Al-Ahram Weekly Online   24 - 30 June 2004
Issue No. 696
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Kids for all seasons

Can you enjoy the summer holiday, relax on the beach, sip your drink and sunbathe while the children are around? Yes, you can if you follow Rehab Saad 's guide to the most kids-friendly resorts in Egypt

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Most hotels and resorts in Egypt are doing their best to satisfy their new generation of clients; kids on a banana boat; kids pool in Le Meridien Makadi Bay; it's time for both moms and kids to have fun in the summer holiday

Parents may think that they are in charge of choosing their holiday destination, hotel and the kind of activities they want to have on their time off. In fact, it is their kids who choose and decide. Children, of course, do not literally force you to book a holiday village or a hotel, but you always have to have them in mind when selecting a place. You cannot ignore their preferences, their needs and the things they love or hate when you book a room in a certain resort, even if you are not that much interested in the place.

I know this from experience. When I go to Alexandria, I love to stay in hotels downtown, especially in Raml Square, where everything is literally around you. Most of the hotels there are old style, and some are historical, with marvelous views of the sea and the busy square. From this area I can easily walk to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and spend half a day reading or touring the different exhibitions or at the Planetarium. I can also go to Attarine where the best antique shops are situated, or to Zanqet Al-Sitat -- the women's squeeze -- where women's accessories, gold and silver items are on display at reasonable prices. I can also have a stroll by the Corniche in the afternoon or have a coffee and a piece of cake in one of the downtown old Greek cafés such as Trianon, Delese or Elite.

However, my selection might upset my kids because the downtown hotels neither have swimming pools nor private beaches, and they are not generally interested in my downtown excursions. For that reason, when I have the children with me in Alexandria, I usually direct myself to the sea and book a room in a hotel near or inside Maamoura or Montazah, where the kids can have fun on the beach, or in the fun-fair or playing bowling with their friends.

However, with as the number of holidaymakers with children grows, many resorts and hotels -- especially those on the Red Sea and in Sinai -- have started to have the kids in mind and started to provide several facilities for them. Their facilities vary from offering only cots and babysitters to special kids' menus to preparing special all- day programmes for kids, including activities like sports, swimming, arts and crafts, and water games.

These resorts and hotels have successfully managed to solve the difficult equation: to satisfy both the kids and parents. By offering kids, whose ages range from four to 12 years, a whole day of interesting stimulating programmes gives a chance to the parents to have a quiet and relaxing holiday where they can peacefully sunbathe, have a message or simply swim.

The following is a guide to the resorts and hotels on the Red Sea and in Sinai that provide kids with exclusive facilities:

Kids for all seasons

Four Seasons Resort Sharm El-Sheikh (+202) 331 6700, provides kids staying at the resort with fun and supervised activities through the "Kids For All Seasons" programme.

Upon check-in children receive a personal invitation to participate in the programme which is a complimentary programme for those aged between five and 12, and is open daily from 9am to 5pm. The programme emphasises educational activities as well as contemporary and traditional Egyptian arts, crafts, and games. Outdoor recreation for children includes kite flying, pool aerobics, introduction to snorkelling, swimming, beach games, walks and sand sculpting. In addition, kids are guided in a tour to the pastry kitchen where they learn to make their own little cookies.

At the end of the programme, children receive a special papyrus gift in which their name is printed in hieroglyphics. They also get two coloured T-shirts with the resort's logo on.

In addition to the kids' programme, Four Seasons Resort features special room amenities for kids that include shampoo, hair conditioner, baby oil and powder. Little bathrobes and emergency diaper supplies are also available upon request.

Other kids-friendly touches in the resort include a special kids' menu in all restaurants and room service. The menu has a variety of dishes designed especially for kids, such as baby bear's "just right" porridge, fried eggs and turkey, cap'n fish and fish finger butter veg band, talkin' to the wok chicken fried noodle chop, mama's chocolate pudding in addition to many ice cream flavours and milk shakes.

The rate of the resort for a single deluxe sea- view room for Egyptians is $144 per night and $157 for doubles on a bed and breakfast basis inclusive of service charge and taxes. The rate for foreigners is $167 for single rooms and $208 for doubles. The offer is valid through July and August.

Ritz kids

A strong believer in the power of children and how they discreetly affect parents' decisions, Thorsten Ries, general manager of the Ritz- Carlton Sharm El-Sheikh (+202)760 5626, has introduced a new standard operating procedure whereby the young guests become a focal point of attention in the hotel.

