La Mer Rouge vue d'en haut, dans le sud de l'Égypte. Novembre 2011.
The Red Sea seen from above, in southern Egypt. November 2011.

In the middle of nowhere

  Egypt: Hamata - Red Sea - November 2011

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:

I was in southern Egypt, in November 2011, for to dive in the Red Sea. Strange feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. No other landmark than a strip of asphalt between the sea and the desert.

Between sea and desert

To the left is the sea. To the right is the Egyptian desert. In our back, Marsa Alam. Right in front, Hamata. Our goal.

Dans le minibus, entre Marsa Alam et Hamata. Égypte, novembre 2011.
In the minibus, between Marsa Alam and Hamata. Egypt, November 2011.

Hamata, where is the hotel that is to host our small group of diving divers. Where is moored the boat that will transport us from one coral reef to another.

I looked at a Google Map before coming. A little further, south of Hamata, there is a port that bears the beautiful name of Berenice. At the end of the road, even further, there is Sudan.

We landed at Marsa Alam. The minibus ride from the airport to our hotel lasts a good couple of hours.

From above, already, by the porthole of the plane, the sight seemed strange to me. No trees, no fields, no greenery. Just the azure sparkling water and the dry ocher of the earth. Here and there, resorts. Planted in the middle of nowhere.

La Mer Rouge vue d'en haut, dans le sud de l'Égypte. Novembre 2011.
The Red Sea seen from above, in southern Egypt. November 2011.

Ghost hotels

Funny place, all the same, to come to spend holidays. Accustomed to the humid tropical Southeast Asia swept by the monsoons, where the exuberant vegetation easily turns to the jungle, where the agricultural areas are flooded for rice cultivation, I do not get used to this inhospitable pebble that s Stretches endlessly on my right.

People live here yet. Our minibus crosses some towns. A handful of houses, a mosque, a sign, an array of ragged palms along the road.

Sur la route entre Marsa Alam et Hamata. Égypte, novembre 2011.
On the road between Marsa Alam and Hamata. Egypt, November 2011.
Enfants jouant le long de la route, près de Hamata. Égypte, novembre 2011.
Children playing along the road, near Hamata. Egypt, November 2011.

The most curious is the huge abandoned concrete buildings scattered at regular intervals along the coast. Huge unfinished hotel projects.

These remains of real estate are a little gloomy. Foolish, absurd.

Une construction abandonnée, sur la route entre Marsa Alam et Hamata. Égypte, novembre 2011.
An abandoned construction on the road between Marsa Alam and Hamata. Egypt, November 2011.
Une construction abandonnée, sur la route entre Marsa Alam et Hamata. Égypte, novembre 2011.
Another abandoned resort on the road between Marsa Alam and Hamata. Egypt, November 2011.

Divers and kite surfers

Our minibus swallows the kilometers. In the distance, in the intense blue of the sky, a cluster of glittering kites suddenly catches the eye.

Show initially incongruous, incomprehensible. In fact, they are kite-surfers. In addition to divers, another tourist tribe rages in the area: fans of wind and snow.

Kite-surfs dans le sud de l'Égypte, près de Hamata. Novembre 2011.
Kite-surfers in the south of Egypt, near Hamata. November 2011.

We will meet them at the hotel. Our two tribes have no hooked atoms and will not talk to each other. Like us, kite-surfers have been transported to the middle of nowhere to devote themselves exclusively to their passion. A parenthesis out of the world and out of time. With on the left the sea, on the right the desert.

La route entre Marsa Alam et Hamata. Égypte, novembre 2011.
The road between Marsa Alam and Hamata. Egypt, November 2011.

A parenthesis out of the world and out of time

As a worthy representative of my tribe, I certainly loved this Egyptian stay devoted to underwater photography (read: Diving in the Red Sea, The color of the coral, Dance with dolphins). But from Egypt and the Southern Desert, from its inhabitants, I will not have seen anything.

I only had contact with the staff of the hotel or the dive boat. Only men. All adorable and caring. But it's weird not to meet any woman.

Sur le bateau de plongée. Égypte, novembre 2011.
On the dive boat. Egypt, November 2011.

There were also a few kids watching every day our descent from the boat, trying to sell us trinkets.

Since I returned, I often think of these ghost hotels a little grim, abandoned, which will not land any tourist tribe. At this asphalt line that follows the outline of the Red Sea and leads to Sudan.

