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Red Sea Riviera – Local Beach Roundup Part II

Egypt’s aptly-named Red Sea Riviera encompasses all the beaches along the Red Sea, both on the Sinai Peninsula and the eastern coast of Egypt’s mainland. On the mainland, from Ain Sokhna to Marsa Alam, one will find a variety of experiences. Expansive resorts sit alongside more adventurous hotels, delicious fish restaurants beside hip clubs. The coast attracts honeymooners and families alike. Divers from around the world make the Red Sea, with its abundant and exotic coral and sea life, a prime destination. Swimmers enjoy the water, which is cooler and with less strong currents than the Mediterranean. Al-Masry Al-Youm reviews what Egypt’s east coast has to offer.

Ain Sokhna

Just below Suez, Ain Sokhna is approximately 120km from Cairo, making it an enjoyable day-trip destination from the city. The Red Sea at Ain Sokhna is very shallow, and while this may be nice for small children just getting their feet wet, it could be a little boring for an adult looking for a long swim.

Budget: Residences in Ain Sokhna used to be a low budget option, but nowadays they can be a very expensive venture. If you go to Stella, the beach’s most popular resort, expect a high budget vacation.

Hotels: Stella di Mare Grand Hotel/ Movenpick – high budget. Jaz at the Little Venice Resort – medium range. Ramada – as low as LE250 for day use with lunch.

Beachwear: Most of the beaches in Ain Sokhna are private, either belonging to a residential compound or to a hotel, and people are fairly open to regular swimwear and bikinis.

Places of interest: Dolphin sightings at the Ramada and the Movenpick

How to get there: Rent a car or hitch a ride with friends. Road toll is LE5 each way and there is only one gas station, so if you’re low on gas, you’d better fuel up before you get on the road.

El Gouna

This village on the Red Sea is much further south of Cairo than Ain Sokhna, but only 25km north of Hurghada, our third stop along the shore. Inspired by developer Samih Saweris, El Gouna offers a luxurious and eco-friendly alternative to the corporate sprawl of Sharm el-Sheikh (on the peninsula) and the disorganized feel of Hurghada. El Gouna’s multitude of activities and small-town charm make it a great vacation spot.

Budget: Medium to high

Hotels: Arena Inn (3-star) at approximately LE300. Sheraton Miramar or Movenpick at approximately LE750 per night.

Beachwear: Regular swimwear, including bikinis, is completely acceptable. Swimming in everyday clothing is not allowed.

Places of interest: For entertainment, the Marina is a nice option. At night, head to Arena, a great club. The club house also hosts good parties.

How to get there: By plane into Hurghada. By car, take the Ain Sokhna road and continue toward Hurghada.


Spread over 36km of shore and boasting a number of resorts, an old town and a bazaar, Hurghada is a real city. Beaches there are usually resort-affiliated, and to avoid spending your entire vacation in a resort you will need a car. Nightlife and Joker, Hurghada’s famous fish restaurants, are a distance away from the resorts.

Budget: From low to high and everything in between.

Hotels: Hotels range from the highly recommended 3-star Triton Empire Inn at LE150 a night, to the very fancy Jaz Makadi Star at LE1200 a night.

Beachwear: Because Hurghada is popular with European tourists, the resort beaches are accustomed to guests showing skin. Women will occasionally sunbathe topless, but the practice is frowned upon. A bikini or one-piece bathing suit are both acceptable.

Places of interest: The sea! A traveller wishing for a little more should consider a day trip to an island or a couple of hours on a submarine. Hurghada also has an aquarium.

How to get there: By plane, or via the Ain Sokhna road.

Sahl Hasheesh

Known as a honeymoon resort for locals, Sahl Hasheesh is located 20km south of Hurghada. Historically, the Oberoi hotel has been the main destination, but in recent years the governorate has begun developing apartments, hotels and resorts, and a golf course.

Budget: Medium to high.

Hotels: From the Palm Beach Piazza at LE250 a night to the Oberoi Sahl Hasheesh at LE1500.

Beachwear: The Oberoi offers honeymooners (or guests who make a special request) special rooms with private pools and jacuzzis, where you can wear whatever you want. Elsewhere on the beach, bathing suits are fine.

Places of interest: Luxor is three hours by car from Sahl Hasheesh, making it a nice option for a day trip, as long as you’re not the one driving.

How to get there: Fly to Luxor or Hurghada and take a bus, or take a bus directly from Cairo.

Safaga and Quseir

Further along the coast are Port Safaga and Quseir, which are surrounded by resorts such as Soma Bay and Makadi Bay as well as numerous hotels. Be sure to ask about the quality of the beach before you book a hotel: many have rocky beaches and choppy seas unwelcoming to vacationing swimmers.

Budget: Varies from low to high.

Hotels: The bungalows at Rocky Valley Ecolodge run around LE100 per night, while the Kempinski hotel has rooms for LE1000.

Beachwear: Safaga is a working port, so it’s best to be a little conservative. In your resort, however, bathing suits and bikinis are fine.

Places of Interest: There are a number of historical sites and natural parks in the area. Be sure to check with your hotel for featured excursions. There’s not a lot of nightlife in Safaga and Quseir, but there are little bars and pubs for a casual drink. For a nice seafood dinner right next to the sea, try the Quseir Corner restaurant.

How to get there: A bus from el-Gisr Street in Cairo’s Bulaq neighborhood (operated by the Upper Egypt Bus company) will take you along the coastal route via Hurghada.

Marsa Alam

Marsa Alam is relatively undiscovered, in part because it is so far away from Cairo, but the residents are welcoming to tourists who decide to make the journey.

Budget: Varies

Hotels: Rihana Guest House offers rooms for LE150 per night, while a room at the Shams Alam Resort can run to LE750. Marsa Alam also has ecolodges like Sharga Vilage and Um Tondoba.

Beachwear: It depends on the resort. Some 3-star hotels have a lot of local tourists from the south of Egypt, and therefore may require a little more care to be taken in beach or poolside dressing. Elsewhere, bikinis are acceptable. Bear in mind that during the off-season, when resorts are barely inhabited, one should travel with a companion or else expect to feel very isolated.

Places of Interest: Although Aswan is nearby, if you are a tourist or with tourists, traveling by road to Aswan will require a stop in Hurghada first.

How to get there: The bus (operated by the Upper Egypt Bus Company) from Bulaq to Marsa Alam takes approximately 12 hours.

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