Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
25 Nov. - 1 Dec. 1999
Issue No. 457
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

Front Page

Where to go on 31 December

By Rehab Saad

On 31 December, Egypt will hold its millennium celebrations at the foot of the Great Pyramids. The grand occasion, to be directed by well-known French performer Jean-Michel Jarre, will feature 20 tents, each run by a five-star hotel and holding up to 500 people, to be erected on the site. Hundreds of tourists are expected and dozens of local and international TV stations will cover the event.

But Giza will not be the only festive venue in Egypt that night. Many hotels and resorts are planning their own celebrations, each trying to outdo the other in variety and spectacle. Hoteliers are quick to point out that they are not competing with the official pyramid event, being sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, but are simply offering an alternative. Their options, they claim, have elicited a positive response so far.

The Sheraton chain, for example, will make use of the Luxor temple complex for their special event. According to hotel officials, the festivities will begin with an open-bar cocktail, set to the tune of harps, on the sphinx-lined path leading to Karnak. Guests will enjoy dinner while watching a laser show near the statue of King Ramses II who will 'deliver' the millennium message, after which they will listen to a rendition of some modern songs. At midnight, the birth of the new millennium will be toasted with champagne.

"This is an exclusive Sheraton event," said Maha Saad, public relations manager of Starwood Hotels. "We started marketing it at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London in November last year." Saad said extensive plans have been made, including agreements with international TV stations, to cover the event live. Press kits have been circulated to the foreign press and tour operators. "We are working hand in hand with a public relations agency in the US that will help in sending professional media people for our event." Saad added that work was also being conducted with public relations agencies in the Gulf. "We have the tools to attract the public. We started at the right time."

Most hoteliers concur that the official celebration at Giza is an excellent idea but that its publicity began way behind schedule. "Marketing should have started a year ago," Saad said. She said that the Sheraton had studied the entire issue thoroughly and because marketing started late, "we decided not to participate but to plan our own event. In order to participate in the official event we would have had to buy 500 tickets and sell them." The hotel could not guarantee a profit in such a short time, Saad added.

Not all tourists visiting Egypt are antiquity buffs or are deeply interested in the Giza Plateau and Luxor temples. Some come for the sun, sand and sea. Nature-loving tourists expect to find something to suit them in the Red Sea coast and the Gulf of Aqaba.

Al-Gouna is preparing an exclusive programme for its guests. The Mövenpick resort there is preparing a three-day festival starting 30 December. An international buffet, a cocktail party with live music, disco and karaoke are all part of the first day's festivities. The second day offers a large Pharaonic tent, complete with camels, a barbecue, a bonfire, and live entertainment including folklore shows. The last day sees a late brunch and a beach-side concert performed by a six-piece orchestra. High tea and pastries await early morning merry-makers.

A tent big enough to hold 500 party-goers will be pitched at Zeitouna beach in Al-Gouna. Inside will be a gala dinner, welcome drinks, a live band and a show.

Sheraton Miramar resort in Al-Gouna will hold a one-night celebration including a buffet dinner, welcome cocktails, a folklore dance troupe, a contemporary band plus a free bottle of Al-Gouna's wine and a millennium birthday cake.

For exclusivity a special party will be held at the Steigenberger Golf Resort. The celebration will take place at the heart of the course with a gala buffet, a live band, a Russian show plus a jackpot lottery awaiting lucky millennium winners. If you're still awake when the sun rises, brunch will be served to the strains of classical music.

Sinai entertainment on the last day of the 20th century means going back in time a bit. In Sharm Al-Sheikh, Hilton Fayrouz Resort and Hilton Sharm Dreams invite guests to join a "Lawrence of Arabia" theme at the starlight mountain site, five kilometres from Naama Bay. To recapture the past the decor will feature scenes from the movie -- old burnt-out jeeps, trees and British and Arab troops all made of Styrofoam. Upon arrival guests will be treated to a laser show and Carmina Burana music. In the Bedouin tent, each guest will be offered a galabeya and an opportunity to have his or her face painted.

In Nuweiba, in South Sinai, Nuweiba Hilton Coral Resort is preparing "Bedouin into the Millennium". The main dining room will be turned into a tent furnished with low tables and chairs, oriental carpets and copper decoration. A dinner buffet will include culinary delights from Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, and the Arabian Peninsula. Hilton officials say that shishas, Bedouin bread and oriental tea will create an authentic Middle Eastern atmosphere.

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