It was an unprecedented vacation destination for me. But I would only recommend it to divers and kite-surfers. We are really in the middle of nowhere, wedged between the Red Sea and the pebbles of the desert.

Près de Hamata, dans le sud de l'Égypte, novembre 2011.
Near Hamata, southern Egypt, November 2011.
La plage de l'hôtel Wadi Lahmy Resort. Égypte, novembre 2011.
The beach at Wadi Lahmy Resort. Egypt, November 2011.

Many divers swear by Egypt for diving. It is true that the destination is less distant than my favorite seas in the Indo-Pacific zone. But for my part, I find this kind of desert atmosphere a little sad. I have trouble with the sand and the pebbles, no doubt, used to being in tropical greenery. But also with the lack of life around, the few possible exchanges with the population because of the isolation of hotels and then the fact of having to deal with an exclusively male staff ...

Short. I'm happy to have come, to have discovered the underwater world of the area, but I do not know if I'll be tempted again by a diving trip in the Red Sea.


  Egypt: Hamata - Red Sea - November 2011

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  1. That's quite right !!! This is one of the memories I kept of my first stay at the hotel Equinoxe, near Marsa alam (March 2008). The sea, the hotel, the desert ... and basta! A vacation for divers only. I did not even understand that there were non-divers in the hotel, in March more (water from the icy pool).

    1. So you're comforting me in my impressions ... I thought maybe it was a very partial vision on my part, my main reference as a diver-traveler is Southeast Asia. Well, we agree: it's a great destination for divers (and kite-surfers). Others may get bored ... 😉

    1. It was also my second time in Egypt. The first time (quite a few years ago), it had nothing to do with a diving trip: I had discovered Cairo and Alexandria, it was a press trip to meet, between others, CNRS archaeologists who worked in the bay ... Exciting !!!

      Last November, for the moment, I saw absolutely nothing of Egypt, except for a road, underwater, and a hotel ... But I still knew what to expect: I was came exclusively to dive.


    1. That's what I told myself: that there were surely more activities and excursions possible a little further north. There, we were really in the middle of nowhere ...

  2. Hello,
    I am going for the 7th time to Egypt in March. We started going there in October 2009, and I know why I go there: DIVING.
    The first time, we tried an excursion to Luxor: never again, because it was the tourist factory. The first three times we were in resorts, almost like prisoners. Since then, it's me who organizes the trip. We chose a small hotel (Toubia) located between downtown Safaga and the diving club (Dune). We can go to the marina on foot in the morning and in the evening go for a drink or eat a local fish.
    To return to your ghost hotels, go back there in 1 or 2 years, the hotels will be finished. The landscape is changing fast at the coast.
    Indeed, there are only men, the women being left in the big cities or in the small villages along the Nile with the children. Men go where there is work. That's why there are almost no maids, but many maids. Good on boats, they are primarily sailors.
    And Hamata, it's still just after the end of the world, somewhere in the middle of nowhere 8)

    1. You've found the right formula, I think: nice little hotel, near the restaurants and the sea, to not feel like being locked in an "all inclusive" where you're a little cut off from the realities of the country ...

      For the work of the men, yes, I talked a little with the captain of the boat and our guide, who explained to me that they had to work, that the women remained in their towns and villages, with the children.

      Even if one day these ghost hotels may end up being completed, it will not change much to the situation of Hamata, which is still a lost corner far away far to the South ...

  3. I love this region of Egypt (I went to El Quseir, a little north of Marsa Alam, the Radisson which was really beautiful)! It is true that the real estate projects are sinister, however I love the contrast between the sea and the aridity of the desert (also the "calm" that one feels when one is there ...). The sunsets are also breathtaking! 🙂 Your photos are very beautiful 😉

    1. I discovered for myself this region of Egypt, and I was even further south ... Indeed, the light is beautiful at the end of the day. But aridity, I have trouble getting there.

  4. I just returned from a week at the edge of the Red Sea, it is true that it is a very strange place. These big abandoned hotels have had the same effect as you, at the same time I think it would make an excellent setting for a novel, right?

    Anyway thank you for these beautiful travel photos!

  5. Like laurence I also went to the side of Dahab and more specifically to Blue Hole. It is a very nice place to go scuba diving because a lot of depth. Blue hole is a hole of more than 100m.
    For the snorkeling I was on vacation in Taba and it was also very nice with beautiful corals and fish everywhere.