The welcome process starts at the point of reservation when the child's name and age are identified and communicated to various departments of the hotel. Upon arrival the young guest is personally welcomed by the Ritz Kids' club supervisor who leaves her business card with the parents and encourages them to call her at any time. With a glass of fresh juice, children are given the kids' club programme and the children's menu wrapped in a blue ribbon.

The kids' club is located in the water park area with a special swimming pool designed for children, including an artificial sandy beach to ensure their safety while enjoying playing in the sand without being close to the sea or the reefs. The swimming pool in the water park is not deep and is connected to a lazy river where kids can enjoy cruising in a small coloured canoe. Parents can enjoy their time around the pool or have a quick snack served from the Pyramids bar while watching their kids.

The kids' club itself is a comfortable air- conditioned medium-sized room beautifully painted with famous Disney characters and the floor is covered with soft carpet for maximum protection. A large TV screen occupies one corner of the club, while several books, toys, puzzles, colouring materials are available for kids to enjoy.

Outdoor activities of the club include aerobics, duck feeding, Tele match, tennis, snorkelling, ball games, water sports, and lazy river cruising. The kids' club is open from 9am to 5pm for children between four and 12 years old.

The Ritz officials are also keen on the health of their little guests and for that reason, and starting from May, healthy food is encouraged through the "Healthy Taste" Ritz Kids menus that cut junk food and replace it by more nutritional products. "We want to make sure that our Ritz Kids menus provide healthy, yet tasty alternatives to the dishes we have offered in the past. This does not mean taking hamburgers or macaroni and cheese totally off the menu and substituting bean sprouts... We want them to eat their meals. What it does mean is taking another look at what we cook, how we cook it, and ways we can appeal to kids' appetites, while not adding extras they don't need like fat, sodium, and food additives," said Arnaud Berthelier, executive chef at the Ritz Carlton.

Berthelier added that snacking is an important part of healthy eating for growing children and young guests on holiday. For that reason he decided on providing kids with tasty nutritious snacks. "We incorporate sliced raw vegetables with crackers and a tasty yoghurt dip; sliced or whole fruit with cheese, yoghurt or milk; bread with cheese or peanut butter; a variety of cereals with pieces of fruit; plain popcorn with grated cheese and juice; home-made breads or muffins and milk," he concluded.

The rate of a double room overlooking the pool and garden at the Ritz Carlton is LE470 per night from 1 to 14 July on bed and breakfast basis; LE550 in the period from 15 July to 6 August; LE850 in the period from 7 to 28 August. Rates are valid only for Egyptians and foreign residents.

Just us kids

"Just us kids" is another interesting programme for kids offered by Sonesta Beach Resort Sharm El-Sheikh (+069) 600 725. The programme is held at Sonesta's kids' club from 9am to 7pm for kids aged from five to 12. From 9am to 1pm kids spend time in the club watching cartoons or listening to music. From 4pm to 7pm is the time for outdoor activities such as tennis, bowling, aerobics and others. Children also have the chance of going to the swimming pool or the beach with the club supervisor upon the parents' request.

Sonesta Beach Resort offers double rooms for LE150 per person per night on a bed and breakfast basis inclusive of service charge and taxes. Rates are valid only for Egyptians and foreign residents. There will be a complimentary hour of tennis during the day per stay, as well as free participation in all animation programmes and complimentary transportation to and from Sharm El-Sheikh airport. Children up to 12 years are free of charge sharing the parents' room (maximum of two children per room). The offer is valid until the end of September.

The Baboo village

The Baboo village is the venue that kids must target on arriving Sofitel Sharm El-Sheikh Hotel (+2069) 600 081 on Neama Bay, where lots of fun takes place and many activities are held such as colouring, singing, dancing in addition to open air activities on the beach and by the kids' swimming pool. The village is open six days per week from 9am to 5pm -- it's closed at lunch time -- for children aged between four and 12.

Children's cots are also available in the hotel in addition to children's menus and seats.

The facilities of the Baboo village are also available at Sofitel Taba Heights (+2069) 580 800 in the border city of Taba on the Gulf of Aqaba.

The rate for a double room in Sofitel Sharm El-Sheikh is LE368 per night on a bed and breakfast basis including service charge and taxes. On the other hand, the rate of a double room at Sofitel Taba Heights is LE440 on half board basis (breakfast and dinner) in addition to five per cent sales tax. All rooms in Taba offer a sea view. Rates are only valid to Egyptians and foreign residents.

