In 1928, the Faculty of Science at the Egyptian University set up a scientific laboratory on the Red Sea coast for collecting samples and providing technical training called Hurghada Marine Biology Center, which was later turned into an oceanography institute.

In 1928, the Faculty of Science at the Egyptian University set up a scientific laboratory on the Red Sea coast for collecting samples and providing technical training called Hurghada Marine Biology Center, which was later turned into an oceanography institute.

The location of the center was chosen by a team comprised of staff from the Faculty of Science. The appointed team sailed aboard two yachts named Qoula and Safaria along the Egyptian Red Sea coast. They found that the lateral part of the Gulf of Suez and more specifically near the city of Hurghada was the most appropriate location. It was relatively distant from dense human activities and close to several biologically diversified islands.

Today, it includes 11 professors and assistant professors in addition to 16 instructors involved in research work. Professor Mohammed Abdel Wahab, who heads the institute, talked more about the Oceanography and Fisheries Institute, the oldest oceanography institute in the Arab world and the Middle East.


Prof. Mohammed Abdel Wahab

Can you tell us about the early stages of the establishment of the institute?

In 1930, King Fouad Institute in Alexandria donated its library and laboratory equipment to the center. In 1945, it became an autonomous body named the ‘Royal Oceanographic Institute’ at the University of Fouad the First. In 1954, the center was affiliated to the Faculty of Science at the University of Alexandria and was later separated in 1963 to become part of the National Institute for Oceanography and Fisheries under the Chairmanship of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology as a research Center affiliated to the Suez Branch. It remained so until 1990 when it became an independent branch named the National Oceanography and Fisheries Institute, Red Sea Branch. As to why Hurghada was chosen as the center for this institute, it was because of its distance from construction areas and also due to the availability of coral reefs as well as the typical marine environment in this region. Thus, it was selected to be a research center affiliated to King Fouad University.


The front of the institute

What is the present role of the institute?

The institute researches marine environment and oceanography. In this regards, it has strategic research plans stretching along the Red Sea. At the local level, it cooperates with all maritime universities in addition to exchanging expertise with similar institutes in other Arab countries and a number of European states.

What are the institute’s most important achievements?

The institute has multiple achievements in the oceanographic field including preparation of studies on marine chemistry, physics and geology as well aquaponics and marine plants. It also has a maritime pollution laboratory, fish farming schemes in addition to studying beach dynamics, particularly shore variables.


Inside the labs

How is the institute organized?

The institute has seven laboratories at the bridge head which extends into the sea at a distance of 200 meters from the shore. These laboratories are equipped with fresh water and scientific equipment necessary for the research work. They are built on an area of about 200 square meters. It also includes four concrete tanks directly open onto the sea and designed to keep a number of live animals for testing and laboratory operation. Among the institute’s components is the library, which is built on an area of 180 square meters. It is one of the largest specialized libraries containing numerous books, magazines, pamphlets and reports on the Red Sea and Indo-pacific explorations. The library receives 25 periodical journals specialized in maritime field. It exchanges publications with more than 350 colleges and universities around the world. The library keeps a written description of Egypt developed by the French campaign during their presence in Egypt.

There is also an aquarium which consists of 26 circular-shaped glass basins of numerous sizes. They contain different samples of Red Sea fishes in addition to a number of coral reef fish, animals and some exotic fish characteristic of the Red Sea environment. These samples are collected by the members of marine section members of the branch institute on regular basis.

What kind of samples are on display at the institute’s museum?

The museum contains a wide range of biological and geological samples from the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The important samples available at the museum are collected by a ship named ‘Mabahith’ (Investigation). The samples are kept in the museum and are used as a reference for the region. They are regarded as a scientific treasure much valued by the Red Sea scholars and students.

What are the present activities carried out by the institute?

The present activities focus on solving the problems of surrounding marine environment such as the Red Sea starfish, preparing environmental assessment reports for tourism projects on the Red Sea coast, in addition to settling disputes concerned with problems affecting marine environment between the environment affairs body and owners of tourist facilities. In this regard, the Institute is considered an essential consultative body in respect to international issues and disputes related to the Red sea marine environment.

Are there any agreements concluded between the institute and other parties?

A cooperation protocol was signed between the Hurghada Branch Institute and the National Center for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Control in Cairo aimed at preparing a radiological map of the Red Sea. There is also cooperation between the Institute and Arab universities for evaluating research work at oceanography colleges in these universities in addition to training technical staffs on embalmment, coloring and preservation of different types of marine samples. The Institute also organizes research study courses for a number of Arab countries.

What are the obstacles faced by the institute?

The institute does not lack any components, but there are obstacles related to issuing permits and obtaining approvals for developing the institute’s buildings and research labs. Coordination is underway with the governorate and city council officials as well as with the armed forces authorities to issue the required approvals.