Red Sea, Egypt

A satellite map of North Africa and the Middle East focusing on the Egypt Red Sea

A satellite map of Egypt’s Red Sea, North Africa and the Middle East

Red Sea Holidays

Windsurfing off Dahab, Egypt Red Sea

A relaxing afternoon off Dahab, north of Sharm el Sheikh in the Red Sea. That’s the Sinai Peninsula in the background.

A mere five hours direct flight from the UK, the Red Sea gets almost certain sunshine all day long, some warm waters outside mid-winter, healthy coral formations and marine life coupled with modest prices, and some fair beaches – ironically in this country that’s 98% desert the sand is coarse and beaches tend to be small. The best beaches are artificial and mostly on the mainland (Hurghada) side.

Best seasons in the Red Sea

Best: September – May. It rarely (almost never) rains so humidity is very low; it’ll be T-shirt days and sweatered winter nights.

Worst: Christmas and Easter school holidays (overpriced, overcrowded and sea water is bloody cold) June-September (extreme heat but warm waters).

The air temperature in this region ranges from about 30°C in May (26°C at night) and water temperature of 24°C, to 20°C in February (16°C at night) and water temperature of 20°C.
The hottest month – uncomfortably so, is August, 42 °C in February (33°C at night) and water temperature of 28°C .

Egypt Red Sea Resorts

Na'ama Bay in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt Red Sea

Na’ama Bay in Sharm el Sheikh. Photo by cpadula.

Sharm el Sheikh and other resorts in the area are victims of their own success with the biggest problem being how to avoid being part of a milling, mooing herd from dawn to dusk.

Beach resorts line both sides of the sea, on the east side and part of the Sinai peninsula is the long established Sharm el Sheikh and its neo-hippy counterpart, Dahab. This side has activity options outside the resorts, such as trips to St Catherine’s monastery, colourful rock canyons or even Israel and Jordan are not a huge drive away.

On the west (mainland) coast of the Red Sea lies relatively old and touristy Hurghada (not a pretty sight) and a cluster of new resort towns that are resolutely inward-looking and uncultured but nevertheless can provide good value, guaranteed sun, sand and sea holidays.


A speedboat view of Hurghada from the Egypt Red Sea

Escaping from Hurghada on Egypt’s mainland Red Sea coast, unlike Sharm and Dahab that are on the Sinai side, east across the sea. Photo by Karelj.

Hurghada, a fishing village just 30 years ago is now a chaotic mass of style-free cement blocks unless you happen to be staying in an exclusive resort in which case forget the town, enjoy your bright little paradise, it will be good value, the sun will doubtless shine all day every day and the diving/snorkelling will be superb, unless you bump into jellyfish.

On Egypt Red Sea’s west coast Hurghada is now a 30km string of resorts with little urban heart, unless you call a short parade of fast food joints, Sky TV pubs and souvenir shops a worthwhile core. i.e. if you choose to holiday in there then accept that you’ll be in your resort hotel, on the beach or in the sea, unless you take a tour to Luxor. However, on a comparison website you’ll find inexpensive Hurghada hotels that have good ratings and are considered decent quality by previous guests.

Makadi Bay, a bit south of Hurghada on Egypt's mainland coast, Red Sea

Makadi Bay, a bit south of Hurghada on Egypt’s mainland Red Sea coast. Photo by kallerna.

The wreck of the Sha’ab Abu Nuhas is a famous dive nearby or the islands of Giftun and Abu Ramada are good for easier coral and fish gazing.
Hurghada is on Egypt’s west Red Sea coast, more or less opposite Sharm el Sheikh which is on the south tip of the Sinai peninsula.

Sharm el Sheikh

Sharm el Sheikh hotel and beach, Egypt Red Sea

Sharm el Sheikh on the Red Sea. Photo by Marc Ryckaert.

Sharm el Sheikh, on the other hand and on the Sinai side of the Red Sea, is more upmarket than Hurghada and embraces excellent watersports facilities along with a plausible, lively tourist centre in Na’ama Bay, though it’s still short of laid-back Egyptness and the suburbs are a half-developed wasteland.

Apart from sunbathing Sharm’s raison d’etre is scuba diving, with two prime sites attracting most of the dive boats – the Strait of Tiran in the north and Ras Mohammed in the south. The best dive locations may take up to two hours to reach though good snorkelling places are close by.

How to avoid the dive crowds? Start really early or spend a few days on a live-aboard dive boat that will anchor in just the right place at the right time. Live-aboards sail from Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada and newly developed Marsa Alam (south of Hurghada on the Egyptian mainland).


Sharm el Sheikh hotel and beach, Egypt Red Sea

Dahab and the Sinai mountains, Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea. Photo by jay8085.

Dahab, north of Sharm el Sheikh and heading up the Gulf of Aqaba, is the Red Sea’s most relaxed and natural resort/village with some lovely small hotels and restaurants and clusters of neo-hippies to prove it, though as the place develops they will doubtless be exiled and the charm will be cemented over. Next stop Aqaba?

Dahab also offers great snorkelling and diving, including immediately offshore, but the beaches are miserable. Other activities available around Dahab are camel rides to St Catherine’s monastery, visiting Bedouin camps and quad-biking.

Other newish, still developing Red Sea tourist resorts can be found in the Gulf of Aqaba at Nuweiba and Taba, or north of Hurghada at El Gouna and south of Hurghada at Makadi Bay, El Quseir and Marsa Alam.

The famous and challenging Blue Hole Dive site in east Sinai, 8 km north of Dahab, Egypt Red Sea

The famous and challenging Blue Hole Dive site in east Sinai, 8 km north of Dahab. Photo by Grand Parc.

email from Henry:
We made one excursion from Dahab to the Greek Orthodox monastery of Saint Catherine which is built around the burning bush from where Moses supposedly heard God speak to him. The bush is still there even though much of it has been hacked away by zealous pilgrims.

The monastery continues to be inhabited by a number of Greek Orthodox monks so it is only open for visitors for a couple of hours a day. When we arrived there were already coach loads of impatient tourists waiting to go in. Eventually, the doors opened they barged their way in. We hung back waiting for things to calm down and entered when most people were already leaving. It didn’t give us much time, but at least we were left to walk around its cobbled streets relatively in peace.

Dahab is a very different from the rest of Egypt Red Sea. Less than 30 years ago it was just a collection of huts and cabanas that the Bedouin used to rent out to travelers and young Israelis. Now it is much more developed with lots of hotels, restaurants, shops and scuba diving establishments. To be quite honest it is not really my scene, but my family loved it.