My Top Few Favorite Things About Ain Sokhna: Cairo’s Nearest Red Sea Retreat

When the busy, overcrowded, and polluted city of Cairo gets a little too much, Egyptians flock to the nearest Red Sea resort: Ain Sokhna, or Hot Springs. Whether it’s the stunning mountains in the distance, the pleasantly warm and calm waters, or the peacefulness one finds with the knowledge that a noisy, polluted city is only over one hour away by car; Ain Sokhna is the perfect weekend getaway.

Ain Sokhna is very popular with families with young children because the sea is so calm there are hardly any of the waves that are present in the North Coast and Alexandria. Although the resorts and hotels scattered along the stretch that makes up Ain Sokhna have pools, the sea itself is enjoyed as nature’s swimming pool. Because of the Hot Springs nearby, the waters are always pleasantly warm.

There are many resorts and hotels to choose from in Ain Sokhna. Resorts can contain villas, chalets, or apartments for rent or sale and hotels. Most upper-middle-class Egyptian families like to buy property in Ain Sokhna, ideal for their weekend seaside getaway. It’s also a place where one can soak up a few rays during the winter when it’s still quite warm in this part of Egypt. I once got tanned in the beginning of February in Ain Sokhna, when it was still bitterly cold in Cairo.

 

There is a time during the day in Ain Sokhna when the most spectacular thing occurs: the tide moves out to sea, leaving miles of wet sand and shallow pools of water where just moments the sea had been. Small boats get stranded during this time. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to walk a distance with the knowledge that soon the water will be returning to occupy the very same space you’re walking on.

Even when the tide returns, the water is quite shallow a distance from the shore. As seen in this photograph, the water reaches the knees at quite a distance from the sea, making it the perfect playground for children and those who can’t swim.

Another magical moment that happens in Ain Sokhna is the moment the sun rises from the sea. I had to wake up extra early to witness this incredible moment, which was quite worthwhile. Watching the ball of fire rise from the sea is a million times more phenomenal than watching it set into the sea. It’s also so quiet during this time of day because most people are still sleeping, making it the perfect time for some reflective solitude. Because the sun rises from the sea in Ain Sokhna, it sets behind the beautiful mountains, which is another beautiful sight to witness.

Right after the sun rises, the sand on the beach tells a story of wonderfully bizarre signs of life also waking up and moving across the beach. There are patterns where crabs have dug out and moved out for the day and beautiful seashells adorning the beach where the sand is pristine and clean.

Because it’s so close to Cairo, the weekends are usually the busiest times to visit Ain Sokhna, which is Thursday and Friday, or Friday and Saturday. It’s also a popular holiday destination for Egyptians celebrating Christmas, the lesser and greater Eid, or the Egyptian Spring Sham El Neseem, which means prices for accommodation triples.

Approximately 120 kilometers east of Cairo, Ain Sokhna is a popular destination that attracts tourists wanting the convenience of visiting the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx nearby, but the population remains predominately made up of Egyptian families and couples wanting to escape the oppressiveness of city life.

Ain Sokhna
Red Sea
Egypt

Ain Sokhna Hotels

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El Gouna – The Great Escape

The gorgeous view above is in Egypt. In my proverbial backyard, I can discover and enjoy the most amazing places without having to travel oceans away. This is the beauty of Egypt. And I found all of this in the beautiful El Gouna.

Just an hour’s drive from Hurghada Airport, I was enthralled by the islands, lagoons and beach resorts that lie on the Red Sea and felt like I never wanted to leave.

For a first-time visitor, I was impressed by El Gouna’s (named so for its lagoons) pristine beaches and looming mountains. I especially admired the pretty Nubian-like architecture staying true to its Egyptian identity. Early in the morning when the lagoons were as still as the air, I would marvel at the reflections in the water.

There are several beach resorts managed by international hotels in El Gouna. I happened to like the Sheraton’s layout and design. Every room is in an apartment-like building overlooking the lagoons of El Gouna.

The view from our room made it a peaceful stay, and also a convenient walk to the beach (2 seconds!) Because we were a family group, the hotel situated us in front of ‘Relaxation Beach,’ far away from the beach with young families with children. This can also be requested when booking. Much appreciated.

Because of the lagoons, the water is calm and shallow, ideal for children and those who aren’t strong swimmers.

And because of the water, there are many water-sports activities. The hotel also offers a cruise around El Gouna in a small boat. Since El Gouna is small, this didn’t take long. I got to look at the different hotels around the lagoons and the residential homes.

