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Marsa Alam: The Diamond of the Red Sea

Marsa Alam is one of the most beautiful cities in Egypt. Many people call it the Maldives of Egypt due to its beautiful beaches and sparkling waters. Marsa Alam used to be a small fishing village, located on the Red Sea, just 280 km away from Hurghada and 700 km away from Cairo. Now, Marsa Alam is a famous resort town in Egypt, as its development started in 1995 and it is distinguished by its elevation above sea level, its mountainous nature, and the clarity of the sea waters.

History of Marsa Alam

The city of Marsa Alam was well known in Ancient Egypt till the Roman period, and you can see evidence of that through some of the inscriptions carved in the rocks depicting images of animals and hunters and also the roads that were planned in the era of Ptolemy II.

Activities in Marsa Alam

Marsa Alam is the perfect place for all windsurfing, scuba diving, and snorkelling lovers, where you will see the clear crystal water, many coral reefs, and a lot of sea creatures and plants.

There are many other activities to do in this lovely city, whether riding camels, going safaris, or simply relaxing by the sea, Marsa Alam is the perfect place for a peaceful and quiet vacation

How to Get to Marsa Alam

In order to go to the city, there are several ways, either by plane directly to Marsa Alam International Airport and it will take one hour, and there is also a bus from Cairo but it will take about 10 to 12 hours.

Climate in Marsa Alam

The climate of the city is like a hot desert with more stabilized temperatures than places in the north, such as Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh. Because of its temperature, most European tourists come to Marsa Alam, especially from Italy, to enjoy the warm weather more than other cities.

Now let us discover this small lovely resort and see what to do in the magnificent city and places that you can stay in.

Things to Do in Marsa Alam:

1. Wadi El Gemal Reserve

It is located about 40 km away from Marsa Alam. Its area is 7,450 km2 and the area contains 60 km of the sea coast, 50 km are in the Eastern desert mountains. In 2003, Wadi El Gemal was announced as a reserve, as it contains many diverse marine and mountain resources. In order to go there, you can take a four-wheel drive, and when you reach Wadi El Gemal, you will see the delta of the reserve where there are rare species of trees, palms, and lakes mixed with saltwater and you will also see the gaps that sea turtles have dug in the sand where they leave their eggs. You will love the fascinating nature more, especially when you see the mangrove tree that grows in seawater. The reserve also contains rare and endangered species of animals, birds, and falcons you might see on your tour there, and there are also rare species of deer, eagles, and rabbits.

Wadi El Gemal Reserve features geological formations filled with precious minerals, such as emeralds, ornamental stones, feldspar, lead, and manganese, there are also ruins of ancient war towers, ancient castles, and sites for intensive gold, gemstones, granite.

Also, consider visiting Hankorab Bay to swim among its wonderful coral reefs. It is a great place for snorkelling and diving lovers and is also suitable for beginners as it is protected from waves and currents. While diving there, you will see many different kinds of fish, such as butterflyfish, parrot, and damask.

When you visit the reserve you, will see how the residents live, herd, and use different plant species for food and trade. Some of the residents of the reserve still live in huts, which are a simple structure made of palm trunks or other elements of the surrounding nature, and they help many tourists acting as their guides.

2. The Lake of the Meteor:

Although still virtually unknown to many because you have to take a special road to get there, the Lake of the Meteor is a very unique destination. The lake is located 14 km south of Marsa Alam, and locals say that a meteorite fell from the sky to earth and that created the hole that was filled over time with wonderful turquoise water.

The area spans about 3000 meters squared, and it is one of the most famous places for diving and is known for its colourful coral reefs. When you visit this lake, you will see the clear blue water, and the temperature there is great which makes many European tourists visit this spot every year to spend a few hours there.

3. Abu Dabbab Bay:

Located about 35 km north of the city of Marsa Alam, Abu Dabbab Bay is the largest gathering place for sea turtles that are threatened with extinction. The bay contains a national and natural wealth of living creatures, so many diving and snorkelling lovers come from all over the world to swim, dive and photograph these peaceful creatures. The seaweeds that are present in the bay have the most distinctive feature of the region.

