Halfway between Cairo and Sharm El Sheikh, an exposed stretch of the Gulf of Suez named Moon Beach is buffeted eight months of the year by strong crosswinds. The gusts and the loose, dry sand make sunglasses mandatory and windsurfing de rigueur.
According to Greg Taylor, co-owner of the off-grid Moon Beach Windsurfing Center, the unique conditions along this stretch of coast are the result of serendipitous topography. "In Egypt you get thermal winds, and we have some hills right behind us so when the wind blows along the coast it gets accelerated," he explains.
A cluster of simple, stone bungalows 21 miles from the nearest town, the center is a decidedly low-key departure from spit-shined Sharm. The main windsurfing center has a beach bar, a welcome relief from both heat and sharia, just a few feet from the water's edge. The bottles of Luxor Classic beer are as windswept and sun-bleached as everything else.
The surf center rents everything windsurfers need for a day on the water and offers beginners lessons with resident experts. For those not looking to catch a gust, there are myriad kayaks, short boards, snorkels, and standup paddleboards. If they end up spending most of their time in the water, first-timers have an even better chance of mingling with the pod of friendly dolphins that frequents this part of the coast.
When the sun finally sets, surfers all head toward the dimly lit tables and low-slung couches that seem to have washed up on Moon Beach like flotsam. Stories are shared in the comfort of the chilly dark.
More info: Moon Beach offers packages including accommodation and windsurfing lessons, and will arrange airport pickups in Sharm. Gear rental for a week and eight hours of classes start at around $185, and a week at the hotel starts at around $500.