Over the last 25 years HURGHADA (Ghardaka) has been transformed from a fishing village into a booming town of around 180,000 people. This phenomenal growth is almost entirely due to tourism, though it’s worth taking Hurghada’s claims to be a seaside resort with a handful of salt: its public beaches are distant or uninviting, while the best marine life is far offshore. The town itself is pretty charmless: a sprawl of utilitarian structures, garish hotels, gaudy shops and patches of waste ground. If you’re not into diving – a score of coral islands and reefs are within a few hours’ reach by boat, and many other amazing sites can be visited on liveaboards – or lazing on the beach at one of the resorts, you’ll quickly find the place lacks appeal. Hurghada is extremely popular with Eastern Europeans and especially Russians, hundreds of thousands of whom visit each year; while their custom is welcome, cultural differences sometimes cause tension with locals.
There’s a good public beach in Sigala, but to sunbathe without unwanted attention in Hurghada you’ll have to go for the private beaches. Most of the bigger hotels and resorts in Ed-Dahar and New Hurghada allow non-residents to use their beaches and pools for a fee (generally around £E30–70).