It is allowed for tourists to snorkel and dive through as long as they are accompanied by guides licensed by the Chamber of Tourism for Diving and Marine Activities, who have 7 members for snorkelling and 5 for diving. In order to preserve the environment and wealth of animal species in the area, it is forbidden to touch them, feed them, or crowd around them.

4. Mangroves:

Located in the Qula’an area inside Wadi El Gemal Reserve, you’ll find the Mangroves inside the water in such a beautiful breathtaking landscape. There is a wall surrounding the Mangroves in order to protect them from misuse by visitors and from stepping on its roots that appear on the surface of the ground. Mangroves vary in height from 3 to 6 meters long.

The Mangroves can be found in Wadi El Gemal and Hamata, and they are one of the rarest plants on the earth and are found in only four places around the world, including Egypt. The leaves of mangrove trees are used for medicinal purposes, in the manufacture of leather tanning, and as natural colour additives.

5. Safari in the Desert of Marsa Alam:

Going on a safari in Marsa Alam is one of the most important activities in the city for tourists, especially in the winter season. You can explore more of the desert under the astronomical skies and the shining stars. You can ride a camel or a four-wheel car and explore the ancient Bedouin culture that lies hidden between the divine sands of western deserts.

Regular safari trips are arranged in the mornings and are carried out by many tourism companies. One of the trips that tourists love doing is the sunset safari trips. One of the best places for safaris is Wadi El Gemal which reaches a distance of about 200 km inside the depth of the desert. Some tourists love to stay for a whole night in the bosom of the desert and experience the beauty of the night sky, stars and watch the bright moon.

6. Marsa Muarak:

Marsa Mubarak is located 60 kilometres north of Marsa Alam and is quite similar to Abu Dabbab Bay with its biological diversity on the coast of the southern Red Sea. Marsa Mubarak has been the shelter and habitat for sea animals and turtles for hundreds of years and that is because of the removal of tourist boats from the area and the commitment of the divers not to disturb these marine creatures.

Also, like other places in Marsa Alam, you can find coral reefs, as the bay consists of sandy soil covered by a vast layer of marine weeds and many small sandhills are covering the sandy parts of the bay. If you decided to dive or snorkel in Marsa Mubarak, then the best place to go diving is in the northern and southern areas and there, you will find a large diversity of hard and soft corals. All the national and natural wealth in the bay made it one of the top places in Marsa Alam for snorkelling and diving and many tourists come here to practice these enjoyable sports.

7. Hamata Island:

It consists of three islands, all of which are within the Wadi El Gemal National Park and are located 130 km south of Marsa Alam with sandy beaches and tranquil lagoons where you can snorkel, swim, and relax.

When you visit the island to go diving, you will see the real beauty of nature all around you. There are about 450 species of coral and more than 1200 species of fish. You will also be able to see a lot of species of birds that live on the island like Sooty Falcon, the Bridled Tern, the Caspian Tern, the Green Backed Heron, and much more, that is in addition to the beautiful sea creatures, such as dugongs and spinner dolphins.

8. Marsa Alam Astronomy Center:

This is something that you can do in Marsa Alam other than snorkelling and diving, which is visiting the Astronomy Center that is located 23 km from Marsa Alam on a little top hill of the Red Sea Mountains and enjoy learning more about astronomy. There, you will see presentations about the Bedouin tribe of Ababda as you drink their traditional tea and coffee.

While you are there, you will learn more about the night sky with its seasonal zodiacs, celestial bodies, planets, the phases of the moon, and special phenomena of the region and watch the sky with a high-intensity telescope. In Marsa Alam Astronomy Center, you will also see a presentation about the star signs and their mythologies and see Life Color Pictures directly through the telescope on the widescreen projector. This is the perfect place for astronomy and nature lovers.

9. Samadi Reefs (Dolphin House):

Samadi Reefs is located south of Marsa Alam. It is called the Dolphin House due to the large presence of dolphins in it. It was named Samadi after the Samad bird that used to visit the area at the time of migration. The area has the largest concentration of dolphins in Africa and the Middle East. There, you can spot many kinds of dolphins, like the spinning and glass-nosed ones.

This place was divided into three areas A, B, and C. The first area is specified for the comfort of dolphins and no activities are allowed in this area, while the second area is for swimming only, and the third area is for waiting for tourist boats. If Other than the dolphins, there are many kinds of fish, such as the butterflyfish, the angels, barracuda, tuna fish, and also sharks.

