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Red Sea family holidays

Sea turtleSea turtle©CHICUREL Arnaud/hemis.fr
DiversDivers©CHICUREL Arnaud/hemis.fr
El GounaEl Gouna©Euromoney/The Earl of Guilford
Semi-submarine tour, El GounaSemi-submarine tour, El Gouna©CHICUREL Arnaud/hemis.fr
Flying Time 3.5hrs
Timezone GMT +2

Today

Overview

Cosmopolitan in flavour, with very modern resorts, Egypt’s Rea Sea coast offers mile on mile of sandy beaches, waters teeming with pretty fish for the delight of divers, swimmers and snorkellers alike, international restaurants and tons of organised children’s activities, making it well suited to family holidays.

But this is also an area steeped in history, with a rich cultural and biblical heritage, so you’ll be ticking all the right educational boxes as well as having fun. These are, after all, the same waters that parted for the Israelites as they fled the Egyptians, while the land of the pharaohs, temples and tomb raiders has ruins aplenty to explore.

Things to do with kids in the Red Sea Coast

Book pool-based dives for children 8+ and open-water dives for those over 10 with a  reputable local firm such as Emperor Divers, which has centres in El Gouna, Hurghada, Marsa Alam and Nuweiba, as well as Sharm el Sheikh.

Spend blissful days on Hurghada’s famous golden sands or take an excursion to one of El Gouna’s beautiful offshore islands, such as the white shores of Tawila.

Head for Ras Mohamed National Park about 30km south of Sharm el Sheikh, one of the most talked-about diving sites in the world, for more snorkelling and diving.

Try your hand at sailing, windsurfing, jet skiing and parasailing. 

Make day-trips to Cairo, Giza or Luxor – see our Egypt family destination guide for more details.

Consider making a quick jaunt across the Red Sea to Jordan and the ‘lost city’ of  Petra. Jerusalem is also doable as a day-trip from Sharm el Sheikh and Dahab.

Cross the amazing landscape of the Sinai desert with its little Bedouin tents and villages to reach Santa Catarina, the oldest Christian monastery in existence and the smallest diocese in the world. The desert is also the place for camel tours, horse-riding, jeep excursions by jeep, quad-biking and sleeping out under the stars in a Bedouin tent.

Visit one of the fascinating bazaars.

Eat

As you’d expect in an area that bridges Africa and Asia, the food on the Red Sea coast is exciting. Egyptian bazaars display staggering amounts of spices, all of which feature prominently in everyday cooking. Some dishes may frighten little people, but on the whole you should be able to entice your kids into embracing new flavours.

Egyptians like their meat, as does the Middle Eastern community, so you’ll find lots of meats, normally grilled or roasted. The well-known shish kebab is a favourite, normally served with pitta, tomato salad and hummus. Mezze platters (a mixed goodie bag of falafel, hummus, breads, and so on) are fun options for family holidays.

There are plenty of gorgeous sweet treats too, including dates and nuts clothed in sweet pastry. The many juice bars on the streets offer delicious freshly squeezed oranges that are very welcome in the midday sun.

The Red Sea resorts also offer plenty of international cuisine, including some familiar fast-food outlets.

Drink only bottled water and eat fruit that has been peeled to avoid any tummy upsets. 

When to go to the Red Sea Coast

The Red Sea coast is best for family holidays between October and May – outside these months the beaches get very hot and the weather can be a little too warm for some activities or for very young children in general.

The holy month of Ramadan (usually Aug–Sept or Sept–Oct) is a special time in the Egyptian calendar, with coloured lights in the streets at night and a festive atmosphere, but note that working hours change during Ramadan and opening hours at tourist attractions may be shorter.

Cost

The Red Sea coast can be a very affordable destination, particularly if you pick up an all-inclusive deal, but there is also a good choice of luxury resorts where you can truly splurge.

By Rachelle Keyes

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