It seems that Covid-19 has changed the touristic destination map for many Egyptians and for honeymooners in particular. While in the past they used to travel to Phuket, Bali, or various Thai and Indonesian islands, in addition to one or other of the European countries, today many Egyptians have diverted their honeymoon destinations to other destinations due to the Covid-19 pandemic and new travel regulations.
So, instead of heading to Thailand or Malaysia, now there is Zanzibar, Albania or the Maldives. Instead of Europe, now there is Egypt’s Red Sea.
“It is strange to think of Zanzibar as a travel destination, but it is very beautiful and lies in the Indian Ocean where the sea is magnificent. It does not have many luxurious hotels, but it provides many reasonable ones,” said Dina Al-Salawy, a travel blogger and the founder of Tripulse.
“Couples mainly enjoy private pool villas, full moon parties, and many sea activities,” she said. Travelling to Zanzibar requires a yellow card signalling protection from malaria and other infectious diseases.
“Dubai, Beirut and Istanbul are other options, but they are all cities at the end of the day. Istanbul is difficult when it comes to preparing papers. It requires security permission, a PCR test and a visa. So, it can be difficult for honeymooners who are already busy with other things,” Al-Salawy said.
This is why many honeymooners might prefer the Maldives or Zanzibar, which do not require visas, to avoid the paper hassle that might accompany other countries. Whereas European destinations remain some of the best for many Egyptians, many honeymooners find the PCR and vaccine restrictions difficult to grasp amid all the wedding arrangements.
Many couples in Egypt have also chosen to spend their honeymoon trips in Egypt, where there are many magnificent beaches. Many choose Marsa Alam, Al-Gouna, Sahl Hasheesh, Sharm El-Sheikh or Hurghada. In addition to the low prices in comparison to the Maldives, the Red Sea coast is a major draw for honeymooners.
“I went to Hurghada last May due to Covid-19 and spent the most relaxing two weeks ever. We chose a resort with a private pool, and it was amazing,” Shaimaa Abu Kheir, a newly married woman, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“The resorts in Egypt are beautiful, comfortable, and have everything one could ask for. We did not have to go outside the hotel except for the safari,” she added.
Covid-19 travel restrictions have meant limited options for couples when choosing their honeymoon dream trips. “We always dreamt of our honeymoon as a kind of exploration, like a tour in Europe. We have different interests, so we wanted to go sight-seeing, try different kinds of food and discover new activities,” said Serene Al-Awad, an undergraduate teaching assistant at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport.
Al-Awad, who is planning her wedding arrangements for October, said that “we have always dreamt of exploring cities in Europe for our honeymoon or to enjoy a Mediterranean cruise. Ahmed and I planned everything two years ago. But then everything changed because of Covid-19.”
“My honeymoon is my first trip ever with my partner. As we do not like relaxation and just travelling much, I would rather go for activities and try different cultures and meet different people,” she added.
“But we have very limited options now, like Dubai, Zanzibar, Albania, the Maldives and Turkey. They are all equally pleasant. I think the choice will depend on a couple’s preferences.”
Albania has perhaps surprisingly become a top destination for many Egyptians. It does not require vaccinations and PCR tests. With very limited paper requirements, many Egyptians find it a very suitable and cheap destination when travelling abroad.
“Cheap. Magnificent. Adventurous.” With these three words, Mohsen and Mona, a newly married couple, described Albania when they returned from a honeymoon with a travel agency.
Albania has magnificent landmarks and a stunning natural environment that resembles the best of Europe. “Its mountains and sparkling beaches were the perfect spot for our honeymoon,” added the couple.
“In addition, the country is very cheap in comparison to counterparts elsewhere in Europe, which makes it an affordable destination for many Egyptians,” they said, adding that they had been looking at both beach resorts and different cultures to explore. They had found what they were looking for in Albania.
Most honeymooners do not have sophisticated plans. “We went as part of an organised programme as we had no time for visa requirements, PCRs or additional paper documents. That was one of the reasons we chose Albania,” Mohsen and Mona said.
Sally Hassan and her husband had a different idea of how to spend their honeymoon amid the Covid-19 travel restrictions. They chose a round trip in Egypt that they organised themselves. “We chose to go to three beautiful cities in Egypt to spend our honeymoon: Al-Alamein, Sahl Hasheesh and Al-Gouna,” Sally said.
“We booked our flights and hotels and even planned our daily programme to enjoy every minute of our 11-day holiday,” she added.
They were stunned by the different activities and places they explored. “We were able to visit three different beautiful resorts on both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Each has its own exquisite style, and each has its own stunning beauty,” they concluded.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly