Egypt Independent

Mediterranean Getaways – Local Beach Roundup Part I



Local Beach Roundup: Part I, Mediterranean Getaways

If you’re planning to spend some time relaxing on the beach in the next couple of months, don’t forget to consider local options.  Living in a country bordered by two beautiful coast lines, it’s cheaper than flying abroad and less hassle than sorting out visas. Whether you favor the Mediterranean coast with its white beaches and warm waves, or the coral and colorful marine life of the Red Sea, it’s all within easy reach and you don’t even need a passport to get there (just id!)

The first part of this double feature explores the Mediterranean beach resorts.   Often a preferred destination during the summer months because of the more moderate weather conditions and fresh breezes, there are many lovely—and very different—places to stay on the Mediterranean coast.  From Al-Arish to Marsa Matrouh, the Egyptian beaches of the Mediterranean range from glitzy to down to earth to extremely conservative.

From East to West:
Arish

A city more often in the news due to its proximity to the border, conflict has kept it off the international tourism list for some time.  For locals it remains a popular spot and a primary beach destination for those in the Sinai looking for a Mediterranean destination.
Budget: Low for eating and getting around
Hotels: Swiss Inn, Semiramis and Eco Lodge
Beach wear: Public beaches are very conservative, it’s more sensible even on the 5 star beaches to opt for a one piece costume than a bikini.
Places of interest: Pharaonic fortress at Al-Arish, rebuilt by the Ottomans in 1560
How to get there: From Cairo—East Delta Bus Company in Abbassia, from abroad—fly into Taba International Airport

Ras el-Bar
A beautiful town relatively unspoiled by mainstream tourism, Ras el Bar is a favorite destination for visitors to Damietta and a perfect getaway for Cairo residents who want to avoid the commercialization of the coast east of the delta.  A chic summer getaway during the 1960s, it may be approaching a comeback.
Budget: Low—eating and getting around.
Hotels: Beau Rivage, Beau Sejour, Al-Mina etc.
Beach wear: Public beaches remain conservative, private hotel beaches somewhat less so.
Places of interest: El-Lisan–where the Nile meets the Mediterranean;
the lighthouse (a short walk from the Beau Rivage)
How to get there: three-hour trip on the East Delta Bus from Abbassia in Cairo

Alexandria
This historic city has a number of beautiful beaches where you can still find a space during the summer months – for example, the private beaches of the Aida, Cleopatra, Semiramis, Vernisia and Palestine Hotels.  The majority of the beaches along the Corniche become very crowded in the summer and are best left to the locals.
Budget: Ranging from high in the summer months to average at other times of the year.
Hotels: Sheraton Montazah, El Salamlek, Helnan Palestine
Beach wear: Public beaches are moderately conservative, hotel beaches are open to bathing suits – for a semi private beach, and head to Marmoura and for extreme resort style isolation, the Hilton King’s Ranch is your best bet.
Places of interest: So much! The amazing library building, Qait Bay Fort, Abu El Abbas Mosque, Anfushi Tombs, Montazah Palace, etc.
How to get there: Plane, train, automobile…

Agami
Officially a part of Alexandria, Agami is a more Egyptian summer resort and was very popular up until 5 years ago when the Cairean tourists moved the hub of summer activity to Alamein. It still has many summer (and year round) residents and a number of semi-private beaches including Bianchi.
Budget: More suited to renting flats and houses, the Agami budget varies around the year, becoming very expensive in the summer.
Hotels: Hotels are divided by district – Bitash and Hannoville – and include the Summer Moon Hotel, Costa Blanca Hotel, Agami Palace Hotel, etc.
Beach wear: On private beaches, bathing suits and bikinis – semi-private beaches, one piece bathing suits are best.
Places of interest: As Agami is a part of Alexandria – take the chance to go see the sights there.
How to get there: Go to Alexandria and take the West Delta Bus.

North Coast compounds, Alamein and Sidi Abdel Rahman
All along the north coast road, there are coastal developments – compounds that consist of holiday houses owned and rented by Egyptians. Recently, there has been a move to include hotels and draw in tourists from abroad as well as those Egyptians who do not own summer homes. These hotels are reasonably priced for most of the year but in the summer months, and in July and August especially a hotel room can cost as much as LE2000-3000 a night for Egyptians.
Budget: Varies according to season but generally on the high side.
Hotels: Sidi Abdel Rahman (now Marassi), Valencia Hotel (Marina – near
Alamein), Hilton Borg El Arab, Porto Marina.
Beach wear: Both extremes exist – many of the more public beaches are visited by conservative Egyptian women who opt for bathing suits that cover their legs and arms as well as the rest of their bodies and that also come with caps to cover their hair. Past Alamein, compounds and hotels often have private beaches where women wear bikinis on the beach.
Places of interest: There is little sightseeing in this area – all the compounds have restaurants and night time entertainment but there are no historical monuments. In Al-Alamein there are war memorials and cemeteries from WWII.
How to get there: By bus (West Delta) or car. Internationally, by flying into Alexandria – or by charter into the Alamein International Airport.

Marsa Matrouh
Also a well known destination for Egyptians, Marsa Matrouh has faded in and out of fashion over the years but has always been known for its crystal clear water and pristine beaches. Approximately 150km from Sidi Abdel Rahman, it’s a longer
trip from Cairo in comparison to other Mediterranean resorts, but worth the extra time spent.
Budget: Average
Hotels: Beausite, Beach House, Semiramis
Beach wear: During peak months, it is advised to keep swimming attire to a one-piece bathing suit. During off-peak months, the area is pretty empty and women can wear bikinis as well.
Places of interest: Shate’ el-Gharam, where famous Egyptian singer Laila Mourad sang ‘El-Maya wil Hawa’, Cleopatra Beach and Aagiba
How to get there: You can fly or take a train into Alexandria and take the West Delta bus.  In the summer there are direct buses from Cairo to Marsa Matrouh—a journey of six hours.