Hurghada stands on Egypt's Red Sea coast, gazing out over the deep blue waters to the faraway mountains of the Sinai, whose towering summits are visible on a clear day. The town's name was coined by early English speaking oil workers in the region and is a derivation of the Bedouin word El Ghardaqa; a drought resistant shrub that grows along the nearby coasts. It started its modern life as an oil field and a century ago was a small outpost with just a few houses, a post office and a jetty. It remained little more than a minor settlement to which Maaza Bedouin of the mountains would travel to buy essential supplies like rice and sugar until its potential as a destination for beach tourism was recognised in the 1980s. Within the last 30 years Hurghada has seen gigantic financial investment and unbridled urban development, growing into both a major international tourism destination and the capital of Egypt's enormous Red Sea Governorate. With a population of nearly 250,000 people today it is the biggest town on the Bedouin Trail and with most of its older generations tracing their roots to nearby towns of Upper Egypt like Luxor, Qena and Assyut, it feels much more authentically-Egyptian than other Red Sea tourism hubs like Sharm el Sheikh. Hurghada was developed on account of its sandy beaches, warm waters and colourful offshore reefs, but many visitors will find the jagged highlands of the Red Sea Mountains a sight of equal splendour, with a similarly powerful pull. Hurghada is a major gateway town on the Bedouin Trail through which hikers will pass on their journey between the Sinai and mainland Egypt. The last major town before the settled heartlands of the Nile Valley and the ideal place to kick back around a hike and the ferry connecting it with Sharm el Sheikh is said to be returning soon.
Hurghada: a quick glance
Hurghada has several distinct centres. The oldest, most northerly hub of the town – where cafes, takeaways, markets, bus stations, cheap accommodation and almost everything else can be found - is called El Dahar. Further south is another busy hub called El Sigaala; home to an international passenger port, along with a seafood market, the El Nour Mosque and Hurghada's Marina, where lively restaurants and bars can be found. With its non-stop hustle and bustle El Sigaala has a similar atmosphere to El Dahar and both areas are linked by two main streets; Sharia el Nasr, on which Hurghada's main bus stations, post offices, banks and other services are found and Sharia el Bahr, a seafront street dotted with resorts. Running south from El Sigaala is Sharia Sheraton; a busy thoroughfare lined with bars, cafes and hotels, popular with tourists. El Mamsha is an outlying hub of resorts and residential suburbs with an altogether quieter feel, a few kilometres south of El Sigaala. Also of note is Hurghada's Khushmaan Quarter near Dahar, where many Bedouin tribesmen of the Maaza split their time between the town and the nearby mountains. About 15km to the north or Hurghada is El Gouna; a modern resort town of lagoons, high-end hotels and sprawling suburbs of private residences, popular with both wealthy Cairenes and foreign expats. The major towns south of Hurghada are Safaga and Quseir, with Ras Gharib, Ein Sukhna and Suez located to the north.
Between Hurghada & Sharm
A passage along the Bedouin Trail involves crossing between Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada. Sharm and Hurghada are neighbouring towns divided by a narrow stretch of the Red Sea, but getting between them today can be tricky. La Pespes and AB Maritime have both operated passenger ferries between the towns in the last decade, but services have been stop-start, opening and closing with the rise and fall of Egypt's tourism. The La Pespes ferry closed with the pandemic of 2020 but AB Maritime are advertising the route again and may operate services soon so watch out for updates. The crossing takes two and a half hours and is the nicest way to travel, giving a more natural, uninterrupted overseas journey between regions. Another option is to go overland, but this involves driving a gigantic, country-sized hairpin around the Gulf of Suez which at 700km is 10 times further than the sea passage. Moreover, only local minibuses run the Gulf of Suez coasts between Hurghada, Suez and Sharm. Travelling this way involves a long, cramped journey and the hassle of changing between unmarked minibuses with no fixed departure times in Suez. A more comfortable option is to take a normal passenger bus between Sharm and Hurghada via Cairo, perhaps with a night's break in between. The journey takes about 7-8 hours between Cairo and both Sharm and Hurghada. GO BUS is the best company. Egypt Air also offer 25 minute flights between Hurghada and Sharm costing around EGP1200-1800 one way.
The Bedouin Trail & Hurghada
The Bedouin Trail integrates the northern half of the Red Sea Mountain Trail between Wadi Abu Zagat and Wadi Ghuza. It is a spectacular route summitting the 2187m Jebel Shayib el Banat - mainland Egypt's highest peak - along with Jebel Abu Dukhaan and Jebel Gattar. Getting to Wadi Abu Zagat from Hurghada involves a 15km passage through the town followed by a 30km walk over a desert plain called El Qa. Many hikers will prefer to do at least the town section in a taxi, which can be arranged through the Red Sea Mountain Trail. Getting between Wadi Ghuza and the Nile Valley involves traversing Egypt's Eastern Desert for 70km to the upper parts of Wadi Qena, after which a tarmac road runs 50km to Qena. For more on the Red Sea Mountain Trail section, see Bedouin Trail: Thru Hike.
HURGHADA: WHERE TO STAY
Hurghada has a good range of accommodation. Dahar and Sigaala are where most budget options are located and rooms are usually available to rent on the spot. A few of the best budget and mid range options are below. Other good options can be found through online booking agencies. Hurghada is an excellent place to stay for a night, either side of a hike.
BAHGA PALACE 3 - comfortable apartments on the outskirts of town. Kitchenette, en-suite, a/c, TV & roof terrace with superb mountain view. Cafes, bars nearby on Sharia Sheraton. EGP350-400/ night. Call to book: 0109-999-2006 (Hani)
LUXOR HOTEL - simple, clean rooms, with a/c, bathrooms & friendly staff. Good location in Dahar, near banks, bars & cafes. WIFI available. Singles EGP500, doubles EGP600/ night. Tel: 0115-960-0098 / www.luxorhotel-eg.com
SEA VIEW HOTEL - clean rooms with a/c, en-suite bathrooms & sea view balconies, on the coastal road in Dahar. Indoor pool & helpful staff. Singles EGP300, doubles EGP400/ night. Tel: 0128-166-2332 / www.seaviewhotel.com.eg
REDCON SUITES - good apartment-style accommodation, with a hotel feel. A/c, en-suites, kitchenettes & WIFI at the end of Sharia Sheraton. Singles/ doubles EGP700. Tel: +20106-882-7791 / www.redcon-panorama.hotel-hurghada.com
BAHGA PALACE 5 - a sister property of the Bahga Palage 3, slightly more modern. Kitchenette, en-suite, a/c, TV & roof terrace with superb mountain view & balconies overlooking the Red Sea. EGP350-400/ night. Call 0109-999-2006 (Hani)
FOUR SEASONS HOSTEL - friendly, well-established backpacker-type hostel near bars & cafes in Dahar. Simple rooms, WIFI available. Singles EGP250, doubles EGP300. Tel: 0122-714-3917 / firstname.lastname@example.org
LILY APARTMENTS - at the southern end of Sharia Sheraton, clean apartments with a/c, en-suite bathroom & WIFI. Rooftop terrrace & pool. Singles EGP300, doubles EGP400/ night. Tel: +20109-383-8377 / www.lillyapartments.com
MARINA SQUARE HOSTEL - superb new backpacker hostel. Private & communal rooms, including one with private tents. Common area & kitchen, friendly vibe & WIFI. Dorm beds EGP200; single, EGP400; double EGP500. Tel +20101-614-9623