Once upon a time in Jordan, a spice merchant named Ghalib fell in love with Budour, the most beautiful woman in Kathima. The girl’s father agreed to give Ghalib her hand in marriage but only if Ghalib paid him double the usual dowry.
Ghalib agreed and sailed off to an unused natural bay in Egypt, cutting a week off the spice route to the Mediterranean and founding a port that grew into a harbor. Eventually, Ghalib amassed enough wealth to not only pay Budour’s dowry but also to build her a magnificent palace in the bay.
Such is the legend of Port Ghalib. While you may not be able to find Budour’s legendary palace in this increasingly popular resort town, you will find The Palace Port Ghalib Resort, a regally lavish hotel at the heart of Port Ghalib. Inspired by 17th-century Andalusian architecture, the five-star hotel is a superb mix of modern amenities and traditional design.
It truly is a palace fit for a queen.
Once a nearly deserted fishing village, Port Ghalib is located five minutes from Marsa Alam International Airport, 210 kilometers from Hurghada and 370 kilometers from Luxor. In the 1990s, Kuwaiti businessman Nasser Al-Kharafi, inspired by the legend of Ghalib, bought the land with a dream to return the port to its former glory.
The plan was to create a fully integrated community with resorts, schools, a business district and residential areas to encourage Egyptians to move and relieve the population pressure on Cairo.
Al-Kharafi’s employees often said he was really Egyptian “but with a Kuwaiti passport” due to the businessman’s intense love for the country. And his love definitely shows in Port Ghalib. There are four hotels currently standing, with 15 more in the works, and in the heart of Port Ghalib’s lush beauty is The Palace.
Overlooking Port Ghalib Marina, the corniche and the Khan of Port Ghalib, the hotel has a view of the breathtaking coral reef and Red Sea. The resort’s extravagant landscaping combines artful architecture, lapping water elements and lush greenery that transport guests into a world unlike any other in Egypt. In fact, the Palace’s 300-square-meter lagoon is one of the largest of its size inside a Middle Eastern resort.
Walking in is a treat for almost all your senses. You’ll immediately take in the softly dimmed lights, the music with that distinctive oriental twang playing in the background and the smell of fresh herbs and essential oils lingering in the air. Guests are treated, appropriately, like royalty the moment they step into the lobby.
Welcomed by the friendly and attentive staff with a hot towel and drink, one could really get used to the regal treatment and almost forget the hustle and bustle of the city they’ve just left.
The hotel has 308 standard and deluxe rooms and suites, of which 37 are family suites, nine superior suites with a terrace and two executive suites with convenient dining and sitting areas perfect for private business meetings. For those who really want to go all out, the presidential suite, which housed pop diva Beyoncé during her 2009 concert, even has its own gym. Each villa on the grounds has its own private pool, sauna and jacuzzi.
The deluxe room’s amenities and view are more than enough to make you feel really taken care of, with a fruit basket, warm drinks and robes waiting for you upon your arrival. Looking over the pool and the sea, the intricately detailed interior is accented with lavish curtains and plush blankets in deep, warm shades that make you feel like you stepped into Sheherezade’s private den. To add to the regal feel, even the bathtub has a spectacular view of the sea.
This hotel makes the idea of being holed up in your room a pleasure.
Although it will be hard, you will eventually have to peel yourself away from your room. The hotel has a large heated pool and private beach with a 125-meter jetty to allow you to snorkel where the corals are the most beautiful. For those who prefer the thrill of a dive, the hotel has a fully equipped dive center with trained instructors and a pool for practice.
You may catch a glimpse of a spinner dolphin, dugong, sea turtle or hammerhead shark. If snorkeling isn’t your thing, you can take a horse or camel ride on the beach, or if you just want to relax, sit back with a cocktail and admire the pearlescent white sand and azure blue skies and water.
The weather in Port Ghalib is beyond reproach. For a seaside retreat, the humidity is surprisingly low at under 28%, the air is crisp, mornings are warm and the sky is always clear. At night, the blanket of stars is so thick you can hardly see the ebony sky behind them — a perfect backdrop for a romantic dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants.
The Palace Port Ghalib will leave you spoiled for choice when it comes to food. Olive is the primary venue, with outdoor and indoor seating areas offering up classic Arabic and Mediterranean dishes as well as breakfast in the morning. For light snacks during the daylight hours, the Pool Deck restaurant has wonderful lunch options of sandwiches and delicious salads by the pool. Looking for drinks? Head to Look Out Bar, which has an exquisite view of the lagoon. For a change of scenery, head to Budour’s Court at the marina for a delectable Lebanese dinner.
If you’re on your honeymoon, you’re in for a treat. Upon request, the hotel staff will reserve the watchtower for you and transform its deck into your own romantic getaway complete with candles, flowers and a dinner overlooking the lagoon.
And the pampering doesn’t stop there. The hotel is equipped with a branch of world-renowned Six Senses Spa — the first in Egypt. The spa is practically your own vintage hammam, complete with arabesque wood paneling, dim lights, candles and the warming scent of oils. With 16 treatment areas, including three couples rooms, two Thai treatment rooms and one hydrotherapy treatment room, the spa is fully equipped for massages, Moroccan baths and skin treatments, all using local and natural products like fresh Red Sea herbs, olive oil and products from Egyptian organic beauty line Nefertari.
But The Palace isn’t a retreat just for couples. There’s plenty here for families as well as large groups. The hotel has a mini golf course and tennis courts for some light activity. Lulee Kids Club has daily children’s activities with trained professionals who organize craft-making sessions, nature expeditions and kitchen tours for the four-to-twelve-year-old crowd.
For business travelers, there’s almost no reason to choose another hotel on the Red Sea. The Port Ghalib International Convention Centre is the largest hotel banquet venue on the Red Sea with a ballroom capable of hosting 2,000 people, 16 breakout rooms for private meetings, internet access in all public areas and meeting rooms and a business center.
There are even on-site event organizers to assist with staging facilities, sound systems, translation services, flower arrangements, courier services and photography for events of any size.
The Palace is conveniently located a mere five-minute walk from the Port Ghalib International Marina, which offers a half-kilometer Corniche lined with retail outlets in the vein of Cairo’s Khan El-Khalili.
There you can buy silver jewelry, Bedouin tapestries and other souvenirs.
For a real excursion, the hotel is only 11 kilometers away from a private camp that offers a Bedouin experience called the Trip Super Safari. Run by Bedouins who live on site, it’s an exceptional opportunity to experience and learn about desert life. A Bedouin dinner under the stars, local Bedouin entertainment, camel rides and quad rides through the desert are just a few of the offers provided.
Whether it’s romance, business, stellar dives or just plain old rest and relaxation, The Palace Port Ghalib Resort will sweep you off your feet, palace style, just as Ghalib swept Budour off hers.