Kids of the golden coast

Kids targeting Radisson SAS Taba Golden Coast (+202) 761 8540 will have a unique opportunity to enjoy the various activities of the hotel's kids club by the beach. Instead of waiting for mummy or daddy to swim and play with them, it is the kids' club team that takes the responsibility. Moreover, children can draw, colour, make some arts and crafts or listen to music. Nannies are available too on the beach for kids' -- and parents' -- comfort. There is also a babysitter available until 8pm.

The hotel offers standard double rooms for LE130 per person per night on half board basis in the period from 1 to 15 July and for LE170 per person per night in the period from 15 July to the end of August. The offer is only valid for Egyptians and foreign residents.

KIDZ Paradise

Situated on a beautiful, sheltered natural lagoon on the outskirts of Dahab in south Sinai, Hilton Dahab Resort (19009) could be the best holiday retreat for you and your kids.

As for you, you would definitely enjoy the serenity and peacefulness of this quaint little sleepy Bohemian-style village that is nestled between the Sinai mountains and the crystal-clear waters of the Red Sea.

As for the kids, they will surely enjoy the kids' buffets with various specialties cooked and baked for them. In the Mirage, the main restaurant of the resort, there is a babysitter who can feed your kids, entertain them by telling them stories or showing them cartoons on the TV screen situated in the restaurant's kids' area, and thus you can enjoy your meal undisturbed. Also the children's "KIDZ paradise" club is another option for them away from moms and dads. The club opens from 9am to 5pm for children aged between four and 12. There, children are free to paint, sing, dance, play with toys and many other activities. There is one hour dedicated to beach games.

The rate of a double room overlooking the mountain and lagoons is LE450 per night on half board basis including service taxes whereas a double deluxe sea-view room would cost LE500 per night. The offer is only valid to Egyptians and foreign residents.

No mummies

No mummies are allowed to interfere with their kids' entertainment programme of Sheraton Soma Bay Resort (+202) 303 3401/2, on the Red Sea. The hotel's "No Mummies kids club" is a kids' sanctuary where all kinds of entertainment and fun are provided. With the motto "fun for kids and heaven for parents" in mind, you can enjoy your vacation at the Sheraton Soma Bay while your children are having a wonderful time.

The "No Mummies kids club" prepares a weekly programme for the children with exciting daily activities and entertainment like best sand shapes, kids handicraft, treasure hunt, a weekly party, videos, painting, mini-water gym, dancing, walking excursions, mini-water polo and a variety of other water games. Every night at 8.30pm, there is a mini-disco where you can join your kids and dance the whole night with them.

The "No mammies club" opens from 9am to 8pm for children aged between four and 12.

The rate of a double room at Sheraton Soma Bay Resort is LE260 per person per night on half board basis. There will be a free shuttle bus from and to Hurghada airport, a free welcome drink upon arrival and a complimentary fruit basket. The offer is valid until the end of July. In August until 11 September, a supplement of LE40 is added per person per night. Children under six years old go free when sharing their parents' room, with maximum of two children on half board basis. Children aged between seven and 12 will pay 50 per cent of adults' rates. Those above 12 will be considered adults. The offer is valid only for Egyptians and foreign residents.

Makadi penguins

The most exclusive Le Meridien Makadi Bay Resort (+2065) 590 590, on Makadi Bay on the Red Sea offers the next generation of clients unforgettable experience through its "Penguin Kids Club" where they have daily programmes full of activities such as painting, funny games, swimming, ball games, special kids lunch at the main restaurant and mini-disco where they can dance the night away.

The resort has a special outdoor pool for the kids as well as a part of the indoor heated pool. Beside the "Penguin Kids Club" there is an outdoor playing ground for kids. The good news for kids is that cotton candy and popcorn machines are scattered everywhere on the beach.

The resort offers a babysitting service upon 24 hours prior notice.

The rate of double dune rooms in July is LE275 per person per night on full board basis and LE300 per person per night on all inclusive basis (means that you can eat and drink whatever you want all day long without paying any extras).

In August, a double dune room will cost LE300 per person per night on full board basis and LE325 on all inclusive basis.

Now, all you have to do is decide, or -- to be realistic -- let your kids decide and book your holiday destination.

All rates are correct at time of going to print. Al-Ahram Weekly is not responsible for any changes made by the hotels and resorts.

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