Marsa Alam: The Diamond of the Red Sea

the beach front of marsa alam

Updated On: May 22, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

Marsa Alam is one of the most beautiful cities in Egypt. Many call it the Maldives of Egypt due to its stunning beaches and sparkling waters. Originally a tiny fishing village on the Red Sea, it is just 280 km from Hurghada and 700 km from Cairo. Marsa Alam is now a famous resort town in Egypt, and its development started in 1995. It is distinguished by its elevation above sea level, mountainous nature, and clear 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 planned in the era of Ptolemy II.

Activities in Marsa Alam

Marsa Alam
scuba diving

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.

This lovely city offers many other activities, such as riding camels, going on 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

There are several ways to get to the city: either by plane directly to Marsa Alam International Airport, which will take one hour, or by bus from Cairo, which will take about 10 to 12 hours.

Climate in Marsa Alam

The city’s climate 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, especially from Italy, come to Marsa Alam to enjoy the warm weather more than other cities.

Now, let’s discover this small, lovely resort, see what to do in the magnificent city, and see where you can stay.

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 and 50 km in the Eastern desert mountains. In 2003, Wadi El Gemal was announced as a reserve comprising many diverse marine and mountain resources. 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 know 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, and granite.

Also, consider visiting Hankorab Bay to swim among its excellent 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 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 simple structures made of palm trunks or other elements of the surrounding nature. They help many tourists by acting as their guides.

2. The Lake of the Meteor:

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

The area spans about 3000 square meters, 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 excellent, 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 Marsa Alam, Abu Dabbab Bay is the most significant gathering place for sea turtles 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 in the bay are 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. To preserve the environment and wealth of animal species in the area, it is forbidden to touch, feed, or crowd around them.

4. Mangroves:

Located in the Qula’an area inside Wadi El Gemal Reserve, the Mangroves are inside the water in a breathtaking landscape. A wall surrounds the mangroves to protect them from misuse by visitors and from stepping on their roots, which appear on the ground’s surface. Mangroves vary in height from 3 to 6 meters long.

Mangroves can be found in Wadi El Gemal and Hamata. They are one of the rarest plants on earth and are found in only four places worldwide, including Egypt. The leaves of mangrove trees are used for medicinal purposes, in manufacturing 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 essential activities for tourists in the city, especially in the winter. You can explore more of the desert under the astronomical skies and shining stars. You can ride a camel or a four-wheel car and explore the ancient Bedouin culture 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 trip. 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 and 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 because tourist boats have been removed from the area, and divers have committed 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 cover the sandy parts of the bay. If you decide to dive or snorkel in Marsa Mubarak, 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:

Red Sea Egypt Excursions – One day in Hamata Islands

It consists of three islands, all within the Wadi El Gemal National Park and 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 natural beauty of nature. There are about 450 species of coral and more than 1200 fish species. You will also see many species of birds on the island, like the Sooty Falcon, the Bridled Tern, the Caspian Tern, the Green-Backed Heron, and much more. This is in addition to the beautiful sea creatures, such as dugongs and spinner dolphins.

8. Marsa Alam Astronomy Center:

Other than snorkelling and diving, you can do this in Marsa Alam by visiting the Astronomy Center, located 23 km from Marsa Alam on a little top hill of the Red Sea Mountains, and enjoying learning more about astronomy. There, you will see presentations about the Bedouin tribe of Ababda as you drink traditional tea and coffee.

While there, you will learn more about the night sky, including its seasonal zodiacs, celestial bodies, planets, moon phases, and the region’s extraordinary phenomena. You will also be able to watch the sky with a high-intensity telescope. At 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):

Marsa Alam
Dolphin House

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

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. The second area is swimming, and the third is waiting for tourist boats. Besides the dolphins, there are many kinds of fish, such as butterflyfish, angelfish, barracuda, tuna, and sharks.

10. Berenice:

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

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 to 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 an extensive coral reef collection 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 the whole family to watch the underwater life in the Red Sea as you ride an air-conditioned submarine with a deep hull and 20 panoramic windows offering an excellent underwater view. The windows show coral reefs and tropical fish of different shapes and sizes. You can take beautiful 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. The area is famous for diving, and you can swim among the sea turtles.

14. Qula’an:

As we all know, Marsa Alam is full of many beautiful beaches. Qula’an is one of the best beaches in the city, located in the south, and there, you can see the wonderful nature around you with no encroachments from man-made structures. Its clear water, soft sand, and mangrove trees distinguish it. Tourists go there a lot just to enjoy the beauty of nature and do many activities, like snorkelling and diving, besides that, the excellent 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 have a great time.

15. Port Ghalib:

Marsa Alam
Port Ghalib

Many years ago, Port Ghalib was just a tiny stretch of uninhabited desert coastline until 2011, when it became the most prominent 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 Marsa Alam. There are many things to do in this beautiful place, like having a drink at a table by the marina, enjoying a shopping spree, and attending international music concerts. Also, enjoy the nightlife in Port Ghalib by going to Red Club and the VIP Disco Club based at the Palace, where the DJ plays different styles of house music.

If you want sports, you can go to a diving centre and do water sports activities, including windsurfing, parasailing, and jet skiing. There are many restaurants, and you can try any cuisine you want, like Italian, Lebanese, and Egyptian. It is a fascinating place where you can enjoy doing everything you want all day without going anywhere else.

16. A Day Trip to Luxor:

The Ultimate Travel Guide for One Day in Luxor Egypt | Luxor | Egypt | Things To Do In Luxor

Luxor city is close to Marsa Alam, where you can go for a one-day trip to explore the beauty of Luxor and visit the Valley of Kings, Queens Hatsheput Temple, and Karnak Temple. You can also take a boat on 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, located 139 km north of Marsa Alam. There, you can do a little shopping and then explore the city. There are several shops and bazaars where you can buy artefacts and souvenirs at very affordable prices. Then, you can visit the Ottoman fort, which dates back to 1799 during Napoleon’s era.

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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