Malaha was formerly the easternmost extension of Lake Manzala, from which it was cut off when the Suez Canal was constructed in the 1800s, and was further diminished by the construction of the Port Said bypass in the 1980s. Today, Malaha is composed of two shallow hyper-saline lagoons, the size and shape of which are variable; they reach their maximum size during winter and become nearly dry in summer. The lagoons are connected to the Mediterranean via Bughaz El Kala (eastern lagoon) and El Malaha (western lagoon). To the south and east lies the Tina Plain, which is a broad, barren, salt-encrusted sabkha, fringed at its southern edge by a large saltmarsh dominated by Nitraria bushes. The lagoons are separated from the Mediterranean by a sandbar that varies in width between 100 and 500 m, and which is covered in many areas with dense halophytic vegetation. Malaha supports a fishery of modest production. The catch in 1977 was 631 tonnes. The lagoon is manipulated to maximize fish production.
See Box for key species. Despite its fairly small size, Malaha is one of the most important wetlands in Egypt for waterbirds, and holds some of the greatest densities and numbers of both wintering and breeding waterbirds in the country. In winter 1989/90, a total of 52,700 waterfowl was counted, and in winter 1994, 6,500 Phoenicopterus ruber were counted in the eastern lagoon alone. The site’s relative isolation from human activity, and its highly productive habitats, make it attractive for several breeding waterbird species. In spring 1990, a large breeding colony of Larus genei was found here (about 5,700 nests). Phoenicopterus ruber is known to breed as well, but numbers and breeding success vary from year to year, and in some years breeding is not attempted. In 1986, some 750–1,000 adults with 350–400 chicks were counted. Breeding also took place in 1993 and 1994. Sterna albifrons and Sterna hirundo also breed in smaller numbers, Malaha being the only known breeding locality of the latter species in Egypt.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: El Malaha. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/04/2019.