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El Qusier

El Qusier

in Arabic translates as the “Smaller Version” of a place .One of the major ports on the Red Sea coast, Quseir was where Queen Hatshepsut set off from on an expedition to the mystical African land of Punt. On top of that, it was also a major point for pilgrims leaving for Mecca, as well as a significant trade route for spices from India to Britain. Today, Quseir is better-known as a first-class diving destination. It is also home to a number of attractions, including Wadi Hammamat and Bir Umm Fawakhir, both of which can be reached within a day.

Located 140 km from Hurghada and 220 km from Qena, El Qusier has a unique position due to its proximity to the Nile River. This location made it one of the most important ports in Egypt. Quseir was where Queen Hatshepsut set off from on an expedition to the mystical African land of Punt. On top of that, it was also a major point for pilgrims leaving for Mecca, as well as a significant trade route for spices from India to Britain. The port is renowned for the exportation of phosphates. Nowadays Al Qusier is transformed into a luxuries tourist destination due to its sandy beaches and coral reefs which make it an idle place for diving. Al Qusier is and environmentally aware area to ensure that the coral reefs are preserved. Al Qusier is not just a seaside resort it has some historical buildings with French and British styles that are kept intact. Some interesting sites that could be visited in the vicinity of Al Qusier are Wadi Russumat, Bir Umm Fawakir mines and the Roman settlements.

History

Al-Quseir has a long history as one of the major ports of the Red Sea: from here Queen Hatshepsut launched her expedition to the Land of Punt, as depicted in the reliefs in Deir el-Bahari temple at Luxor. Legend has it that the expedition returned with two live panthers and 31 incense trees. The 16th-century fortress of Sultan Selim, still standing in the center of town, shows al-Quseir's former strategic importance. Today, it is a quiet resort with sandy beaches, clear waters and coral reefs. An ancient caravan trail, to Qift in the Nile Valley, leads from al-Quseir through the mountains, passing several pharaonic and Roman sites. A new road, directly to Luxor, opens soon. The ancient city of Berenice, named by Ptolemy II, became a trading port in 275 BC. A ruined Temple of Semiramis is near the modern town and, inland, there are the remains of the emerald mines of Wadi Sakait, which were worked from pharaonic to Roman times. The coast is lined with mangrove swamps and unspoiled bays and coves. Offshore, visit the tectonic island of Zabargad, a geological phenomenon which is also famous as the source of the semi-precious gem olivine, mined here from 1500 BC until the mid-20th century. From Period Hill there are breathtaking views of the surrounding blue lagoons, rich in marine life and home to many dolphins.

El-Qusier highlights

Wadi Hammamat:

has hundreds of rock inscriptions, some of which date back to 4000 BC. During antiquity, it was famous for production of the Bekheny Stone, a beautiful, green ornamental rock, which was considered sacred. The stone was actively quarried from Pharaonic until Roman times to make bowls, statues and sarcophagi, many of which have been found in the Pyramids, graves and temples of those periods.

Bir Umm Fawakhir:

A little to the north of Wadi Hammamat, in the central part of the Eastern Desert, a gold mining settlement from the fifth and sixth century. At one time, about 1,000 Coptic Christians lived in this town, extracting gold from the surrounding mountains, which was then transported to the Nile Valley for refining. The settlements largest mine extends horizontally for approximately 100 meters into the mountain and is about two meters high. Today, the neatly-laid-out buildings can be examined by visitors, who can also ponder over and the ancient inscriptions etched into granite boulders at the town’s guard posts.

Myos Hormos:

This ancient port lies just a few km north of El Qseir, and was once a thriving haven for trading ships departing to India. Remains of the old port can still be seen today This Ottoman fortress in the town center of Quseir is certainly worth a visit. It was built in the 16th century during the reign of Sultan Selim to protect trade links with India. Napoleon's troops occupied the fortress in 1799, fortifying it with cannons mounted high on the walls. They also added a new viewing platform. A few years later, British forces ejected the French after a fierce battle and added a new gate to the fortress. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 led to the decline of Quseir and its fortress.

Sultan Selim Fortress:

Recently, restoration work on the fortress has been completed. Cannons are once again pointing seawards from their original gun ports. The viewing platform was also restored with the help of illustrations from the Description of Egypt that had been commissioned by Napoleon. The fortress now houses the new Visitor Center containing displays on local history, archaeology and culture of the surrounding region.

