|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
14 - 20 March 2002
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Weekend treatsWondering how to give her children a good time at weekends, Rehab Saad decided to look into what Cairo hotels have to offer tiny guests
My children are too young to go to the Pyramids -- I am very likely to lose them on the plateau. The Egyptian Museum is out of the question for the same reason -- and also because my small son tends to annoy tour guides when he pushes his way to the front of their groups and demands attention. The Railway Museum would be a good bet, were it not so much trouble to get to. As for the zoo and the public gardens, they are much too crowded at weekends. After fighting all week through traffic to get to work and keep appointments, I need a rest. So, on behalf of the working mums of Cairo, I set out to see what else there was to keep our children happy and amused -- as well as giving us a break.
I was pleasantly surprised. Until very recently children have not been given much consideration in hotels. While grown-ups are targeted with special prices, sports facilities and entertainment, children have been kept in the not-seen- and-not-heard category. Now, as I learnt from a tour around the hotels of the city and its environs, it is the children's turn. Egypt has at last woken up to what the USA has known all along: cater for the youngsters, and the parents and grandparents will tag along -- and happily pick up the entertainment tab.
In an effort to catch clients young, many hotels provide Friday brunch with a "children's corner," kiddy menus, paddling pools and what has been intriguingly labelled "kid's room facilities."
"Cool!" said my young son when we chanced upon a downtown hotel doing its best to entertain the next generation of clients by providing them with colouring books, cookies, special meals, and, we learnt, party arrangements.
Many of the major hotels depend on corporate business guests and have no space for -- or interest in -- children's facilities. Other hoteliers see a rapidly-growing trend in domestic tourism and are doing their best to target families.
So, what can parents expect? Al- Ahram Weekly toured the hotels to see what they offer.
Pyramids Park Inter- Continental Resort, on the Cairo- Alexandria desert road, has a petting zoo set in an expanse of shade. While parents relax by the pool or have a cup of tea in the garden, the children can have fun with the monkeys, deer, a camel, a pony, flamingoes and ducks. No need to worry about safety -- there are keepers to take care of the animals, introduce the children to them, and keep the children amused at feeding-time. There is also a "children's garden" with toys, swings and trampoline and a safe junior pool. Special arrangements can be made for birthday parties.
Is there a catch? The facilities are available only for guests who are staying at the hotel for the weekend. However, there is a rate for day use. Rates vary according to the season: currently they are LE290 for a double room including breakfast. Children under 12 years stay free, with a 50 per cent discount on food. A cabana, is available for daily use for LE250 for four people. For more information call 3838666
Le Meridien Pyramids has a play area for children with pint-sized chairs and tables. There is also a children's paddling pool, a special menu with the kinds of food that go down well with youngsters, and colouring books and crayons. Facilities are also available to non- residents. For more information call 3830383
Cataract Pyramids Resort at Harraniya, between Giza and Saqqara, is easily accessible and a delightful place for a day out. Its large and beautiful garden is filled with palms, shrubs and flowers. This is a good place to take children in all seasons as there are indoor and outdoor facilities. Indoors there is an air-conditioned children's club with rocking horses, toys and an indoor paddling pool for those under four years of age. Outdoors there is a playground with swings, slides, trampoline and fiberglass fun houses, as well as a pool for bigger children. For those who can no longer be labelled "children" there are squash, tennis, and basketball courts. Open days are available to schools so students can spend a whole day enjoying all the facilities, including lunch, for a modest LE25.
Both residents and non-residents who are lunching at the hotel can enjoy all the above facilities. However, the adult swimming pool is open only to residents and visitors paying the day rate.
The rate for day use for a cabana for four people is LE120.
For more information call 3842901.
JW Marriott Mirage hotel in New Cairo City, in Qattamiya, south-east of Cairo, is a marvellous place for adults and their offspring. Here you can enjoy a day at the beach without having to drive to the Red Sea or Alexandria.
"The beach," in a desert environment, is Marriott's latest innovation. In this vast area there are four swimming pools. The one called Cleopatra Bay has waves and a stretch of sandy beach where children can play with their buckets and spades. Here are "sea," sand and sun, without leaving Cairo. "The lagoon" is another swimming area with a large central island and water slides to delight junior. A shallow pool is also available for four to eight-year- olds. Water guns, hoses, and tunnels are there to explore -- all safe, and lots of fun. For their youngest guests, Marriott Mirage has a paddling pool for the under four-year-olds.
As for food, there are pizzas, burgers and a variety of snacks in the Shipwreck Restaurant, all with imaginative names such as Captain Sea Burger and Pirate Pete Pizza. And while they eat, an animation team is there to entertain them.
The beach is available to members of JW Marriott Mirage Club House. Member guests have to pay an entry fee of LE60, and discussions are under way on whether to welcome non-members.
For more information call 4125200/300
Families have responded so positively to the facilities now being provided for their children that some city hotels, even those with limited space, have decided the phenomenon is worth looking into.
Four Seasons Hotel Cairo At First Residents, despite its unwieldy name, has become known as a "children-friendly" hotel -- a policy adopted by the Four Seasons chain of hotels and resorts the world over. They can provide cribs, strollers, high chairs, bottle warmers, soothers, bibs and many more baby necessities, as well as milk and cookies at bedtime, balloons and colouring books. All this is available when a family with children book a room at Four Seasons Hotel Cairo At First Residents.
Friday Brunch, which starts at noon and goes on until five o'clock, is great fun. There are two open buffet tables, each with breakfast or lunch specialties. The smallest ones have their own buffet which includes a lot of dishes many parents would prefer their children not to know about, including sweets, popcorn, cookies and marshmallows. Health- conscious mums can try turning their tots' attention to a face- painting session. The little ones love that!
Rates for the Friday Brunch are LE85 for adults and LE45 for children, all excluding service charges and taxes.
For more information call 5697582/3
Hotels are constantly providing new facilities for children and are in search of new attractions to meet the growing market. Another place for Friday Brunch is the Sheraton Heliopolis Hotel, where a special menu is available for children, and colouring books help them wile away the time spent waiting for their meal, entertained by a real-live clown. Rates for the brunch: LE77 for adults, including service and tax. Children from six to 12 years pay half price. There is no charge for those under six.
Sheraton Heliopolis Hotel offers a special week-end package, minimum two nights, for Egyptians and foreign residents, subject to availability and according to the season. A single room is LE264 and a double room LE299. Both include breakfast, service charges and taxes. A cabana for four is available for day use for $50, excluding service charges and taxes.
For more information call 2677730/40
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