Top-Rated Egypt Beaches & Resorts
Egypt is the oldest tourist destination on earth. Ancient Greeks and Romans started the trend, coming to goggle at the cyclopean scale of the Pyramids and the Colossi of Thebes.
Today, the attractions of the country are little different. The focus of most visits remains the great monuments of the Nile Valley, combined with a few days spent exploring the souks, mosques and madrassas of Islamic Cairo.
However, there are plenty of good opportunities for swimming on the many fine beaches along Egypt’s Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts.
Diving and snorkeling are by far the most popular organized activities in Egypt, and the Red Sea is said to have some of the best scuba diving in the world.
Windsurfing and other sea adventures are very popular on Egypt’s beaches. Hurghada is also home to the well-known Giftun island, which is known for its white-sand beaches and reef. The town also has some of Egypt’s best beach resorts. The best sandy beaches in Egypt can be found here.
Beach on Mediterranean Coast Egypt
Alexandria turns its back on the rest of Egypt and faces the Mediterranean, as if contemplating its glorious past; a hybrid city characterized by Durrell as the “Capital of Memory”.
One of the great cities of antiquity, Alex slumbered for 1300 years until it was revived by Mohammed Ali and transformed by Europeans, who gave the city its present shape and made it synonymous with cosmopolitanism and decadence.
This era came to an end in the 1950s with the mass flight of non-Egyptians and a dose of revolutionary puritanism, but Alexandria’s beaches, restaurants and breezy climate still attract hordes of Cairenes during the summer, while its jaded historical and literary mystique remains appealing to foreigners.
Alexandria’s beaches are an overworked asset. Hardly a square metre of sand goes unclaimed during high season, when literally millions of Egyptians descend on the city.
Before June the beaches furthest out are relatively uncrowded, with predominantly local users; however, Alexandrians alone can number hundreds on Fridays, Saturdays and public holidays – days to be avoided.
The popularity of the beaches doesn’t imply Western-style beach culture. On most of the beaches you will rarely see any woman past the age of puberty wearing a swimsuit – they wander into the sea fully clad.
For Western women who want to swim without the hindrance of a galabiyya, or a lot of attention, the only place where even a modest one-piece seems OK is the Westernized enclave of Ma’amoura.
As far as facilities go, most beaches have parasols and chairs for rent, and sometimes public showers, while fish restaurants, soft-drink and snack vendors are ubiquitous.
Since 1991, the civic authorities have solved the image problem posed by the 47 sewage outlets that used to pollute the seaside from the center of town to Montazah, by pumping sewage into Lake Mariout instead, whence it finds its way into the Med more discreetly.
If that deters you, there are still two indisputable attractions: the Royal Jewellery Museum in Glym, and the extensive grounds of the Montazah Palace, further along the coast.
Many visitors go to Abu Qir for its seafood – though you can eat just as well in nicer surroundings in central Alexandria.
Fardous Beach between Alexandria and El-Alamein
By Egyptian standards Bitash has a fairly liberal atmosphere, with the odd bikini to be seen on the semi-private Fardous Beach, reached by turning left by the telephone office on Sharia Bitash and carrying on to the end of Sharia Hanafiyya.
The best places to stay are the beach-front Agami Palace (tel 433-0230, fax 430-9364; ЈE65-100 / US$20-35) and Summer Moon (tel 433-0367; ЈE100-150 / US$35-50) hotels, which have pools, discos and other amenities; their rates include breakfast.
There are two other discos nearby, at Felfela (which also has a swimming pool and billiard room), and the expensive open-air French restaurant, Michael’s.
Places to eat proliferate along Sharia Bitash. Abu Hussein and Mu’min are cheap and cheerful sandwich bars; Gino’s does tasty pizzas and pasta; while Saber serves up sugary desserts.
A right turn at the end of the street will bring you to La Poire on Sharia Shahr al-Asal, offering excellent shawarmas and chicken sandwiches, next to which are Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Baskin-Robbins.
Paradise Beach near Alexandria and El-Alamein
Some 20km west of downtown Alex is the ever-growing resort of El-Agami, whose white sands were first appreciated by rich, villa-building Egyptians in the 1950s.
Confusingly, it comprises two resorts: Bitash (or “El-Agami”), consisting of villas and upmarket hotels, and Hannoville, 1km further west, where flats and cheaper hotels predominate.
Each is approached by a separate road turning off the highway to Mersa Matrouh – Sharia Bitash and Sharia Hannoville – which runs towards their respective beaches.
Both are somewhat less crowded than the Corniche beaches in Alex, but suffer from the same drawbacks, namely litter and sexual harassment. You might encounter foreign expats living here, who commute to work in Alex.
The easiest way of getting there from Alex is by minibus from the Sa’ad Zaghloul branch of the Ramleh terminal (#750 to Bitash, #760 to Hannoville) or Masr Station (#755 or #765, respectively). Although #460 buses from Ramleh run to both resorts (first Bitash, then Hannoville), they’re incredibly crowded and far slower than minibuses.
In Bitash, minibuses drop you across the road from the Summer Moon Hotel; in Hannoville, at the Costa Blanca Hotel.
Beach in Ghardaka
In the course of two decades, Hurghada has been transformed from a humble fishing village of a few hundred souls into a booming town of 50,000 people, drawn here from all over Egypt by the lure of making money.
This phenomenal growth is almost entirely due to tourism , which accounts for 95 percent of the local economy. Yet it’s worth taking Hurghada’s claims to be a seaside resort with a handful of salt.
Unlike Sinai, where soft sand and gorgeous reefs are within easy reach and women can bathe unhassled, Hurghada’s public beaches are distant or uninviting, while the best marine life is far offshore.
While diving is the main activity, Hurghada presents itself as an all-round beach resort – a claim that’s quite true, but not so great as it sounds. After years of grousing by visitors, the public beach is at last to be transformed, from a wasteland where no foreign tourist would be seen dead, to a tidy shore lined with shops and cafes.
However, to sunbathe without unwanted attention, there’s really no alternative but to go for private beaches.
In Ed-Dahar, the Shedwan, Three Corners, Geisum and Sand Beach open their beaches to outsiders for ЈE25 (you can also use the pools at the Shedwan and Sand Beach).
Further down the coast is the cheaper option of Shellghada Beach, just north of the Sheraton, where ЈE10 buys a day on the sand, volleyball and use of their fresh-water showers.
Other holiday villages allow outsiders to use their beaches and swimming pools for a charge that ranges from ЈE35 at the El-Samaka to ЈE60 at the Magawish (which has the nicest beach).
Powerful gusts make Hurghada a great place for windsurfing, especially the beaches at the Magawish and Hurghada Beach. Several holiday villages have lagoons and centres where you can rent boards and wetsuits, and some places offer windsurfing instruction.
If you book one or two days ahead, Marine Sports Club (tel 065/444-861/2/3) can arrange deep-sea fishing day trips for ЈE400 per boat (6-8 people) including equipment.
For a few hours’ snorkelling, try Prince Sea Trips (tel 065/549-882) at the Four Seasons in Ed-Dahar. Run by friendly Bedouin brothers who grew up in Hurghada, they charge just ЈE30 if you book with them direct, rather than the ЈE50-60 charged by most of the operators and commissioned agents around town.
Beach on Egypt Mediterranean Coast
Although Mersa Matrouh has grown phenomenally and sees itself as a sophisticated resort, it remains a hick town with donkey carts outnumbering cars on the main street, which in summer is clogged with groups of well-to-do Egyptian and Libyan holidaymakers.
A grid of mould-poured low-rise blocks housing forty thousand people, the town spreads up from the coast towards a ridge festooned with radar dishes.
As Matrouh has gone from being a quiet fishing port to the booming capital of the Mediterranean Governorate, immigrants have poured in from other parts of Egypt, inspiring mixed feelings amongst the locals.
Beaches are Matrouh’s saving grace, so it’s a real shame that women can’t enjoy them.
As in Alex, Egyptian women sunbathe and swim fully clothed, accompanied by male relations; a foreigner acting differently can be subject to persistent eyeballing and pestering, and maybe an encounter with an exhibitionist masturbator whom the authorities have tolerated for years.
An exception to this rule is the Beau Site ‘s private beach, which admits non-residents if they promise to rent a beach umbrella (ЈE5 per day) or surf kayak (ЈE5 per hour).
The nearer beaches are accessible by caretta (ЈE5) or rented bicycle; transport to the western beaches varies with the season.
From June onwards you should be able to catch a shared taxi or microbus from the bus station (ЈE2-3 each to Agiiba), or a pick-up truck from the stand on the corner of Sharia Galaa (ЈE1.50 to Agiiba).
There is also an open-sided tuf-tuf bus (ЈE1.25 per person) that shuttles back and forth every hour or so from 9.30am to 4pm, between the bus station and Cleopatra and Agiiba beaches.
Beach near Alexandria, Mediterranean Coast
Eighteen kilometers east of downtown Alex you reach Montazah, the city’s walled pleasure grounds. You can enter the grounds (daily 7am-sunset; ЈE1) by the gates opposite the Sheraton.
The 350 acres are well laid-out and tended, with brass lamps, diverse palms and flowers, plus a Wimpy, Pizza Hut and Tikka Grill that might have pleased the gluttonous King Farouk.
Farouk’s ancestor Khedive Abbas II ordered the fabulous Montazah Palace, a Turko-Florentine hybrid whose central tower mimics the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence; it was from here that Farouk fled to Ras el-Tin before abdicating.
Sadat spent ЈE7 million on restoring the building, which is now a presidential residence and guesthouse, closed to the public. Nearby are two fancy hotels, the Helnan Palestine and the Salamlek.
Montazah’s beach is separated from Ma’amoura by a promontory with a picturesque “Turkish” belvedere; gaps in the fence may enable one to reach Ma’amoura directly, rather than via the distant fee-paying entrance.
The Alexandria Diving Centre offers CMAS courses for ЈE400; contact Amro Abu el-Soud (tel 547-6637) for details.
Beach Resorts near El-Alamein
The coastal road to El-Alamein is dominated by ugly holiday villages that have sprung up in the 1990s. Each is presaged by billboards long before you pass its ostentatious entrance, guarded by armed security men.
Mostly moribund over winter, they come alive as BMW-borne families move in for the summer. At some, apartments can be rented on a short-term basis and their beaches and pools are open to non-residents for a charge.
Their beach scene is more Western than elsewhere on the coast; bikinis and cocktails are taken for granted among the Egyptian smart set.
One top-class place that’s open all year is the Aida Beach Hotel (tel 499-0851, fax 499-0867), 30km from El-Alamein. It has two rates for day-visitors that fluctuate with the season: the lower (ЈE8-12) rate includes snacks, while the higher one (ЈE27-35, minimum two people) gets you lunch and the use of a beach cabin.
Rent a double room (ЈE220) or a six-person villa and you’ll also get breakfast and dinner. Bookings can be made in Alexandria at 18 Sharia Kolliet el-Tibba (tel & fax 438-5882).
Barely 16km before El-Alamein, the sprawling low-rise Atic Hotel (tel 492-1340; ЈE100-150 / US$35-50) has a beautiful beach. Its day-rate (ЈE45) includes lunch and the use of two pools and a children’s playground; other facilities cost extra.
At the vaster condominium spread of the Marina Beach Club, 4km on, visitors can use an equally lovely beach (but not the pool) for ЈE10. Billboards for the resort have barely ceased when the roadside erupts in signs alerting you to the imminence of El-Alamein.
Sidi Abd el-Rahman
Beach near El-Alamein, Mediterranean Coast
Nine kilometers past the last of El-Alamein’s battlefield memorials, a spurt of new housing anounces Sidi Abd el-Rahman, which is used as a pit-stop by buses going to Matrouh and Siwa.
There’s no point in lingering here unless you’re going to use the stunning white beach at the El-Alamein Hotel (tel 492-1228, fax 492-1232; ЈE300-600 / US$100-200), a fancy resort where the day-charge for a cabin and lunch for two is ЈE180, and the rooms and villas are often reserved up to a year in advance.
It lies at the end of a 3km spur road off the highway, a world away from the township established to settle Awlad Ali Bedouin who moved in from Libya onto the lands of the weaker Morabiteen tribe a couple of centuries ago.
Many have abandoned their traditional goat’s-hair tents for stone houses, but they still maintain flocks, which they graze on scrubland or pen behind their now-immobile homes.
Ten kilometers into the desert behind them lies a graveyard of Panzers , destroyed in the final rout of the Afrika Korps from the battlefield.