Diving in El Qusier

The beaches of El Qusier are adorned with long fringing reefs providing excellent diving spots north and south. Live boards heading to Brother Island famed for the large marine life such as hammerheads start from El Qusier. The area is a nesting place for the sea turtles which are protected for their preservation. Diving is conducted from shore to see the uninterrupted reefs rich in marine life which is nourished by the currents. Diving sites in Qusier are:

Big Brother:

A 400m long island with lighthouse, 40 miles off the coast from El Qusier. Offers wreck diving on two sunken boats on the northern tip and excellent wall diving along the southern side of the reef with strong currents promoting the growth of a spectacular forest of soft corals. Frequent sightings of big pelagic and an astonishing variety of marine life.

Little Brother:

The smaller island next door has a superb fan coral forest and plenty of caves, overhangs, black coral, and a great deal of pelagic including sharks, tuna, barracuda, turtles and schools of reef fish.

Erg El Asal:

Big blocks of mountain coral surrounding a small flat topped reef can be circumnavigated in one dive. Clouds of goldfish engulf the reef and swimming through the sandy patches surrounding the reef white tip sharks may be found sleeping as well as turtles and barracudas.

Sharm El Bahari:

A good dive location on the northern corner of the fringing reef with a hard coral garden sloping gently to the deep. Large schools of unicorns, snappers, surgeons, fusiliers and barracudas.

Sharm El Quibli:

Bay on the coast offers some decent diving on its northern corner, with a sloping reef covered in acrospires, fire coral and other hard corals. Lots of groupers.

Marsa Wizri:

Another bay on the coast, the fringing houses large schools of yellow goatfish, unicorns, barracudas and other reef fish species on both north and south outer extremes.

Habili Sheik Malek:

Less than one mile away from the Tomb Mosque on the coast, a little reef formation creates a labyrinth of hard corals, fire and huge tables where lots of fish often concentrate. Napoleon, barracudas and eagle ray.

Ras Torombi:

Shallow dive around the northern most tip of the cape's fringing reef, a great deal of fire coral, giant table coral heads scattered over a sandy bottom. Snappers, butterflies, rays and guitar sharks.

Shoona:

Bay on the coast with good dives on the north and south side. Schools of batfish, barracudas and goatfish around the coral heads with glass fish which come out from the slope.

Activities

The resort of El Quseir is one of the most historical cities in the Red Sea. It has its unique architectural style of stone houses and wooden windows overlooking the seaside promenade. The resort is tranquil and secluded for those seeking relaxed holiday. It is endowed with impressive coral reefs making it a destination sought after by divers. Its location near the Eastern Desert offers a number of great activities

Land Activities:

from El Qusier relish the boundlessness of the desert with its breathtaking views and landscapes through visiting typical Bedouin settlements to see the primitive Bedouin life with the possibility of having dinner under the millions of stars at night. For those who like safari a day trip desert safari or Hiking and trekking the desert is also possible provided that you are directed by an expert guide. Hotels at El Qusier provide a wide range of sports such as tennis, volley ball, table tennis, water gymnastics and aerobics. Most resorts have animation teams to keep their guests always entertained.

Water Activities:

the well preserved coral reefs near the coasts of El Qusier makes it a good spot for practicing diving and snorkeling to explore the beauty of underwater life. However the area abides to strict environmental regulations to preserve the fragile coral reefs from damage

Entertainment and dining

Most of the entertainment in the tranquil town of El Qusier revolves around the watersports and diving. The historic town can be interesting to hang about in with the dozens of shops selling handicrafts and souvenirs. Or you can spend some time in the local “ahwas” coffee shops drinking tea and coffee or smoking water pipes. The sea promenade has restaurants and bars and dining outlets. The hotels cuisines is very good though were main restaurants serve open buffet boards, in addition to al carte menus for those seeking a special occasion atmosphere.

El Qusier Weather and Climate: Seasonal Variations

The summer weather and climate in El Qusier during the daytime can be fairly hot and temperatures only drop slightly at night, when balmy evenings can be expected and air-conditioning in hot rooms is essential for a good nights' sleep. However, the difference between day and night temperatures is more marked in the winter months of January and February, when daytime highs of 21°C / 70°F plunge to 10°C / 50°F or less, feeling chilly and meaning that a jumper and jacket become necessary.

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