Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 June 2009
Issue No. 951
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Snap shots

By Mohamed El-Hebeishy

The Red Sea is the Mecca for sunshine worshipers and diving junkies. But is there more to it than the popular destinations of Sharm El-Sheikh, El-Gouna and Hurghada? Mohamed El-Hebeishy takes a quick tour along the southern coast of the Red Sea Riviera.

QUSSEIR: A tranquil coastal town south of Hurghada, Qusseir combines the eccentric charm of least treaded archaeological sites, with the euphoric relaxation of pristine beaches and scenic beauty. Once upon a time, Qusseir played a pivotal role in trading as well as pilgrimage to Mecca, but with the opening of the Suez Canal the town descended into oblivion.

The heydays are long gone, but a mighty citadel still stands the test of time. It was also once the epicentre of phosphorus mining, and the Italian company in charge left its mark on many edifices. The town is laid- back, ideal for a relaxing walk along the Italian-inspired older homes.

But if this is too much history for you, put on your swimming suit, grab a chilled piña colada and the latest lifestyle magazine, and enjoy a day of pampering by the pool.

MARSA ALAM: Hallelujah! This is diving like you never imagined; from shoals of hammerheads and rare dugong, to giant sea turtles and mind-boggling reefs. All in one place, Marsa Alam is the ultimate destination for your diving safari. But if you are not really interested in diving, book the Samadai excursion and enjoy an up-close and personal encounter with dolphins in the wild.

If you are truly lucky, they will come and swim right next to you; just keep your fingers crossed. Marsa Alam is a very quiet destination with virtually no nightlife outside your hotel's premises.

SHALATEEN: This is literally the last tourism frontier. Exotic in more than one way, Shalateen is renowned for its camel market, where herders from Sudan come to trade their livestock -- mostly camels. Ababda and Bishari tribes call the place home, and a shopping spree in the town's market will definitely yield a different set of souvenirs and trinkets.

Whenever you feel tired, take a break and try out the traditional jabena coffee -- it is delightful.

photo: Mohamed El-Hebeishy

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