Wadi El Gemal National Park, or “Valley of the Camels”, is an extensive coastal desert area located 45km south of Marsa Alam on the Red Sea and about two hours drive from Marsa Alam airport. The park is home to prehistoric rock art, as well as Ptolemaic and Roman ruins, and the “Mons Smaragdus” mountain, home to small mining communities dating back to ancient Egypt.

Wadi El Gemal National Park

Wadi El Gemal is the third largest park in the Middle Eastern desert and, due to its delta, is counted as one of the most beautiful national parks in Egypt. It was officially opened in May 2005 and covers a total of approximately 5,000 km2 including several islands, a stretch of mangrove-rich coastline and an extensive mountainous hinterland surrounding one of Egypt’s largest desert wadis. It also has a great variety of plants and animals according to desert standards.

Among the animals that inhabit the valley are the Nubian ibex, the Nubian ibex capra and the hyrax. Wild donkeys, camels and gazelles are also abundant in the region. The reef coast is considered approximately 17% of the marine life of the Red Sea, featuring reefs with 450 species of coral and more than 1200 species of fish.

The Wadi El Gemal channels water from the mountains to the coast, but some of it is trapped underground, a key component of the area’s energetic biological system.

Its population are Ababda Bedouins, usually nomadic, many of them still work in sheep and goat herding. They are famous for their ability to follow animal tracks through the desert.

The Wadi has long been known as an area rich in minerals and the world’s most established emerald mine, dating back to pre-Roman times, can be found here. There are also rich stores of gold and lead. Outside the National Park boundary is Egypt’s most profitable gold mine, at Sukari, about 23km west of Marsa Alam, near the road linking the town to Edna on the coast.

What to see and do in Wadi El Gemal

Ancient emerald mining settlements can still be seen if you take an organized safari tour. The best known is the Roman settlement of Sakit, which they called Mons Smaragdus or Emerald Mountain. You can tour the village, see a temple dedicated to the god Isis carved into the rock and also visit the mines themselves.

The Roman city of Umm Kabu

Where emeralds brought down from the mountains were prepared and transported inland to the Nile, from where they were sent north to Alexandria before being shipped across the Mediterranean to Rome.

Wadi El Gamal Island

You can dive in its beautiful coral reefs, sea, crystal clear waters and amazing wildlife. It can be reached by boat from the dive center. The island is a refuge for dugongs, turtles and a variety of migratory seabirds, and has been designated an “important bird area” by Bird Life International.

To ensure the fragile ecology of the island, only twenty tourists are allowed to visit at a time for a maximum of three hours and only during daylight hours.


Where you can see the ruins of an ancient Roman fortress.

Photos of Wadi El Gemal National Park

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