Marsa Matrouh is not the first destination that comes to mind for a family holiday in Egypt. Most tourists frequent the Red Sea towns of Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, or Marsa Alam. That way they can enjoy water sports, desert excursions, and nightlife. Or they just chill on the beach or swimming pools working on their tans and sipping cocktails. On the other hand, most Egyptians prefer to spend their summer holidays on the Mediterranean Sea. The North Coast is lined with hundreds of resorts and transforms into a thriving community during the summer season.
Marsa Matrouh has always been popular with Egyptians looking for an affordable family holiday. They usually rent an apartment or chalet or stay in a local hotel. Our family has been coming here for years especially since my parents own a beach house that is 20 km away from downtown Marsa Matrouh. I have decided that it is about time to reveal Egypt’s best-kept secret, especially to my non-Egyptian readers! If you haven’t spent a summer holiday in Marsa Matrouh in a long time, or just haven’t had the chance to visit yet, carry on reading!
About Marsa Matrouh
If you look at a map of Egypt, you will see that Marsa Matrouh is at the top left corner. It is a seaside town with a population of under 450,000. The locals are very friendly but also deeply conservative. So keep that in mind when you are out and about the town. They are used to the hustle and bustle during the busy summers with many of them working in the hotels, restaurants, and markets. They have close commercial and familial ties with tribes in the Western Desert oases and even across the international border in neighboring Libya.
When to Visit Marsa Matrouh
The best months to plan a summer holiday in Marsa Matrouh would be from June to September. That way you can guarantee the best weather for a beach holiday and rest assured that basic amenities are available. If you want to dodge the crowds, then aim for June and avoid any public holidays. My advice is to start your days early and go to the beach in the morning. Try to get any shopping or eating out done in the early evening before 7 pm. Most locals sleep all morning, hit the beaches in the late afternoon, and then spend the nights strolling on the Corniche and lounging in cafes.
Getting to Marsa Matrouh
- By car: the journey takes 5-6 hours from Cairo depending on the time of day, holiday traffic, and the number of bathroom breaks. We usually stop twice to refuel the car, grab some snacks and freshen up – once on the Cairo-Alexandria Road and another time on the Alamein-Marsa Matrouh Road.
- By plane: there is a small international airport in Marsa Matrouh and a flight from Cairo is under an hour.
- By bus: there are lots of bus companies such as Super Jet, West Delta, East Delta, and Go Bus. They are air-conditioned and have functioning toilets. But I personally would not recommend them since they are not that comfortable. Plus the journey becomes much longer – almost 7-8 hours!
- By train: there are new sleeper trains from Cairo to Marsa Matrouh that you can book online. Personally, I haven’t tried them but they seem good value for money.
Where to Stay in Marsa Matrouh
There are lots of hotels, resorts, and apartments in and around Marsa Matrouh. However, if this is your first visit, I would recommend one of the below family-friendly hotels in Marsa Matrouh:
- Beau Site: with its enviable white sandy beach and its homely and spacious rooms, this hotel has been a favorite choice for Egyptian families since the 1960s. It oozes nostalgia and boasts two restaurants, two cafes, a beach bar, a kids’ area, and a health club.
- Carols Beau Rivage: another family-operated hotel is this gem with its gorgeous beach and comfortable amenities. It has three restaurants, a lobby bar, a pool bar, a discotheque, and a swimming pool. What more do you need for a perfect family holiday?
- Almaza Bay: this luxurious complex is an hour away from downtown Marsa Matrouh and its name means diamond in Arabic inspired by the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It has five standalone hotels, five international restaurants, a beach bar, and even a day camp for kids!
Things to do During Your Summer Holiday in Marsa Matrouh
Assuming that you are spending your summer holiday in Marsa Matrouh, the obvious thing to do would be to lounge on the beach. There are other family-friendly activities you can do too such as:
Rent a yacht
A guaranteed way to have a good time is to rent a yacht and spend 4-5 hours going from one point of interest to the next. The water is crystal clear as soon as you sail away from the overcrowded public beaches with their jet skis and banana boats. You can pay EGP 50-80 per person and wait until the boat is full and ready to go. Or if you are a big group and want a private affair, you can pay EGP 400-600 per hour for a yacht of your own.
There are several ports to rent from on the Corniche. It is always better to call and book in advance rather than just show up. The yachts usually have life jackets but make sure you bring some goggles and flippers so you can go snorkeling. You can pack a picnic or at least some snacks and drinks. Not all of the yachts have working toilets and showers though. But most have fresh water in large plastic bottles to rinse off the seawater.
Visit the local markets
Marsa Matrouh is known for its local markets that sell everything from spices, seeds, and herbs to bags, clothes, and carpets. There are markets that specialize in products from the Siwa oasis such as dates, mint, and olives. And other markets that showcase products from other countries such as Libya and Syria. Alexandria Road is the main shopping street with shops spilling over on the side streets too.
Relax at the salt cave
The Salman Salt Cave in Marsa Matrouh claims to be the largest manmade salt cave in the world. The idea behind salt therapy or halotherapy is to spend time in a cave with walls covered in salt. A friend of mine swears that she felt so relaxed after sitting for 45 minutes in the dim light and listening to soothing music. It is open every day from 12 pm to 12 am. Please check with your doctor first before trying salt therapy.
What to Pack
- Beach towels
- Aqua shoes
- After-sun lotion
- Bluetooth speakers
- Insect repellent
If you have a few extra days around your summer holiday in Marsa Matrouh, try to squeeze in one of these destinations:
If you are a fan of WW2 history like myself, you might be interested in visiting the Alamein Military Museum. It is open every day from 9 am to 4 pm. There are also separate cemeteries for British, Italian, and German soldiers as well as a Commonwealth memorial.
A couple of hours away by car lies the city of Alexandria with its ancient ruins, seafood restaurants, and the world-famous Alexandria Library.
Since Siwa is 3 hours away by car from Marsa Matrouh, it might be worth making the trip and visiting this breathtaking oasis.