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Traveling to Rafah, Egypt and the surrounding area – What to expect and what to see.

Rafah is a city and refugee camp on the border of Egypt and Gaza.  There have been a lot of conflicts there over the years and the border to Gaza from Rafah is frequently closed.  Much of the city was destroyed when the city of Rafah was split after the 1979 Egyptian and Israeli peace treaty was signed.  There is a lot of history in this city and area dating back 3000 years.  There have recently been some discoveries of ancient ruins in the area that date back thousands of years.  It is located close to the Mediterranean which is always a beautiful place to be.

There are also many things to see right across the border in Gaza and Gaza city.  If you are able to get to Gaza then you might be interested in checking out some of these places:

  • The Church of St. Porphyrius

This is a Greek Orthdox Church that is still used by the community there.  It is in the old city of Gaza.  This church is from 420 AD and is where St. Porphyrius died and was buried.  It was re-constructed by the Crusaders in the 1150’s and was dedicated to St. Porphyrius at that time.  Saint Porphyrius was the bishop of Gaza in the 5th century.  His tomb is in the northeastern corner of the church.  The church is the oldest active church in Gaza.

  • Great Omari Mosque

This Mosque which is in downtown Gaza was said to occupy the site of the first ancient philistine temple.  It was originally a church built by the crusaders in the 12th century.  It features beautiful minarets.  This building was destroyed and reconstructed many times.  After many distractions the mosque was rebuilt in 1340 and then restored again in the 16th century.  The mosque was again severely damaged during World War I.  It was restored again under a former Gaza Mayor Said Al-Shawa by 1927.  The Omari Mosque is still an active Mosque and is a support to the people who live in Gaza.


  • Anthedon Harbour

This is an archeological site that is located in the Gaza Strip.  It is the first known seaport in Gaza.  It was used from 800 BC to 1100 AD.  It was a Greek independent city named Anthedon during the Hellenistic period.  The city and port changed names and rulers over the years.  It was conquered by the Jewish leader Alexander Jannaeus in 64 BC.  It was then liberated by Pompey and was later rebuilt.    It was controlled by Cleopatra at one point in its history.   There is a lot of archeological history in this area showing the different buildings and inhabitants over the years.

  • The Pottery Workshop

This is a unique place that has a long history.  The tradition of pottery dates back to the Greeks in the Byzantine period.  During this time there were “Gaza Jars” that were filled with olive oil and wine.  They were transported all over Europe.


While there are many great things to see in Rafah and Gaza it is a very dangerous place to travel at this time.  There are many restrictions and checkpoints when going to this area.  The border crossing is not always open and if it is there are restrictions as to who can cross.  Unless you are working with an aid organization and have been approved to go it is likely that you will not be allowed in.  The Northern Sinai area is not a safe area for foreign travelers at this time.  Hopefully one day the conditions will be better for traveling to the area.

Hotels and Places to Stay in and around Rafah, Egypt

Rafah, Egypt and the area around it is full of history and beautiful buildings and scenery.  It is also a place with a lot of difficulties for the people who live there.  The hope is one day in the near future that people from all over the world will be able to come safely to Rafah and the area and experience what there is to offer.  Unfortunately, there are none in Rafah itself.  This is due in no small part to the buffer zones and the displacement of homes in the area.  There are hotels in Gaza which are nice.  Along with others within 30 kilometers of Rafah.  In an effort to prepare for the time that it will be easier to visit Rafah.  I have listed some places to stay around the area.

  • Al Deira Hotel

This is considered one of the best hotels in town.  This hotel is stylish and modern.  It is also a well-run hotel.  The designer of the Arts & Crafts Village in Gaza also constructed this hotel.  He is architect Rashid Abdel Hamid.  There is a nice view of the sea from the balconies.  There is good wireless internet connection in the rooms.

  • Hotel Marna House

This is a nice smaller style hotel.  It has a homey feel and is located in Gaza City.  The staff at this hotel has a reputations for being very helpful.  There is TV and Balconies available with the nice comfortable rooms.  The cost of the rooms includes breakfast.


  • Palestine Hotel

This room is located on the city’s seafront road.  It offers clean rooms at a reasonable price.  It has good service and a good location.  It is in an upscale part of town.

  • The Adam

This hotel is also located on the city’s sea front road and has clean rooms and reasonable rates.  They offer good customer service and a nice location.


  • Al Quds International Hotel

This hotel is located on the seafront road in Gaza City.  The offer decent clean rooms and have decent rates that are affordable.  They have a reputation for good service.

  • Al Mathaf

This is a beautiful hotel in Gaza that is in a very safe area.  It has beautiful modern rooms, large meeting areas and special senior suites.  They offer a multi-use hall that is adorned with a beautiful chandelier.  The hotel is located on a small hill overlooking the Mediterranean sea. The hotel highlights the rich history of the area while blending with the modern style.  They have 34 beautiful guest rooms.  Among these rooms there are 2 presidential suites and 4 Royal suites.  Many of the rooms have balconies.  The staff is very helpful.  They also offer a Restaurant with delicious food.



  • The Grand Palace Hotel

This hotel is located in the Gaza Strip and is a Luxury style hotel.  It has a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea. The hotel opened in 2004.  It is located on the beach and has direct views of the sea.  It is in a nice quiet area but close to the city center.  The staff is very helpful and highly trained.  They have 2 high level generators to accommodate guests during the electricity cut offs which happen often.  Internet access is offered throughout the hotel. They offer conference rooms for meetings and have a restaurant on site.  They also have a restaurant cafe on the roof which has beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea.


Many of these hotels are reported to be in the safer parts of Gaza.  Hopefully one day soon it will be safer in the whole region so more people can enjoy the beautiful area.