water. Streets and squares are badly designed and hard to get around, and even if there were somewhere to go, it's all so spread out that you need a taxi for almost anything. To cap it all off, nobody really seems to want to be there -- the locals have all come to make a quick buck off the tourists and would rather be back in their home villages, and the hassle-tired tourists you see on the streets generally look like they'd rather be back on the beach watching the palm trees.

Warning: The Rumor Mill

You hear it everywhere you go in Egypt, recounted with the same wide-eyed wonderment with which Dick Whittington would have received the news that the streets of London were paved with gold: Foreign women come to Hurghada to meet and have sex with Egyptian men. To working-class men in Egypt, whose relations with the opposite sex are tightly circumscribed by tradition and who may not be able to get married until well into their 30s or even 40s, this is thrilling news, indeed. Whatever the merits of the story, the result is that female tourists in Hurghada, particularly those traveling alone, report a disturbing level of harassment. Keep in mind that what passes for banal conversation in the West may well be seen as an overt come-on when it takes place in the street or in a taxi in Egypt, and that the concept of consent is not as clearly defined in this context as it may be in your mind. Unless you wish to indicate a serious desire to move the relationship to an intimate plane, do not sit in the front seat of a taxi, do not let a man touch you anywhere (even shaking hands may be over the line, let alone accepting a hug or a kiss on the cheek), and do not go anywhere alone with a man whom you do not absolutely trust.