The world’s northern-most tropical sea, the Red Sea is an inlet of the Indian ocean, with coasts in Africa and Asia. The history of the Red Sea stretches back to ancient Egyptian explorations, more than 4500 years ago, but much of the area is considerably more modern than that. Discovered by divers, including the famous Jacques Cousteau, in the 1950s, Red Sea holidays started to become popular with tourists soon after that. With its year-round warm climate, incredible sea-life and exciting nightlife, the area is now home to many modern hotels and resort towns, particularly along the sea’s Egyptian coast, which stretches for 500 miles from Port Suez in the north, down to the Sudanese border in the south.
Across the water from the Sinai Peninsula, Hurghada is the third largest city on Egypt’s Red Sea coast, and a popular starting place for holidays by the Red Sea, as Hurghada International Airport, found just a short drive from the city’s downtown, is the second busiest airport in the country. Stretching for 40km along the coast, the Hurghada area offers a great choice of Red Sea holiday experiences, from the lively nightlife of the city – with clubs and bars from international names like Hed Kandi, Ministry of Sound and the Hard Rock Café – to more tranquil resorts like El Gouna and Soma Bay. El Gouna is home to several luxury hotels, three marinas and an international selection of restaurants. It’s also a popular spot for water sports, with excellent diving and dolphin watching opportunities around the nearby Tawila Island. Soma Bay is ideal for more exclusive holidays, with the Cascades resort featuring a golf course, named one of the best in the world, and a refined spa, which specialises in luxurious, seawater and hydrotherapy treatments.
Marsa Alam is an area very much on the up, with its International Airport only opening back in 2003, so this formerly sleepy fishing village is still an ideal choice for more quiet Red Sea holidays. Abu Dabab beach is an excellent place to spot turtles, and the Wadi El Gamal, found to the south of the town, is home to some of the world’s oldest emerald mines. If you’re thinking about a Red Sea diving holiday, it’s also a great option, with the Daedalus Reef – found 90km from the town – having a particularly abundant population of hammerhead sharks and corals.
While most of the area’s resorts are home to modern and luxury hotels, there’s still a lot of history and local culture to be discovered during a holiday at the Red Sea. The monasteries of St Paul and St Anthony both sit among the mountainous region around the Red Sea, and date back to the 4th and 5th centuries. The Roman ruins of Mons Claudianus and Mons Porphyrites are even older, while the town of Al-Qusayr has been populated for about 5000 years, growing from an ancient trading port to a bustling town of 50,000 people.