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Around 55km south of Suez is the town of Sokhna, whose beaches are popular with Egyptians but attract few foreigners. The town’s name derives from the hot springs (35°C) originating in the Jebel Ataqa.
Port Safaga (Bur Safaga in Arabic), where your MSC cruise ship awaits your return, is a village on the Red Sea coast.
The town, whose economy is driven by the nearby phosphate mines, consists of a single windswept avenue running straight on, past concrete boxes with bold signs proclaiming their function.
Silos and cranes identify the port, which runs alongside (but remains out of bounds) for most of this distance. However, inland from Port Safaga, a shore excursion on your MSC Grand Voyages cruise can be the opportunity to discover Luxor and the overwhelming concentration of relics in the area.
A tourist mecca ever since Nile steamers began calling in the nineteenth century, visitors come to view the remains of Thebes, Ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom capital, and its associated sites. The town itself boasts Luxor Temple, a graceful ornament to its waterfront and “downtown”, while a mile or so north is Karnak Temple, a stupendous complex built over 1,300 years. Across the river are the amazing tombs and mortuary temples of the Theban Necropolis, an attraction not to be missed on your holiday in Egypt.
When you disembark from your MSC cruise in Aqaba, you can enjoy its idyllic, sunny setting on the shores of the Red Sea, at the country’s southernmost tip.
From something of a dowdy backwater, in the last decade or so Aqaba has transformed itself into a pleasant, if still under-resourced, leisure destination. Hotels at all grades are springing up in the town as well as at luxury waterfront developments up and down the coast; investment is coming in to improve the city’s infrastructure and facilities. Some of the best diving and snorkellingin theworld is centred on the unspoiled coral reefs that hug the coast just south of the town – an engaging contrast with the nearby desert attractions of Petra and Wadi Rum.
The city centre forms a dense network of streets and alleys clustered just behind the beach road (called the “Corniche”). A shore excursion on your MSC Grand Voyages cruise can also be the opportunity to discover Petra. Tucked away in a remote valley basin in the heart of southern Jordan’s Shara mountains and shielded from the outside world behind an impenetrable barrier of rock, Petra remains wreathed in mystery.
Since a Western adventurer stumbled on the site in 1812, it has fired imaginations, its grandeur and dramatic setting pushing it – like the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal – into the realms of legend. Today, it’s almost as if time has literally drawn a veil over the once-great city, which grew wealthy enough on the caravan trade to challenge the might of Rome: two millennia of wind and rain have blurred the sharp edges of its ornate classical facades and rubbed away at its soft sandstone to expose vivid bands of colour beneath, putting the whole scene into soft focus.
Jeddah, a Saudi Arabian port city on the Red Sea, is a modern commercial hub and gateway for pilgrimages to the Islamic holy cities Mecca and Medina. Resort hotels, beaches and outdoor sculptures line the Corniche, a seafront promenade anchored by the iconic King Fahd’s Fountain. The city’s Al-Balad historic district dates to the 7th century and retains traditional homes built from coral.
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