Simply red – Egypt’s safe resorts of the Red Sea

By | Category: Travel destinations

POSE--3A mere 25 years old, The Red Sea resort of El Gouna is hardly the Egypt of the Pharaohs.  Built to attract those looking for a quiet peaceful oasis near the sea,  it is a totally manufactured town of villas, apartments and marinas all painted in desert hues of yellow, sand and terracotta. Thirty kilometres from the airport in Hurghada, it was built by Egyptian millionaire Samih Sawiris and designed to be the ‘Venice of Egypt’ according to the architects who wanted to create a network of canals and islands, completely free of industry and catering solely to holidaymakers and the yachting community

In its small way it is making history, as it has just become the first carbon neutral town in Egypt in an effort to make it environmentally friendly, and a major residential development, Ancient Sands, has just completed which should held tourism here get back on its feet.

Like other places in Egypt, El Gouna suffered after the revolutions of 2011 and 2013, and subsequent travel bans affected tourism although the Red Sea resorts were always far removed from the main danger zones around Cairo These days security and safety are key in the resort, and what it lacks in authenticity it more than makes up for in peace of mind. Although quiet in May, the town was full to capacity during the festival of Eid with not one bed unoccupied in the entire resort.

El Gouna from the sea

El Gouna from the sea

All the roads lined with apartment blocks, hotels and holiday homes lead to two main centres, the pretty Abu Tig marina with its rows of luxury yachts, and ‘downtown’. Don’t expect neon lights and urban buzz downtown, but there are squares of pleasant restaurants, bars and shops. The more exclusive shops and eating establishments are found at the marina but downtown has arcades, internet cafes, banks, information centre and a post office  There is an Egyptian restaurant  but expect to find any cuisine here from Japanese, Moroccan, Thai  and even fish and chips.  The El Gounaians are especially proud of their latest opening, The Smokery, a luxury restaurant at the El Gouna Yacht Club which smokes its own salmon in Cairo.

It is possible to walk here from most of the hotels and villas, but a Tuc Tuc costs as little as 5 Egyptian pounds (about 50p) to take you on a bumpy ride down the sandy roads.

The weather is good, the food is fine, the hotels are mostly classy but people still come here mainly for the diving, as they do to Sharm El Sheik, which lies just across the water. Noisier and not quite so exclusive as El Gouna , British holiday makers still flock there for winter sun within  a mid-haul (four or five  hour) travelling time

The clear waters which are home to carefully protect coral, rare marine life and fascinating colourful fish attract scuba divers from all over the world. The seas here also hide wrecks including The Thistlegorm, a WWII ship where divers can still see the army boots, tanks and bikes that the tanker was transporting when she went down.

Diving-9-hFrom Sharm El Sheikh and El Gouna you can dive natural parks such as Ras Mohammed, Ras Om El Sid, the Straits of Tiran as well as the wrecks. Expect to find manta rays, turtles barracuda and maybe a shark. Snorkelling trips by boat from Sharm are a pleasant way to encounter the marine life and a family of frisky dolphins may swim alongside the boat on a trip out to Tiran Island.

From El Gouna divers can reach the Rosalie Moller shipwreck. Built in Glasgow in 1910 the Royal Navy mobilised the ship in 1938 and she became engaged in transporting military cargo as did the Thistlegorm. She went down in 1941 in the Red Sea while carrying coal from Liverpool. The ship now rests on her hull and divers can explore the boiler room, engine room and dining cabin. Discovered in 1993 she is better preserved than the Thistlegorm and her residents include glassfish, lionfish, groupers, jackfish and long jawed squirrelfish.

There are a number of other wrecks in the area.

Resorts such as El Gouna also cater for other watersports and a new Cable Park has recently opened there – the only venue catering for this sport in North Africa. For those who don’t know –cable skiing is a way to water ski (or wakeboard), in which the skier’s rope and handle are pulled by an electrically-driven cable, instead of a motorboat

One of the most popular pastimes is kite surfing, and the sight of hundreds of kites flying gracefully across El Gounas blue skies is a common one here, and conditions are also near-perfect for wind surfing, water-skiing, parasailing and El Gouna has one of the best golf courses in Egypt.

Jeep safaris are a popular way to explore the desert and quad biking takes you on wild and dusty trip to explore the dramatic scenery at close hand in both El Gouna and Sharm.

Diving-7-hAway from desert adventure, I hear that assisted living facilities are under development in El Gouna to make permanent settlement here attractive to older people which will please many Brits as, at one stage, over 30,000 Britons lived in Egypt. And it is the safety and security offered by the infrastructure of El Gouna which will continue to attract modern visitors to the Red Sea resort.

There are direct flights to Hurghada from Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and London Gatwick. From Hurghada there are buses, taxis and hire cars available although it is suggested you agree a price for the journey before you start.

 

For more information about El Gouna, click here.

 

 

 

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