The Wadi El Gemal Nationa Park ( meaning "Valley of the Camels" ) is an extensive area of land and coastal water lying to the south of Marsa Alam. It includes many diverse ecological habitats and a rich variety of animal and bird types including several endangered species. The area was designated a National Park by the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency in January 2003.
It covers a total of some 5,000 square kilometres including several islands, a stretch of mangrove rich coast line and an extensive mountainous area inland which surround one of Egypt's largest desert wadis.
The Wadi El Gemal acts to channel any water from the mountains towards the coastline but some is trapped underground which is a key factor supporting the area's vibrant ecosystem.
THE ABABDA BEDOUIN
In this area the local population is the Ababda bedouin who have many rich and colourful traditions - much of which is endangered by the pressures of modern life and the economic exploitation of the area and its' rescources.
Traditionally nomadic, many still work herding their flocks of goats through the network of wadis in search of grazing land and water. They are renowned for their skilled animal tracking abilities.
MINERALS AND MINES
The wadi has long been known as an area rich in minerals and here you can find the world's oldest emerald mine dating back to pre-Roman times. There are also rich deposits of gold and lead in the area and just outside the National Park boundary lies Egypt's most productive gold mine at Sukari -some 23km west of Marsa Alam close to the road which connects the town with Esna on the Nile.
The ancient emerald mining settlements can still be seen if you go on an organized safari tour. The most well known is the Roman settlement of Sakit which they calledMons Smaragdus or Emerald Mountain. You can wonder through the village, see a temple dedicated to the god Isis cut out of the rock and also visit the actual mines.
If you have time you can also visit the Roman town of Umm Kabu where the emeralds brought down from the mountains were prepared for transportation inland to the Nile from where they would be sent North towards Alexandria before being shipped across the Mediterranean to Rome.
You can also visit the emerald processing town of Marfuah where there is a nearby hill with great panoramic views over the surrounding area. Other sites include the emerald processing town of Marfuah where there is a nearby hill with great panoramic views over the surrounding area and Appollonia, where you can view the ruins of an ancient Roman fort.