Marsa Alam is a 275 km south of Hurghada, an Egyptian resort town on the Red Sea coast. It grew out of a small fishing settlement and today has become one of the fastest growing resorts in the country, receiving tourists from different countries. The name “Marsa Alam” means “fish village” in Arabic.
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Video: Marsa Alam
The resort infrastructure stretches along the sea. An international airport opened here in 2001, and since then new hotels and other tourist facilities have been built every year in Marsa Alam. The city is populated by about 10 thousand people, half of whom are employed in tourism and hotel business. The rest of the inhabitants breed camels and sheep, fish, and work in granite and marble quarries and mines.
Travelers come to Marsa Alam for a good beach holiday, families with children love to spend their vacations here, but an overwhelming number of travelers choose this Egyptian resort because of the excellent conditions for diving. The coastal waters are home to dolphins, hammerhead sharks, turtles, dugongs and manta rays. And the seabed in the coastal strip is covered with picturesque coral reefs.
From the Egyptian resort are popular ATV safaris through the hilly surroundings. In addition, vacationers love to go on excursions to Abu Dabab Bay, the beautiful Kulan Islands, the famous valley of the pharaohs of Luxor, as well as the temple complex Abu Simbel on the coast of the Aswan Reservoir.
Marsa Alam has a warm and hot climate. The temperature in this part of the Red Sea coast is on average 2 ° C higher than in Hurghada. The peak of the tourist season is from May to October. At the height of summer, it gets very hot here – up to +35. +42 °С. The coolest weather at the resort is in January. In the middle of winter the air heats up to +20 . The temperature during the day +25 ° C, and at night the thermometer column falls to +15 ° C. The resort area is as warm as the sun begins to shine.
The resort area stretches from north to south along the coastline with small bays and creeks. All year round it is windy here. The hot wind, which is called “hamsin” in this area, dries the air and at times brings sandstorms to Marsa Alam. This happens most often in the winter. The sea is rough, and many hotels prefer to close their beaches to protect guests.
Royal Brayka Beach Resort
Programs for Diving Lovers
The underwater world of the Red Sea near Marsa Alam is amazing and attracts diving enthusiasts from all over the world. For over 15 years, there are schools in the resort where you can take a training course with an instructor and learn the basics of diving, starting from scratch. Nowadays there are diving centers and schools in almost every local hotel.
For beginners usually organize dives on the picturesque reef “Malakki”. The visibility here is up to 30 meters, and the winding coral tunnels, in addition to the beautiful fish are turtles, rays, and sharks. Another popular place for first dives is the sandy bay of Marsa Shuna. Its soft bottom is overgrown with sea grass, in which large green turtles and ringtail turtles swim.
There are also programs for experienced divers, providing dives in the most interesting and unusual places in the coastal zone of Marsa Alam – in the daytime, at dawn, at night, as well as visiting the twisting underwater caves and grottos.
Shaab Radir il Bar” diving site, which is located near the shore, has become popular among snorkelers. This place is interesting with encounters with sea turtles. The Shaab Abu Galawa reef is visited to see the Tinsting, a mid-century wreck. The Zabargad dive site is full of green coral, with octopus and rare crocodile fish.
Ship on the Reef
Directly within the resort you can see a large, rusting ship lying on its side on one of the coastal reefs. It has become one of the calling cards of Marsa Alam Resort, and all tourists who come here like to be photographed against the backdrop of the ship. This rather large ship is 120 meters long and used to be called the Sea God. It was sailing along the coast, but for some reason, it veered off course and ran aground, catching the bottom on the edge of the coral reef.
Many years later, the ship was badly rotten and began to fall apart. Now they can no longer even identify the country to which it belonged, nor where the ship was going. Only the rusty skeleton of the ship can be seen above the surface of the water, and its portholes, pipes and other parts have long been lying on the seabed, slowly growing new coral.
Ship on a reef in Marsa Alam
Dolphin House Reserve
115 km south of the resort town of Marsa Alam is a curved, horseshoe-shaped reef popular with tourists with seaweed on the bottom. It stretches for 3 km and has a width of up to 100 m. The average water depth is 18 meters. The current on the reef is very moderate and runs along the outer edge of the reef array. This unusual reef is famous for its underwater tunnels and caves.
Sea bass, moray eels, barracudas, turtles, tropical fish, tuna, hammerhead sharks, and large packs of dolphins, numbering up to a hundred fish, can be found in the reserve. Dolphins living here are very friendly to tourists and let them close enough. The southern wall of the reef is decorated with gorgonian and colored corals.
It is known that a Roman merchant ship sank off the reef in the 3rd century. Almost every year, ancient amphorae, skillfully built, are discovered on the seabed. These valuable finds are found under the thick layer of benthic sand.
Dolphin House Reserve
Wadi El Ghimal National Park
The national park, whose name translates as ‘Valley of the Camels’, is just 40km south of the resort. Tourists come here by bus, cab and camel. The national park is considered the largest in the country, as it stretches along the Red Sea coast for 60 km.
The heart of the picturesque park was the El Himal River Valley. Like many rivers of the Egyptian semi-desert, it only fills with water during the rainy season, and the rest of the time the river bed is dry. Another attraction of the national park is the top Gabel Hamata, which rises to a height of about 2000 meters above sea level. On its slopes there are gazelles and ibex. While traveling through the park, tourists have the opportunity to see a lot of camels, visit the former emerald mines and look at the carved in the rock of an ancient temple. Diving enthusiasts can make interesting dives in the national park.
Wadi El Ghimal National Park
The ancient bed of the Nile – Wadi Hammamat
In the 6th-7th millennium BC, the hilly desert area was inhabited by a large right tributary of the Nile River. Here was the shortest route that connected Thebes with the sea. Through the great gorge caravans carried gold, tin and precious stones, which had been mined in this area for many centuries.
On the southern slopes of the dry gorge, some 2,300 ancient inscriptions and carvings on the rocks have survived. They were made by workers who mined ore, precious and finishing stones, and by those who traveled through the valley with caravans. One of the texts, dated 2287-2231 B.C., tells of participants in an expedition organized at the behest of Pharaoh Piopi I. From Marsa Alam to Wadi Hammamat you can go on guided tours.
Video: Diving in Marsa Alam
Tips for tourists
- The resort has built 3*-5* hotels to accommodate tourists. Compared to Hurghada, their service staff hardly speak Russian, but they all know English.
- On the beaches, which belong to the hotels, vacationers are free of charge with sun beds, umbrellas and towels. For outsiders entrance to such a beach costs 22 pounds. In addition to equipped beach areas, Marsa Alam, a lot of wild beaches, where lovers of privacy and quiet rest prefer to spend time. To enter the water without problems, almost all coastal areas need rubber slippers.
- You can get around Marsa Alam by cab. Night trips are about twice as expensive as day trips. It is better to stipulate the price in advance with the driver to avoid misunderstandings. Besides, there are shuttles, the fare in which does not exceed 1 pound. There is room in such a minibus for up to 10 people.
- The cost of renting diving equipment in different places may vary by 1.5-2 times, depending on the pricing policy of one or another dive club.
- Prices for safari tours around the resort: jeep – $25, quad – $30, camel – $35.
In the stores at the hotels and a small market in Marsa Alam you can buy a good deal of gold and silver jewelry, handicrafts depicting a scarab beetle, kartushi amulets, as well as Egyptian oils, which are used for cosmetic purposes and as a therapeutic agent. Aloe vera, jojoba, as well as rose and jasmine oils are especially popular.
Hookahs are often taken away as a memento of the holiday at the Egyptian resort. Usually, along with hookah tobacco is purchased. The most commonly purchased is considered tobacco with an aroma of apples. Making such a purchase, you should be aware that, according to existing rules, hookahs have to be transported not in hand luggage, and charcoal for it is prohibited to carry both in luggage and hand luggage.
Special offers on hotels
How to get there
There are no direct charter flights to the resort for Russian tourists yet, so travelers usually fly to Hurghada. From here to Marsa Alam is 275 km. The most trouble-free, but expensive option – to come to the resort by cab directly from Hurghada airport. Such a trip will cost no less than 100 Euros and take about 3 hours.
From the city, after bargaining, you can get to Marsa Alam by cab for 50 euros. And by bus, which goes from the bus station from the old part of Hurghada, the trip to the resort will cost 25 euros.
Marsa Alam International Airport serves up to 600 passengers per hour. From Russia you can fly here by connecting flights via Zurich. However, this flight is more expensive than the route through Hurghada.
Marsa Alam Resort in Egypt
Marsa Alam Resort in Egypt is known all over the world, but it is not popular with Russian tourists. This resort is poorly adapted for the reception of travelers from Russia, although a clear anti-Russian orientation is not felt. Let’s tell about it in order.
Features of the resort of Marsa Alam.
In 2001, the city of Marsa Alam began construction of the first private airport in Egypt. In 2003, he was put into operation. From that moment the tourist boom began. It is not surprising, because until then, tourists had to travel 280 kilometers from the city of Hurghada, which was very tedious.
However, for tourists from Russia, nothing has changed. There are no charter flights from Russia to Marsa Alam now (September 2021). And before the pandemic coronavirus charters did not fly much, except for a few isolated programs of a few tour operators. This is the first feature of this resort for Russians – get ready for a 4-hour trip by tourist bus if you are a tourist-packer.
If you come to Egypt on your own, then prepare about 800 Egyptian pounds for cab services. However, you can save a lot if you book a round-trip transfer in advance.
This remoteness is the reason for the next feature of the resort of Marsa Alam – the high prices. Feel free to multiply the prices for tours in Hurghada or Sharm el-Sheikh by half or twice. And even with the high prices, buying a tour here is not so easy. Many tour operators in Russia do not work with Marsa Alam, and the choice of hotels is miserable.
