There are a host of ancient sights and modern wonders to visit on Hurghada holidays. Start with the Coptic Cathedral of Saint Shenouda, and admire the old stained glass windows within this incense-filled church. Then, stop by the towering monastery of St Anthony, nestled in an oasis in the Arabian desert. Not forgetting the epic sand sculptures at Sand City, providing a truly memorable and unique sight to discover.
Al Mina (or El Mina) Mosque was built in 1968 and is the largest mosque in the city. This mosque cost 20-million pounds to build and sits next to the marina at Hurghada, right on the waterfront. Built out of pure white marble, this impressive building has two magnificent minarets, each about 40-metres high and the facades of the building are decorated with traditional, oriental ornaments and carvings.
The inside of the mosque has an inner hall which is very rich and colourful, with magnificent chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, elaborate arches, carved and engraved walls and a 25-metre- high dome. The Al Mina Mosque has been open to the public since 2012 and you can visit on your own or join a guided tour, but remember that women are required to cover their heads, shoulders and legs before going inside.
Even such a large building isn’t big enough to house everyone attending Friday prayers or large Muslim holidays, so there are pergolas and structures in the courtyard to accommodate the worshippers.
The Arrival Piazza is an elegant, open-air square with a central fountain surrounded by ornate and traditional buildings leading down to the sea. The whole area is beautifully designed and extremely stylish, with its arabesque architecture and the extensive tiled area alongside the fountain. It is an ideal venue for a wedding or any other large event whether that be a concert, an entertainment performance or even a business event.
It is a lovely piazza to just stroll around during the day, taking a few photographs and enjoying the view of the sea but at night when all the water features are illuminated, it is absolutely magnificent. It has a very romantic atmosphere with the rippling water, all the different coloured illuminated fountains and the floodlit buildings and is a lovely place to spend some quiet time just taking in the beauty of it all.
The St. Shenouda cathedral is located in El Dahar area of Hurghada and belongs to the Coptic Orthodox community. It appears to be quite modest from the outside, but inside the architecture is intricate and simply astounding, featured especially on the stained-glass windows and the painted ceilings, as well as interesting religious murals and paintings above the altar. Travellers can find a second church under the main cathedral to accommodate the overflow of worshippers that attend on special religious days.
Holidaymakers can visit the cathedral on their own, but most people choose to go there as part of a guided tour to learn about the fascinating history here, with tour guide’s pointing out the building’s most interesting features. Unlike some other churches, you are allowed to take photographs at Sain Shenouda but you must be considerate of those that are there to worship.
Hurghada Marina has the capacity to moor approximately 200 yachts, depending on their size. Because of the extensive facilities here, this sparkling marina offers everything yacht sailors could ever need, which is why it’s a very popular mooring point. As well as its nautical appeal, Hurghada Marina has become very well known for its exclusive bars, unique cafes, fine restaurants and the extensive choice of designer shops surrounding the port.
At sunset, the waterfront area comes alive with the sound of live music and entertainment, and the lit-up bars and restaurants are an ideal place to sit and have a meal or a few drinks and watch the world go by. What better way to spend an evening?
Alternatively, visit the Souk and soak up the traditional and scented atmosphere while haggling for a bargain or two or if you are a thrill-seeker, why not give the Rocket Bungee a try? It’s only 42 metres high…
St. Anthony’s Monastery (Deir Mar Antonios), is one of the oldest inhabited monasteries in Egypt, dating back to the 4th century AD. In 2002, the Egyptian government began an eight-year restoration project to renovate the main surrounding wall of the monastery, the two main churches, the monks’ living and working quarters and a defensive tower. A modern sewage system was also added to improve the monastery overall.
Today, the modern monastery resembles a self-contained village; it has its own mill, a bakery, a large garden, as well as various churches and chapels. Inside the monastery, holidaymakers can find many beautifully restored paintings on the walls and an immersive library, with over 1,700 handwritten manuscripts.
If you climb the 1200 steps up to St. Anthony’s cave, you can see the original cell that was once his home. Look outside and marvel at the view over the mountains and the expansive and serene desert.
Sand City is an open-air museum made up of two very different concepts. The first – Historical/Mythological Art, features historical sand sculptures depicting various legends, famous military leaders and other legendary characters. There are 12 sculptures and 18 wall statues, as well as some 3D statues.
The second – Wonderland Art, consists of 23, 3D statues of various Walt Disney characters and 10 wall statues which illustrate different children’s stories. Nothing but compressed sand and water is used to make the figures, which then sets rock hard. The outer surfaces of the statues are treated with varnish as a protection against the weather. There is also a workshop called the Magic Castle, where the children can learn how to make sand sculptures suited to their ages and abilities.
Sand City is open during the day and in the evening and as well as the museum it has a shop selling souvenirs and a coffee shop. A lovely place for the whole family to spend some time together.
Shadwan Island, also known as Shaker Island, is the largest of a group of islands making up the Strait of Gubal and is located between Hurghada and Gouna. The island has a lighthouse and a Seismological Network station which studies earthquake occurrences and characteristics. The station was opened after the earthquake of 1996, which caused some damage – including many rock falls.
On the north-eastern side of the island, there are beautiful coral walls, some of which are more than 40-metres in height. A brilliant place to dive or snorkel amongst the shoals of colourful fish and maybe if you’re lucky, dolphins and some of the rarer species such as hawksbill turtles, white-tip reef sharks and grey pilot whales. An underwater camera is a must, as you will definitely want to take as many photos as you can while enjoying this amazing experience.
The Monastery of St. Paul (often referred to as the Monastery of the Tigers), is a Coptic Orthodox monastery that dates back to the 4th. Century. It was originally built by a group of hermits around the cave, which was St. Paul’s home for 90 years.
What remained of the monastery complex was renovated in 1997, conserving the mill building, refectory and the enclosure walls. Then, in 2001 further work was started in order to preserve the entire church and many of its unique paintings.
Today, visitors are able to wander freely around the monastery, but many prefer to join a guided tour with an English-speaking monk as he has access to areas that would otherwise not be open to the public. The monastery has four churches, including the underground Church of St. Paul where the hermit lived and was buried. The murals on the walls depict biblical stories and interestingly, ostrich heads hang from the ceiling as symbols of the resurrection.