Marsa Alam is an old small town, located in the South of the Eastern Desert in Egypt on the Red Sea. It is 790 kilometers south of Cairo and about 300 kilometers from Hurghada and just 132km from Al-Qusier. It is also known as the fishing village, situated where the Arabian Desert meets the Red Sea, currently seeing speedy popularity as a touristic destination and development following by the opening of Marsa Alam International Airport in 2001. It is the first privately owned and operated International commercial airport in Egypt. Furthermore, it is the first airport in aviation history operating under a complete BOT system. A number of other planned tourism projects and new hotels, is rapidly turning it into much more than just a fishing village. With a mass amount of tourism projects planned; Marsa Alam is set to equal other resorts in Egypt such as Hurghada and Sharm El-Shiekh.
Its tropical appearance full of palm trees, mangroves and sea coasts fringed with barrier coral reefs makes it exclusive. It has already gained a reputation among divers because of its numerous stunning diving sits that site both along the coast and off shores. For those who undertake its waters will have a good chance of sighting spinner dolphins, dugongs and hammerhead sharks. At Marsa Alam, you can relax knowing you have chosen a place to suite your comfort, safety and enjoyment. No matter what level of diving you’re at, you’re bound to have a fabulous time diving at the ideal base for a fishing holiday. One of the primary diving sites in the area is the Elphinstone Reef. The diving here is fantastic : the reefs of Abu Dabab, Elphinestone, Delphinhaus, Samadai, Sataya and Wadi el Gemal guarantee many magical moments. Worthwhile excursions on land include taking in the old emerald mines, and the National Park at Gebal Alba, the only part of Egypt to catch part of the southern monsoon. The stunning Wadi el Gemal National Park is one of the most recent additions to the high number of parks and protected areas of the Red Sea. At only half an hour drive by bus, the park has a well organized eco-lodge which offers guided tours of the wadi with camel or by foot. The lodge has also a cinema where you will be shown a documentary about the park, its nature, geology and inhabitants, the ancient nomadic tribes of the Bishari and Ababde. Finally you will be seat in the exotic, desert-elegant main “fustat”, adorned with antiques and local handicrafts and served breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on the type of excursion you join.
Marsa Alam has also some inland attractions, such as the Emerald Mines and the Temple of seti I at Khanais. It is a village with a small harbor and stone quay & nature reserve stretches from here to Gabal Elba in the South Various attractions range from natural wonders to ancient Egyptian sites. Located in Kanais east of Edfu along the desert road to Marsa Alam, lies a small rock-cut temple built by seti I (1305 – 1290 BC). Unfortunately, you will only be able to view the entrance of the temple. The chamber inside the cliff, which has magnificent drawings of Set I slashing at his enemies and offering a gift to the god Amun, is closed to the public to protect it against defacement. The mountains surrounding the region had gold and emerald mines. The emerald is the oldest known gemstone, uniquely green in color and widely used in jewelry. Emeralds were prized and cherished as a symbol of eternity and power during antiquity. It is believed that Egyptian Pharaohs began mining emeralds in the mountainous area in the Eastern Desert southwest of Marsa Alam. Later identified as the Cleopatra Mines or Mons Smaragdus (Emerald Mountains), the area became the most famous mining complex throughout ancient world.
Marsa Alam sits on the T-junction between the Red Sea and the road from Edfu which sites on the Nile river about 230 km( 142 mi) inland. This road, which was originally built by Ptolemy II in the Greek period passes through some historical landscapes where the ancient Egyptians mined much of their gold. Just off this road are found two areas, called Wadi Baramiya extends into another larger Wadi, called Miya, where a temple was built by, among others, Seti I. Both areas were probably gold mining communities. Some of the major Marsa Alam Tourist attractions are; Quseir fortress, which is an othoman fortress, constructed to protect the trade routes to India MyosHormos, was the main North African harbor during the Roman Empire. Bir Umm Fawakhir, a complex gold agreement established between the 5th and the 6th century. Temple of Seti I, is a gorgeous rock cut temple built by Set I between 1305-1290 B.C. The temple chambers feature sketches of Seti’s life.
In recent years, Marsa Alam has seen a splurge of development. There are now many 3 and 4 star resorts along the beach, with five star facilities soon to open. Marsa Alam is one of the fastest growing holiday resorts in Egypt, popular with wind surfers, divers and sun worshipers fortunate enough to have discovered the resort’s tranquility.
Where to go:-
Marsa Alam was know by the relaxing tourism but this not mean that you can not do any tours out of Marsa Alam during your holiday, there are many available tours to Cairo through Marsa Alam airport or Hurghada airport to visit the interesting sites in Giza and Cairo as the Egyptian Museum, The Great pyramids, Old city of Islam and Coptic Cairo, Citadel of Salah El Din, Mohammed Ali Alabaster Masjed.
The position of city in the opposite of Luxor and Aswan make it easy to do daily tours to Aswan to see the High Dam, Phila temple and Unfinished Obelisk, as well the daily trips to Luxor to visit the sites in the East Bank as Luxor temple, Karnak temple, Luxor Museum or sites in the West Bank valley of the Queens, Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut temple and Habu temple. Also you can visit the temple of Kom Ombo and Edfu temple.
Things to do:-
Marsa Alam is not different from Hurghada in the daily excursions that Tourists can do from hotels, they can make snorkeling and diving though the diving centre in the hotels, Marsa Alam beaches are more interesting than Hurghada, also the desert has a daily trips by four-wheel drive or quad bike with the opportunity to attend the Bedouin barbecue Dinner with Bedouin music.
Reference: “The Best of Egypt” , volume 3 & 4
“ Egypt Tourist Guide” 16th Edition