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Sharm-ing experience; CATHRINA HULSE takes a break in Sharm El Sheikh and makes a new friend.

SO riding a camel wasn't quite at the top of my 'must-do' list when I first excitedly prepared for my trip to Sharm El Sheikh in January.

In fact, winter sun and a cocktail or two were the top contenders.

But Callum the camel actually became a highlight of this luxury short break, particularly when he expertly drank a can of Coca-Cola!

I had flown with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul and from the moment I stepped on the plane I knew I was in for a super experience.

Voted Europe's Best Airline and Best Business Catering Service, the airline flies to 261 destinations around the world in 108 countries.

Within the UK it has a presence at five airports - Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh - and has 89 weekly scheduled flights from the UK.

Pampering was certainly on the agenda when I arrived at the five-star Royal Savoy Hotel in SOHO Square Sharm El Sheikh Soho Bay complex.

The resort has three pools including a heated one, and guests also have access to the private Knight Beach.

Dining at this luxury hotel is impressive with seven restaurants available and clients at the Royal Savoy can also take advantage of a selection of tasty canapes which are available throughout the day.

The rooms are amazing. Mine came complete with a stunning four-poster bed and Jacuzzi. Each day the maid left a tasty treat which, in a hotel already groaning with wonderful food, made me feel rather greedy!

Sharm is a busy resort and long popular with British tourists, and it's easy to see why with the sunny all-year-round climate, superb diving and plenty to do.

My travelling companions and I had a full agenda lined up and one of my favourite days out involved a quad bike!

There are several desert safari trips on offer and there is nothing quite as exhilarating as being astride four wheels as the barren landscape stretches ahead.

This is where my friend Callum made an appearance as the local Bedouins laid out hand-made trinkets for tourists to buy, and we clambered on board our rather smelly friend!

The resort is renowned for its world-class diving facilities where visitors can discover exotic marine life or try a spot of snorkelling, and we sported our sea legs with a trip on the Red Sea.

Most of the vessels will drop anchor to allow guests to snorkel with the marine life but for those not brave enough to enter the rather cold January waters, a submarine tour was next on the itinerary, where we had a fantastic close-up of myriad colourful fish and coral reefs.

There is always something going on in Sharm and a meander down the main strip of Naama Bay was enlightening as bar tenders jostled to entice customers in.

This is a lively area and popular with tourists. But if you're after something a bit more upmarket to while away your leisure time, then Soho Square is the place to be.

The largest shopping and entertainment centre in the Red Sea region, it offers a wealth of activities.

By day, try a spot of ice-skating or bowling then by night there's a square mile of top restaurants and bars.

We were lucky enough to try the Teppanyaki restaurant which boasts a selection of fresh steak, lamb and fish cooked in front of you by lively chefs. Feeling hot, we headed to the super cool Ice Bar where everything is crafted from ice and entry includes your choice of drink.

For those still in the party mood, head across to Pangaea nightclub. It's Sharm's first international nightclub and boasts top sounds, lasers and strobes as well as international drinks and cocktails.

Our travelling party also managed to find time to visit Genena City King Tut Museum which houses an important collection of copies of King Tut exhibits from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

There are 135 pieces, as well as some of the documents belonging to Howard Carter, who discovered the tomb in 1922.

Our stay flew by and we all agreed that Sharm El Sheikh had a wealth of entertainment and luxury to offer.

The resort is definitely on my 'revisit' list. I just hope that when I return that my new friend Callum remembers me!

NEED TO KNOW CATHRINA HULSE | visited Sharm El Sheikh as a guest of Turkish Airlines.

Return prices from |Birmingham to Sharm El Sheik start from PS307 (all inclusive), with diving equipment carried free of charge.

See www.turkishairlines. |com for more information.

Passengers flying with |Turkish Airlines can now use their transit time visiting the sights of Istanbul instead of simply waiting at the airport.

Tours by TourIstanbul and |with English speaking guides, are offered three times daily. During the tour, customers will experience the city's most significant historical sites including the Basilica Cistern, the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome of Constantinople, the Hagia Sophia Museum, and Istiklal Avenue.

For full information click |the Touristanbul banner on the www.turkishairlines.com website or by visit www.istanbulinhours.com

CAPTION(S):

Cathrina Hulse and a colleague wrapped in headscarves with one |of the jeep safari guides

Callum the camel |takes a new passenger

| The Royal Savoy resort in Sharm El Sheikh and, inset, |the chef at the Terryaki restaurant and getting close to the reef and its wildlife with the submarine boat
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 17, 2015
Words:895
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