From the city of Marsa Alam the region of Marsa Alam extends 60 km to the north to Port Ghalib and 70 km to the south to Ras Honkorab. The once sparsely populated desert landscape has in recent years developed into a booming tourist attraction, since many resorts and hotels were built along the coast once the military airport near Port Ghalib was opened for commercial flights in November 2001. All reefs in this region are close to the mainland and generally offer easy diving conditions for all skill levels, which is why they are not only frequented by liveaboards but also present welcome and often frequented dive sites for resort guests on daily boats.
Decompression chambers are currently found in Marsa Shagra and Port Ghalib (see p. 28). Another decompression chamber, found 15 km south of Marsa Alam, is currently not in use.
The tourism and business centre of Port Ghalib has developed over recent years on the headland of Ras Ghalib only 15 minutes drive away from Marsa Alam International Airport. It was built by the Kuwaiti firm Mohammed Abdulmohsin AlKharafi & Sons Company (MAK Group). In addition to its large harbour with moorings for a thousand boats, it provides visitors and businessmen with a complete infrastructure comprising hotels, conference rooms, residences, a shopping strip with restaurants, night clubs, discos, and a casino, a yacht club, a golf course, and a spa. Furthermore, a canal is currently under construction, which will connect the airport directly to Port Ghalib through a waterway.
Sixty kilometres south of Port Ghalib lies the city that gave the region its name, Marsa Alam. It lies 270 km south of Hurghada and 130 km south of the nearest larger town of El Quseir and has always been an important junction, where the coastal road intersects the road to Edfu on the Nile valley. Marsa Alam currently has about 10,000 inhabitants who make a living through tourism, fishing and mining-quartz and potash have been mined near the city for centuries, and though the mines were shut down years ago because of a lack of proceeds, they are currently back in operation. Since more and more liveaboards start their tours from Marsa Alam, the harbour will be expanded within the next few years. As of now in 2010, guests are still transferred by RIB to the moored boats. Tourism experts predict that Marsa Alam will develop into a booming town in the medium-term and that it will become the third-largest tourist centre in the Red Sea after Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada.
Some will notice that Shaab Samadai is not among the dive sites in this book. The reason for this is that most of the reef has been closed down to divers for several years now to protect the population of dolphins native to its lagoon. Diving is allowed only in two places on the outer side of the reef, however, they do not count among the most beautiful sites. Instead, many resorts offer snorkelling trips to Shaab Samadai, for which the reef is very good, allowing snorkelers to see the dolphins. Liveaboards seldom come here since a special permit that currently costs 20 dollars per person is required.