Egypt saw a hot and busy summer this year, leading many people to leave sometimes scorching cities for the North Coast and the many coastal resorts along the Mediterranean Sea. While there are many ways to enjoy the holidays, boating and taking a yacht cruise can take a trip to a new level of experience.
Some might think that taking a yacht trip would be a luxury activity that would require a large sum of money and only be for millionaires. However, this is not the case, especially in older coastal cities such as Alexandria, Damietta, and Marsa Matrouh, which offer such trips at reasonable prices to suit most people.
“It does not take anything but a gallon of petrol to surf the sea and enjoy the breeze, whether you are taking a speed boat or a large yacht with all the facilities,” said Khalil Fatouh, a sailor in Alexandria.
“You can also take a pedalo (paddle boat), a felucca, or a rowing boat, in which case the prices become much lower,” he added.
Fatouh has been sailing off the Mediterranean city for more than 40 years and works on two large yachts in Alexandria. He offers tours that can last from one to six hours. “We offer many activities that include swimming, sight-seeing, boat parties, and dinner during the cruises,” he said.
One of the most common sightseeing cruises is off the ancient citadel of Qaitbay, a 15th-century fortress built on the ruins of the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria, and towards the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, built on the site of the ancient world’s Library of Alexandria.
Cruising along the Mediterranean coast and exploring the charming fishing villages and beautiful beaches is also part and parcel of the journey.
“Last year was even better in Alexandria than usual with more and more people taking yacht trips. Perhaps the inflation has been affecting people’s choices because we are aiming at local people who may just want to have a short tour,” Fatouh said.
“Sometimes we organise tours with local tour companies to bring in more tourists for such cruises.”
Fatouh said that the local port needs more development as it now attracts hundreds of people a day. “Similar to what we see in Hurghada or Sharm El-Sheikh in Sinai, we need our port to be as beautiful, as clean, and as spacious as other tourist ports to attract more visitors” he added.
One of the most interesting tours that many Alexandrians like to take is a cruise from the Montazah Palace to Nelson Island, where people can enjoy the day swimming, sunbathing, and barbecuing or having a picnic.
“Each trip is different. It is not that North Coast cruises are better or Alexandrian ones are better. Each is a special experience,” said Amany Al-Sahn, a local trip organiser.
“We are blessed to have wonderful sandy beaches, magnificent blue skies, beautiful weather, calm and turquoise seas, historical sites, and hospitable Egyptian people,” Al-Sahn said, who has been in the tourism business for more than 20 years.
She has organised dozens of sailing trips this year in Alexandria and Porto Marina. “We rent a big yacht in Porto Marina, where people can spend the whole day enjoying the various water activities,” she added.
The Porto Marina yachts, which are available for rent, are quite luxurious. They offer inclusive offers with many sports activities that all members of the family can enjoy.
“Everyone needs something new and exciting to try. That’s why many people have chosen these yacht trips this summer because of the services and facilities that make them happy,” she added.
“When you spend six or eight hours at sea and feel the gentle breeze in your hair and on your face, you feel an exhilarating sense of freedom as you watch the yacht glide through the Marina territories and islands,” Sanaa Fathi, the mother of two children, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Fathi was keen to take her children on a yacht trip as a treat for their exam results. She planned to surprise them by joining a yacht trip in Marina just a few miles from New Alamein City.
“It was a fun and exciting trip. The kids enjoyed the activities available for them such as floaters and swimming mats and the slide at the back of the ship,” she said.
In addition to all the activities for children, many resorts also offer more professional water activities that will keep your adrenaline rush going such as jet skiing, wind surfing, and kiteboarding.
Some yacht charters offer fishing cruises where men can enjoy catching fresh fish for dinner.
“To me, there is nothing better than sailing on the sea while listening to music to forget about any troubles or problems,” Fathi said.
Many people also take small boats as a way of reaching the islands off the North Coast. Such short cruises are capable of relieving all the stress the world might bring. The panoramic views of the beaches, the blue water, and the islands are more than enough to make one feel at ease.
Hesham Mohamed has been working in the sailing industry for more than 18 years in Porto Marina. As an employee in the resort, he has seen the growing number of visitors coming every year.
“There was a huge turnout in Porto Marina this year,” he said. “Our boats usually go from the Porto Marina beach to Hammock Island and vice versa.”
“There are more activities this season, testifying to the huge attraction of the North Coast where many international and local visitors come and enjoy the beaches and the panoramic views.”
Since the high season on the North Coast is from May to October, many employees like Hesham spend the rest of the year maintaining the boats and yachts for the summer months.
“We hope that the North Coast will eventually become a popular destination for visitors throughout the year. It is sad to see fewer people in winter with all the facilities and splendid atmosphere,” he added.
According to Egypt’s State Information Service, there are now more than 30,000 yachts on Egypt’s Mediterranean Sea. The North Coast and New Alamein City are considered important hubs for yacht tourism in Egypt.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 7 September, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly