El Gouna, Soma Bay, Sahl Hasheesh and Hurghada – The Red Sea Riviera, in Egypt, consists of the resort cities lying on the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba and along the eastern coast of mainland Egypt south of the Gulf of Suez.
The combination of a favourable climate, warm sea, thousands of kilometres of shoreline and abundant natural and archaeological points of interest makes this stretch of Egypt’s coastline a popular national and international tourist destination.
Famous for some of the best diving in the world this is a destination that every diver in the world should visit sometime.
The water sports on the Riviera are some of the best you’ll ever find and the kite surfing conditions attract some of the best surfers on the plant.
Below you will find some information and facts on the resorts of El Gouna, Sahl Hasheesh and Hurghada.
El Gouna specialises in water sports, including scuba diving, windsurfing, kitesurfing, waterskiing, parasailing and snorkelling. There are two main beaches: Zeytuna Beach located on its own island and Mangroovy Beach. A network of canals allows many houses to have their own strip of beach, even hundreds of metres inland. Most of these canals are crossed by small stone bridges.
There are three centralised areas in El Gouna, housing shops, bars and restaurants: Downtown, Tamr Henna square and the Abu Tig Marina.
There are 18 hotels (some of which were designed by the American architect Michael Graves) with 2,895 rooms rated from one star to five stars. A six-star hotel is currently under development next to the Abu Tig Marina Extension.
El Gouna hosts a golf course designed by Gene Bates and Fred Couples. A second golf course real estate project, Ancient Sands Golf Resort, designed by acclaimed golf course architect Karl Litten, is opened in 2012.
El Gouna has a fully equipped hospital that can handle many medical treatments including dentistry, plastic surgery, paediatrics, ophthalmology and general surgery. It also features an intensive care unit and a decompression chamber in case of diving accidents. The town hosts the El Gouna International School, a campus of the TU Berlin an Environmental Geographic Information System and a small private airport for charter aircraft. There are also three marinas: Abydos marina, the Abu Tig Marina and the Abu Tig Marina Extension, currently in its last phase of construction, which can receive super yachts.
The town also houses a small museum with some 90 exhibits (including statue replicas and an exhibition hall of contemporary Egyptian paintings by Hussein Bikar) which opened in 1996.
Other attractions and activities around town include a small aquarium, a go-kart track, a paintball arena, tennis courts, horse stables and a football stadium. The local football team El Gouna FC currently plays in the Second Division. It also has a Coptic Church, the Church of St. Mary and the Archangels.
The city was founded in the early 20th century, and until a few years ago it was a small fishing village. But since the 1980s, it has been continually enlarged by Egyptian and foreign investors to become the leading coastal resort on the Red Sea. Holiday villages and hotels provide aquatic sport facilities for windsurfers, kite surfers, yachtsmen, scuba divers and snorkelers. Hurghada is known for its watersports activities, nightlife and warm weather. Daily temperature hovers round 30 °C (86 °F) most of the year, during July and August temperatures reach over 40 °C (104 °F) . Many Europeans have chosen Hurghada for their regular Holidays, specially during the Winter season and spend their Christmas and New Year holidays in the city. Tourism from Russia dropped drastically after the Metrojet Flight 9268 plane crash in November 2015.
Hurghada stretches for about 36 kilometres (22 mi) along the seashore, and it does not reach far into the surrounding desert. The resort is a destination for Egyptian tourists from Cairo, the Delta and Upper Egypt, as well as package holiday tourists from Europe. Today Hurghada counts 248,000 inhabitants and is divided into:
- El Ahia and El Helal, the northern part;
- El Dahar (Downtown) is the old part;
- Sekalla is the city centre;
- Al Kawther is the modern part;
- El Memsha (Village road) is pedestrian road stretching over 4km.
Along the El Mamsha you find many of Hurghada’s new hotels. Dahar is where the town’s traditional bazaar, the post office and the long-distance bus stations, Go Bus and Upper Egypt Bus are situated.
The city is served by the Hurghada International Airport with scheduled passenger traffic connecting to Cairo and directly with several cities in Europe. A new terminal was opened in 2015 to accommodate rising traffic.
Sahl Hasheesh is a tourist resort destination located on the Red Sea coast of Egypt, approximately 18 km south of Hurghada International Airport. The resort is nestled in the spectacular surrounds of the Sahl Hasheesh Bay, with a 12.5 km coastline, 9 km of which is great for swimming, providing one of the longest stretches of beach on the Egyptian Red Sea coast. The land elevation rises gently, providing the area with expansive views of the Bay.
The resort contains a mix of beachfront hotels, holiday apartments, villas and retail/commercial development. The largest operating developments include Dessole, Pyramisa, Azzura, Tropitel, Premier Le Reve and Baron Palace. There are two 18-hole golf courses under construction, as well as several hotel, residential and commercial developments.
The Sahl Hasheesh Bay is home to a number offshore islands and coral reefs with excellent diving and snorkelling opportunities. The nearby Abu Hasheesh Island is a local protectorate containing a thriving community of marine life.
Other attractions at Sahl Hasheesh include the central ‘Old Town’ for shopping and dining, horse riding, walking along the beach boardwalk, the Arrivals Piazza, the ‘Sunken City’ (an artificial reef for diving and snorkeling), and the Pharaonic Entry Gate.
Development and Master Plan
The exclusive development rights to Sahl Hasheesh are held by Egyptian Resorts Company (ERC), who purchased the land in 1995. The master plan for the site is divided into three phases. Phases 1 and 2 comprise 12 million square metres of land, which is currently under development. Phase 3 comprises 28.5 million square metres and is subject to future development.
As the Master Developer for Sahl Hasheesh, ERC are the sole provider of all infrastructure networks, including water, sewerage, electricity, telecommunications, roads and community infrastructure. ERC also operates community management services.
While touristic development is intended to remain the predominant economic driver of Sahl Hasheesh, the objective is to create a fully integrated mixed-use resort city, with the aim of achieving long-term economic and environmental sustainability.
Sahl Hasheesh includes the sub-projects of ‘Jamaran’ and the ‘Sawari Marina’. Jamaran comprises 180 villas along the northern part of the site’s coast. The Sawari Marina is located on the south part of the site’s coast and is to be developed in partnership between ERC and Orascom Development Holding.