The resort town has spared nothing in crafting a sublime getaway, with artful architecture and lush greenery woven around a 300-meter man-made salt-water lagoon — the largest lagoon of its kind among Middle East resorts. Port Ghalib boasts the nation’s only free water taxi, which makes the rounds of the lagoon, stopping at the hotels, marina and khan.
The man-made wonders are made even more enjoyable by weather that is beyond amazing. For a seaside retreat, the humidity is surprisingly low at under 28%, the air is crisp, mornings are warm and the sky is always clear. So clear, in fact, that the blanket of stars at night is so thick you can hardly see the night sky behind them — perfect for a romantic dinner.
Port Ghalib currently has four hotels open, with another 15 planned for the near future. If you want to be pampered like you were royalty, head to the Intercontinental The Palace of Port Ghalib, a regally lavish hotel at the heart of Port Ghalib. Inspired by 17th-century Andalusian architecture, this five-star hotel is a superb mix of modern amenities and classic Oriental design. It truly is a palace fit for a queen.
The Palace has a large heated pool and private beach with a 125-meter jetty to allow you to snorkel where the corals are the most beautiful. For those who prefer the thrill of being underwater, the hotel has a fully equipped dive center with trained instructors and a pool for practice.
The South Red Sea is renowned for its marine life, and you might catch a glimpse of a spinner dolphin, dugong, sea turtle or hammerhead shark. If being in the water isn’t your thing, you can take a horse or camel ride along the beach. Whichever activities you prefer, you can unwind afterward with a chaise lounge and a cocktail, taking in the soothing views of pearlescent white sand and azure blue skies and water.
Crown Plaza’s two properties evoke the classic Egyptian style, making you feel as if you were in an old movie. The Crowne Plaza Sahara Sands Port Ghalib enjoys a view of the lagoon, offering a very private and romantic setting. In fact, the hotel won a 2010 World Travel Award for Egypt’s Leading Honeymoon Resort. The blue and browns of the décor make the hotel feel like a natural part of the desert coastline, and the rooms combine brightly colored spaces accented by handmade decorations. The Sahara Sands has a private beach with all the requisite water sports activities, accessible from the hotel’s four separate wings.
While the Sahara Sands is great for couples, the Crowne Plaza Sahara Oasis Port Ghalib Resort embraces families, with a lazy river and water slides and part of its pool complex. Designed in the style of an ornate Arab villa with rustic mosaics and lush gardens, the Crowne Plaza Sahara Oasis looks out on the area’s natural surroundings. The Sahara Oasis took home the 2010 World Travel Award for Egypt’s Leading Family Resort.
Before they hit the water, divers will find their heaven on earth at the Marina Lodge resort, which hosts a five-star diving center and school that runs excursions to the South Red Sea’s famous shore and open-sea dive sites. Designed in the Nubian style of architecture that emphasize the natural aesthetics of the sea and open air, nearly all of Marina Lodge’s rooms have sea views.
Port Ghalib is also home to the world-renowned Six Senses Spa — the first branch in Egypt. The spa is practically your own vintage hammam, complete with arabesque wood paneling, candles and the warming scent of oils. With 16 treatment areas, including three couples rooms, two Thai treatment rooms and one hydrotherapy treatment room, the spa offers massages, Moroccan baths and skin treatments, all using local and natural products such as fresh Red Sea herbs, olive oil and products from Egyptian organic beauty line Nefertari. For a back-to-nature excursion, Bedouins from a nearby camp offer safaris with starlight dinners and traditional music and camel rides through the desert. It’s an exceptional opportunity to experience and learn about desert life.
Though one of the nation’s newer resort towns, Port Ghalib has already put itself on the map as a entertainment destination, most notably with pop diva Beyoncé’s 2009 concert. The town is also attracting large-scale conferences with the Port Ghalib International Convention Centre, the Red Sea’s largest banquet venue with a ballroom for events of up to 2,000 people, 16 breakout rooms for private meetings, Internet access in all public areas and meeting rooms and a business center. There are even on-site event organizers to assist with events of any size.
Expect much more from Port Ghalib in the coming years. The town is the brainchild of the late Kuwaiti businessman Nasser Al-Kharafi, who fell in love with Egypt during his school years at Victoria college. His dream was to turn this near-abandoned fishing village into a fully integrated community, with resorts, schools, working areas, residential areas and a university to encourage people to come live here, to reduce the pressure on Cairo and the Nile Valley. Now about 60% finished, the development project is expected to be fully complete in 2020.
In the meantime, Port Ghalib is more than ready as a vacation destination. Whether you are looking for romance, stellar diving, a family holiday or just plain old rest and relaxation, this Red Sea resort will sweep you off your feet.