Because El Gouna isn’t just a tourist destination. It’s also a self-contained town that foreigners and Egyptians call home, more than 20,000 of them to be precise. Private homes in El Gouna are the epitome of luxury and wealth.

But for visiting tourists, El Gouna’s water sports are a significant attraction; especially the popular kite-surfing!

But it doesn’t have to be all play. Many visitors spend their time relaxing on the beach and swimming in the calm lagoons.

Because of the lagoons, there are quite a few bridges to cross in El Gouna. On my photo-walks, I would find individuals jogging or power-walking. It all felt very health-conscious here. But not when it came to the open buffet in the mornings!

I loved how rustic the bridges looked all around the lagoons.

This bridge is situated on another resort next to the Sheraton. Bridges link some beach resorts together, and it was fun to explore other resorts to have an idea for the next time we wanted to visit. This resort offered wind-sailing, with the bridge leading up to a very expensive looking yacht.

I was even lucky to spot some wildlife in El Gouna, including this bird. It seemed very comfortable to walk beside humans while it picked at things to eat. The landscape also offered beautiful flowers and plants to admire.

In the distance, I could see neighboring private residential homes, with mountains looming in the background. I could not get enough of the views of the mountains.

My favorite time of day was just before sunrise. The water would be at its calmest, making it optimal for admiring reflections.

A visit to the marina is a must. In keeping with the traditional Nubian-like theme, all the buildings look the same, giving it a consistent, pleasant feel. There are restaurants and cafes to visit during the evenings and a few shops. A bus took us from our hotel to the marina, but tok-toks are also available. The prime attraction here is the yachts. There are hundreds of yachts and small boats parked here, and it was fun looking at the names of some of them.

The lagoons break out into the Red Sea, where serious water sporting activity is enjoyed.

Because of how large the Sheraton resort is, if the hotel room is located at a distance from the dining hall and reception, it could take at least ten minutes to walk to and from (additional minutes for getting lost on the first couple of nights too). But since it felt like a health-conscious vacation, and there was the gorgeous landscape to admire, we didn’t mind that much.

It was such a refreshing change to be on a quiet beach. Most of the beaches I have visited have always included loud music, loud conversations, and screaming children. Here I could read a good book on peace and fall asleep to the sounds of the water.

El Gouna is the perfect weekend getaway from the noise and pollution of Cairo and only a short flight from its international airport. At the end of my trip, I felt so proud of the fact that I didn’t have to travel to another country to have my breath taken away…beauty like this could be found on Egyptian soil.

Red Sea,
El Gouna,
Egypt.

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Beaches of the North Coast of Egypt

As soon as school’s out for the summer, Egyptian middle-class families perform a mass migration towards the Mediterranean north coast known as Sahel El Shamali or El Sahel. Located north-west of Alexandria and a 3-4 hour drive from Cairo, over the years resorts around the North Coast have increased dramatically, with many Egyptians dreaming of owning an apartment or beach house. But people visiting the North Coast of Egypt also have the option to rent out apartments and villas.

The North Coast isn’t as commercialized as resorts around the Red Sea, perhaps because not many tourists venture to holiday here. The highway leads to Al-Alamein, where two wars were fought during the 1940s. The cemeteries of European soldiers are open to visitors till today.

Strangely the highway is quite underdeveloped, although so many Egyptians visit every year from May-September. There was quite a sandstorm while we traveled through the narrow road, which was quite daunting because we could hardly see the car in front! I’d advise checking the weather forecast before traveling and not take advantage of the idea that the sun will always be shining.

But it’s the beaches that bring so many to its shores. The beaches of the North Coast are beautiful; the color of the sea is unlike the color of the sea in Alexandria. The natural white sandy beaches are clean and leveled to walk on.

What particularly struck out to me on this beach were the rocks. I love rocks, especially ones that are scattered around on a beach. They offer such a striking contrast from the light colors of the sand and sea.

Sometimes the sea is too dangerous to swim in, in parts of the North Coast. The current on this beach was quite strong and the waves quite high.

Sidi Abdel Rahman, where this particular beach is located, is an area on the North Coast where people say the sea is cleaner and the colors richer. A few foreign investors have bought and developed resorts in the area in recent years, including Emirate Heights, Marassi, and Hacienda Bay.

With the beaches perfect the way they are, the only thing I would love to see change is the highway of the North Coast with signs welcoming you in and clear exit signs leading up to resorts. Because a smooth journey is as important as a smooth holiday.

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