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Egypt’s abundance of beaches are often unexplored by travellers who come to Cairo – and that’s a real shame since some of the most popular destinations for Cairenes are just a few hours from the city by car. Here’s our guide to one of the best-kept secrets in Egypt.
As the weather starts to heat up in March, Cairenes flock to Ain Sokhna for a beachside break, returning throughout the summer until the heat starts to lift in September. Just a two-hour drive from Downtown Cairo, the quiet resort town lies on the Red Sea’s Gulf of Suez, nestled between stunning mountain ranges and sparkly blue seas. Book a day trip for a change of scenery, a spot of fishing or, if you’re lucky, some dolphin-spotting.
The coastal town of Ain Sokhna is a 120km (75mi) journey from the centre of Cairo, and fairly easy to get to. Ask your hotel to organise a car with a chauffeur, or try Uber (enter Porto Sokhna as your destination to arrive at a central location on the coast). Better yet, check out Go Bus – an inter-city coach service that specialises in tourist destinations. You can book your ticket for any one of the 10-plus buses that leave from Tahrir Square in Downtown Cairo through their website, or at the bus meeting point (which you can easily locate on Google Maps). Be sure to book your return ticket at the same time, so you can plan your day accordingly. Prices vary depending on the type of bus you choose, but fares are very reasonable. Car rental is another convenient option, and recent renovations on the main highway from Cairo to Ain Sokhna have made the route safer and more scenic.
With resorts and ports lining the whole coastal road, Ain Sokhna’s pull is its easygoing and chilled-out beaches. While it’s tempting to while away your day there, sunbathing between dips in the sparkling sea, there’s plenty more to do if you’re so inclined. From adventurous rides up into the mountain to all manner of water sports and aquatic activities, there’s plenty you can squeeze into a single day at the beachside town.
Take a yacht ride and go dolphin-spotting
A fisherman’s paradise, Ain Sokhna’s clear waters and varied marine life make a boat trip irresistible. You can organise your cruise in advance; you’ll find plenty of high-rated operators online. The experienced crew of sailors can take you out on the waters for as little or as long as you want and can even provide fishing equipment and a cooked lunch on board for an extra cost. Most boats take up to 10 people, so make sure to gather as large a group as you can to make it more cost-effective. Once you’re on the water, keep your eyes open for schools of dolphins that can sometimes be spotted having a blast in the clear sea.
Take a kitesurfing course
Ain Sokhna is the closest spot to Cairo for kitesurfing, and its shallow waters and gentle tide make this destination a great place for beginners to try out the sport. Check out Infinity Kitesurfing, close to Ain Sokhna’s iconic wind energy farm, for a crash course in what’s quickly becoming Egypt’s favourite sport. Take turns on the board for a challenging experience, and lounge in their beanbags between gos for a well-earned break.
Take a cable car into the hills
The mammoth resort of Porto Sokhna not only offers myriad dining destinations (we’ll get into that later), but also a unique chance to see the sprawling seaside town from above. Head there for a unique experience aboard their cable cars (known locally by its Francophone term, téléphérique) and take a ride up to the highest point in the Ain Sokhna hills.
Chill on the beach and soak up the sun
While there are plenty of adventures to be had, let’s be honest – if you’re heading to the beach, you likely want to sit back, relax and build up a tan. Even if you’re not staying overnight, most hotels in Ain Sokhna offer a ‘day-use’ rate, which means you can access their beaches and pools as a guest without booking a room. Prices to do so range from 200 LE (£11) per person up to 800 LE (£43) per person depending on the hotel – we recommend Ain Sokhna staple resort Stella Di Mare or Jaz Little Venice.
Any avid Egyptian foodie will tell you there’s nothing quite like a fresh catch from the Red Sea for lunch, and some will even travel especially for a fish supper and drive right back to Cairo. While seafood is often the order of the day, there’s plenty more to savour. From fine dining at some of the destination’s fancy hotels to decadent desserts at well-known chains, satisfying your appetite after a long day at the beach won’t be a difficult task.
For seafood we recommend Bouillabaisse Fish Restaurant and Abou Ali fish restaurant. Both are popular with locals and visitors from Cairo and are centrally located. Another tip is to jump on the big food trend of the moment and sample rolled ice cream at Bouza Roll ice-cream shop.