Fewer than one in a hundred tourists coming to the Marsa Alam area ever venture into the town itself. And for the few who do, there seems little reason, at first glance, to linger.
The wide wind swept main street is virtually empty during the day, the architecture is uninspiring and much of the town is little more than a giant building site. However it is gradually starting to feel more inviting as it grows.
Already you will find several small grocers and souvenir bazaars, a hardware shop, an electircal outlet, at least two pharmacies, a bureau de change and even a tiny bank. So it's a great oasis for those essential purchases.
But don't rush off once you've filled your shopping bag. If you look beyond the visible you will soon discover that the town does have an upside. The people here are among the most hospitable and affable in Egypt.
When I stroll round this small town in the evening, chatting to the residents, I feel strangely attracted to the place. Everyone has a boundless optimism.
"Hurghada was just like this fifteen years ago," says a man who has just sunk his life savings into buying a tiny souvenir bazar. "But in ten years this place will be bigger than Hurghada or Sharm. Buy property here. You can't loose."
The hotel workers, who live here, sit in groups in one of the various small cafeteria or in The Father of the Crazy Ones pizzeria. They play draughts and dominoes, smoke shisha, or watch football on an outdoor television. There's always much laughter.
If you are looking just for tourist sites you may wish to forget this town and head instead for El Quseir, Luxor or the Wadi El Gamal National Park ( see our What To Do page ). However if you need to buy a few provisions or wish to make some new friends then Marsa Alam town, despite its' rough and ready appearance, is the perfect place.
If you want to stay overnight there's a small clean budget priced hotel on the higher (West) end of the main street and a cheap laundry in a narrow walkway just off the souk where you can get a small bag of clothes laundered and ironed for around 20LE. There are also two internet cafes on the main street that are currently charging just 4LE per hour. A bargain compared to the 50LE or so which some of the nearby hotels charge.
GETTING HERE AND LEAVING.
BY BUS - The Upper Egypt Bus Company runs three daily, at 1.30pm, 6.30pm and 11pm, from Cairo Gateway Bus Station ( also known as El Torgoman Bus Terminal ), located on Sharia Al Gisr in Bulaq between Ramses train station and Tahrir Square. The price is around 80LE but check them first on tel 02 576 0261/573 6700. Journey time is about eleven hours over a distance of 790km and takes you along a coastal route via Hurghada, Safaga and El Quseir. Disembark early at El Quseir and take a servees (minibus) taxi if your destination is north of Marsa Alam airport. The servees should cost you around 10 to 15LE depending on distance.
The El Gouna Bus Company also operates a service once a day from Cairo to Marsa Alam. The cost is around 80LE. They have ticket offices and pick-up points on the Medan below Sixth October Bridge (near Ramses Hilton Hotel) and in Abassiya.
BY AIR - please see our flights page.
FROM MARSA ALAM
TO CAIRO AND HURGHADA
You can travel to Hurghada in two or three stages by service taxi (minibus) stopping first at El Quseir and then possibly at Safaga. Marsa Alam's mowqef or minibus station is just on the northern edge of the town. It should cost you from around 30LE per person total.
However if going on to Cairo, you'll need to go to one of the major bus stations in Hurghada. El Gouna is probably the best with buses for Cairo leaving every couple of hours and taking around 7 hours and the price varying between 55 and 150LE one way.
There are four buses daily to Hurghada from Marsa Alam but the times are uncertain. According to one person I asked they leave at 5am, 7am, noon and 8.30pm and according to another at 5am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 5pm.
El Gouna normally operate two buses daily going to Cairo. There is now a bus ticket office opposite the Mosque in Marsa Alam where some buses depart from. However the best bet is to ask in town. It's risky to ask the taxi drivers at the mowqef (where the minibus taxis wait) as one of them may deliberately give you misinformation.
A taxi from Marsa Alam to Hurghada should cost you around 500LE one way as of early summer 2012. However you'll need all your bargaining skills. Try to make sure he's properly licensed for the journey to prevent problems later on at the police check points. Also find out whether he wants you to change to another taxi in El Quseir as this could delay your journey. We would advise you tried contacting Steven's limousine by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone Steven directly on +20 1010 4545 98 - for more information see our Marsa Alam taxi page.
Please see our flights page. The airport is about 65km north of the city. A basic taxi to the airport should cost you around 150LE - a limousine taxi a little more.
TRAVEL BETWEEN MARSA ALAM
AND THE NILE VALLEY.
There are regular bus services connecting Marsa Alam with Edfu, Aswan and Luxor but the problem is that foreign tourists are not allowed to use this route. Any tourist wishing to travel to Luxor must travel in convoy along the Safaga to Qena road which means you have to backtrack two thirds of the way back to Hurghada before crossing over to the Nile valley.
The view from my bedroom window.
Main Street is deserted during the day time.
Father of the Crazy Ones Pizzeria
Another popular Marsa Alam restaurant.
A grocer in Marsa Alam's market.