EL-QUSEIR, 85km from Safaga, is another phosphates extraction centre, though with fewer inhabitants and more appeal. In pharaonic times, boats sailed from here to the “Land of Punt” (thought to be Yemen or Somalia), as depicted in reliefs within Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahri. The Romans knew it as Leukos Limen (“White Harbour”), while under Arab rule El-Quseir was the largest Red Sea port until the tenth century, remaining a major transit point for pilgrims until the 1840s, when Flaubert caught its last flickers of exoticism.

Today, El-Quseir is a sleepy place, mostly unaffected by tourism, despite the resorts on its outskirts. Life moves pretty slowly, except on Fridays, when Ma’aza and Ababda Bedouin flock in for the weekly market. The best dive sites nearby are the Brothers, east of El-Quseir, and the Elphinstone and Abu Dabbab reefs, down towards Marsa Alam, although the Quei and Wizr reefs are closer. All the resorts have their own dive centres although they may not allow outside divers to join their trips; it’s best to book a dive package deal from the outset.

The fortress

Smack in the town centre, just past the main traffic roundabout, sits El-Quseir’s most impressive landmark, the sixteenth-century crumbling walled fortress, which now houses a museum. Designed to protect trade routes used by the Ottomans, the fortress declined after trade was diverted around the Cape of Good Hope. Napoleon’s army raised the French flag here in 1799, only to attract the attention of British warships sailing off the coast. The French survived a brief assault, but abandoned the fort two years later. Its most recent occupant was the Egyptian army, stationed here until 1975. The cistern, watchtower (climb up for excellent views) and rooms built into the walls of the fortress each contain small exhibits on the history and traditions of the Red Sea coast.

The rest of the town

In addition to the fortress, El-Quseir has a few other sights that are worth a quick look, including a small harbour where you can see local boat-builders at work, and a beachside promenade, good for a stroll. A few blocks back from the waterfront, past a number of shuttered and balconied houses, are the thirteenth-century Faran Mosque and an imposing former quarantine hospital dating back to the nineteenth century.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Egypt features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
24 breaks for bookworms

24 breaks for bookworms

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas In 1971, fuelled by a cornucopia of drugs, Hunter S. Thompson set off for Las Vegas on his “savage journey to the heart of …

02 Mar 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge camera_alt Gallery
7 amazing African journeys

7 amazing African journeys

Africa is a continent of wild open savannahs, terracotta sunsets, thousands of vibrant green hills and rugged coastlines. Here, you can be chugging along on …

06 Jul 2016 • Harriet Constable insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook