Recently I went to Marsa Alam. The trip was a long pending belated birthday gift from Tarek and I decided to learn diving there. The decision was not an easy one given the fact that I was superhydrophobic. A childhood drowning experience had marred most aquatic experiences for me and I was especially paranoid about swimming in the sea/ocean. What lurks underneath the sheet of blue always made me nervous and my occasional dips were not happy ones. My trip to Marsa Alam, however, changed all that and I went on to get an open water PADI certification. The fact that Marsa Alam above the ground is quite a monotonous place made it imperative for me to explore underwater and then the rich, lively beauty of the Red Sea took my breath away.

Marsa Alam beach near Tondoba Bay

One of the empty Marsa Alam beaches near Tondoba Bay

Marsa Alam is full of beauty minus the crowds

The Red Sea is the most beautiful water body in the world and it has the world’s richest marine treasures. Known as Bahr al-Ahmar in Arabic, the Red Sea is one of the youngest oceanic zones on earth. Geologically, it came into existence when the plates of Arabia and East Africa shifted away from each other and eventually broke apart, around 20-30 million years ago. It is a relatively narrow water body that is shared by several countries (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti) and since no water enters the Red Sea from rivers, it has one of the healthiest marine life in the world. This makes the Red Sea a divers’ and snorkelers paradise and it gets lovelier as you move along the coast towards Sudan. Marsa Alam is one of the far-flung Red Sea coast destinations that is actually closer to the Sudanese border than Cairo and this makes it relatively less overrun than Sharm-el-Sheikh and Hurghada.

You may also like: 5 reasons why you should visit Dahab

A turtle feeding on a reef near Tondoba Bay in Marsa Alam

The enchanting Red Sea coast

This beautiful young sea has seduced travellers and explorers for centuries and even Moses could not resist its mysterious charms. The Biblical figure is believed to have parted the Red Sea and recent studies prove that scientists may know actually how he did it. Over the eons of years following that episode, many have explored the Red Sea and its possibilities and the Suez Canal makes it one of the busiest waterbodies in the world. 365 days of sunshine make the entire Red Sea coast attracts beach lovers in planeloads and some sites are actually buckling under the pressure of over-tourism. I, however, did not go there for a religious exodus and neither did I seek the sun there. I visited Marsa Alam only for its gorgeous beaches, mangrove forests, camel mountains, and solitude and ended up finding everything apart from those. As mentioned before the dry austere desert beauty of Marsa Alam drove me to seek beauty underwater and I spent a week there learning how to dive.

Recommended Read: Siwa Oasis, where real adventure still lives

Marsa Alam is for those who want to learn diving

Exploring the coral gardens and beautiful fishes

The decision was an impromptu one driven by the greed of seeing more of the Red Sea’s underwater beauty and the region’s colorful, light-filled coral gardens swarming with tropical fish, are sights to behold. I remember a particular moment when I came upon a stunning reef wall from which violet corals bloomed like a fairy tale garden. The sight made me gasp, and I had spoken out loud in my head, “These are my lavender fields”. It may be added here that I have been lusting to visit Provence during the lavender season for some time and was majorly disappointed every time the trip was called off. That sight, however, made all those grudges go away and I thank Tarek for introducing me to the gorgeous underwater world of the Red Sea. This photo essay is dedicated to the Red Sea, the charm of my laidback diving holiday in Marsa Alam, and Tarek, without whom I would have never known that such an incredible alternative world exists.

marsa alam is in egypt

The desert landscape of Marsa Alam from above the water

The colours of Marsa Alam underwater

The violet coral garden which took my breath away

Very much in love Napoleon fishes

Sea turtles thrive in and around Marsa Alam

Sea turtles thrive in and around Marsa Alam

If you are lucky, you might see a sea cow or dugong

If diving is not for you,

Try snorkelling in Marsa Alam

End your Marsa Alam days with these gorgeous sunsets

P.S – This blog post is part of the weekly series called the Cairo Chronicles. Every week, Maverickbird will try to focus on a new theme, emotion, and beauty of expat life in the exciting, maddening city of Cairo.

Follow the rest of the offbeat Egypt series here