10. Berenice:

It is a small city located south of Marsa Alam, about 150 km away, and it is one of the destinations for tourists in the Red Sea. The city was constructed in the era of Ptolemy II in 257 BC and it became a commercial port on the Red Sea at that time. The city contains the remains of the temple of Semiramis that was built by Trajan and Tiberius.

The area surrounding the city of Berniece contains many kinds of fish and one of the best healing areas in Egypt beside Siwa in the western desert. There are also coral reefs that many tourists love to explore, and near the beach, you will find the island that is a famous source of aquamarine from 1500 BC until the middle of the twentieth century.

11. Sataya Reef:

This is another place where you can see the dolphins and enjoy your time. It is located 50 km north of Berenice and it is a horseshoe-shaped reef. The place contains a big collection of coral reefs and it extends to a depth from 4 to 40 meters. When you visit the Sataya Reef, you can swim and snorkel with spinner dolphins in their natural habitat, there are also snappers, barracudas, and white sharks, and you will have a great time there. It is like a big lagoon which is not only the home of dolphins but also all types of colourful fish, like angelfish and butterflies that provide flashes of colour.

12. Submarine Tour in Marsa Alam:

It is a lovely trip for all the family to watch the underwater life in the Red Sea, as you ride an air-conditioned submarine that has and deep hull fitted with 20 panoramic windows offering an excellent underwater view. Through the windows, you can see the coral reef and tropical fish of all different shapes and sizes. You can take wonderful pictures and videos of the magnificent underworld and it will be an unforgettable journey for you and your family.

13. Sharm el Lulli:

Sharm el Lulli Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is located inside Wadi El Gemal Reserve and has sparkling clear waters and shining white sand. An area is a famous place for diving where you can swim among the sea turtles.

14. Qula’an:

Marsa Alam as we all know is full of many beautiful beaches, Qula’an is one of the best beaches in the city which is located in the south and there, you can see the wonderful nature around you with no encroachments from man-made structures and it is distinguished by its clear water, soft sand, and mangrove trees. Tourists go there a lot just to enjoy the beauty of nature and do many activities, like snorkelling and diving, besides that, the good temperature and the brightness of the sun make it great for camping too and also, the mangrove trees located within the seawater in the Qula’an area attract hundreds of tourists and Egyptians every day. It is a perfect place to spend a day with friends and family and has a great time.

15. Port Ghalib:

Many years ago, Port Ghalib was just a small stretch of uninhabited desert coastline until 2011 when it turned into the largest tourist resort and marina complex. Port Ghalib is located on the Red Sea coast just 3 km from Marsa Alam’s international airport and 65 km north of the town of Marsa Alam. There are many things to do in this wonderful place like having a drink at a table by the marina or enjoying a shopping spree and the international music concerts held there. Also, enjoy the nightlife in Port Ghalib by going to Red Club and the VIP Disco Club based at the Palace with the DJ playing different styles of House Music.

If you are looking for sports, you can go to a diving centre and do water sports activities, including windsurfing, parasailing, and jet skiing. Restaurants in there are many and you can choose any type of cuisine you would like to try, like Italian, Lebanese and Egyptian. It is a fascinating place where you can enjoy spending all day doing everything you like without bothering yourself to go anywhere else.

16. A Day Trip to Luxor:

Luxor city is close to Marsa Alam, where you can go there for a one-day trip from Marsa Alam, explore the beauty of Luxor, and visit the Valley of Kings, Queens Hatsheput Temple, and Karnak Temple. Also, you can take a boat in the Nile, enjoy the view while relaxing and if you have time, go shopping for souvenirs in Luxor’s vast souq.

17. El Quseir:

If you have much more time, you can visit el Quseir city which is located 139 km north Marsa Alam, where you can do a little shopping and then explore the city. There are couples of shops and bazaars where you can buy artefacts and souvenirs at very affordable prices. Then you can visit the ottoman fort that dates back to 1799 during the era of Napoleon.

Marsa Alam and all the surrounding areas are a unique experience that you will love to see and explore. It will be a journey that you will never forget, with the lovely nature surrounding you and the activities that you can do all day, whether snorkelling or diving, among others.

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