Even finding a tour here is difficult, because many tour search engines in Russia do not separate the neighboring resorts of Al-Qusair and Marsa Alam. That is, you need to clarify the exact location of the hotel to get to this particular resort.
Upon arrival, many Russian tourists feel a lot of discomfort. First, the staff in the hotels does not speak Russian. Secondly, there is no artificial sandy beaches, as in Sharm or Hurghada. Wearing special shoes is mandatory, but not all tourists remember to include protective footwear in the list of things to take to Egypt.
Entering the water is also difficult, hampered by rocks or something else. In Marsa Alam more stringent environmental rules, and to remove such obstacles on the beach hotels have no right.
In 2007, a highway was opened from Marsa Alam to the city of Edfu, which is located on the Nile River. This increased the tourist appeal of Marsa Alam as it is now easier to reach historical sites such as the Temple of God Horus in Edfu, the temple of Kom Ombo, the Karnassus temple and other places of interest in Luxor.
The town of Marsa Alam was only recently a fishing village and there are no historical sites, although guidebooks often assign this resort historical sites to the north near the town of El-Qusayr. This approach is not entirely honest, but we’ll leave that to the conscience of the advertisers.
However, there is plenty to do here. It is a large tourist center with a developed infrastructure. Diving and water sports flourish here, tourists are taken to ride on boats and arrange safaris in the desert. But, more on the fun later.
Hotels and prices
At the time this article was updated (September 2021), there are 44 big hotels in Marsa Alam, and only 5 of them are considered “triplets. Most are “fives” because it is an expensive resort. Some hotels are now temporarily closed because of the pandemic. The most chic hotel is recognized Hilton Marsa Alam Nubian Resort, although it is not the most expensive in price.
An interesting point, the company Pegas Touristic has this hotel marked as the choice for family and youth vacation at the same time (in the picture on the right). It is hard to say how these things can be compatible with each other.
Pegas tour operator has strange logic in many things. Most of all, we have always wondered why they label hotels for young people with a five-pointed star sign (as in the picture to the right)? What is the connection between the star and the young people?
By the way, in this picture you can see the old prices from 2015 for Hilton Marsa Alam Nubian Resort. There were no charters from 2015 to the summer of 2021. Now the air service is open again, but the prices are not “settled” yet. While demand is high, supply is limited and prices are high. As soon as prices “settle down”, we’ll be sure to write.
What to see and do
Samadai Reef is the most popular and famous sight of Marsa Alam. It is also called the “bay of dolphins”. There is a large population of wild dolphins near the reef, which always like to interact with people. For 50 U.S. dollars you will be taken for a ride to the Samadai Reef by boat.
Gebel Elba National Park is the second most popular attraction. It is 250 kilometers south of the resort, almost on the border with neighboring Sudan. Here you can look at the rare birds – the crowned grouse, desert eagle owl and silver eagle.
Many tourists consider this trip doubtful, because you have to drive 3.5 hours by bus, and there is no guarantee that you will see the birds. To be honest, not many tourists are interested in birds.
Wadi el-Gemal is also a national park. This is the only place in Egypt, where there are still wild gazelles. This park is convenient because it is very close to the town of Marsa Alam – 30 minutes away. Here are the mines where the emeralds were mined, known as the “mines of Cleopatra” or Mons Smaragdus.
In Wadi El Gemal you can ride camels and even become a professional camel driver, for which there is a special school. Given the global warming in the world, in a couple of decades, it may come in handy for us and in Russia, do not miss this chance.
And, of course, diving. Marsa Alam is a “Mecca” of diving in Egypt on a par with resorts Dahab, El Kusseir and El Gouna. If you are interested in the underwater world, but you do not want to dive in the water, you can take a ride on a boat with a clear bottom. The water is very clear here, and the reefs can be seen perfectly.
Marsa Alam is famous for sea turtles, which crawl right out on the beach to the delight of tourists, especially children. Of course, 100% guarantee of such an event we can not give, but it often happens. This is the “untouched paradise”, which is strikingly different from Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh.
From the city of Marsa Alam arrange excursions to Cairo with a flight on a local airline. Of course, we do not recommend you to take a day tour to the sights of Cairo, because you will see only a glimpse of the Egyptian pyramids, and will not have enough time to see everything. It is better to take a two-day tour with an overnight stay in Cairo.
Important and useful to know
– Not only dolphins swim to the shores of Marsa Alam, but also sharks. And there have been cases of attacks on tourists, with a fatal outcome. Read more in our article Sharks in Egypt;
– In Marsa Alam everything is expensive, including SIM-cards with cheap internet. It is better to buy a SIM-card at Hurghada airport. What to take and how much the traffic costs, read in our review “Internet in Egypt”;
– Marsa Alam is located to the south, it is a little warmer than in Hurghada or Sharm. The water and air are 1-2 degrees warmer. Read our review “Weather in Egypt by Month”.
Decide how interested you are in the resort of Marsa Alam, and about other tourist cities in Egypt you can read in our articles (links below).