Al-Ahram Weekly Online   5 - 11 June 2008
Issue No. 900
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Sea deals

With the advent of summer, it's high time to plan the sea-side vacation. Rasha Sadek guides you to the best places available

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Pensive on the Red Sea (more...)

It just happens. Once you start talking about summer, your mind can't help escape the city to the blue and yellow. Thankfully, the country's got it -- abundantly. Whether to vacation on the Red or the Mediterranean, especially during summer, can be a tough choice. Let alone the array of activities each destination boasts: diving, seafaris, parasailing, wind surfing, safaris (camel trekking, hiking, sand surfing, horseback riding, quadrunning, Bedouin dinner parties amidst the desert... you name it) and much more. Of course, the budget has the upper hand in planning the holiday, but in most destinations there are from one- to five-star hotels making it possible to tailor a vacation according to the depth of every one's pockets. To make it a bit easier, here are some summer magnet destinations.

Sinai has it all -- literally all. Leisure tourism, ecotourism, therapeutic, cultural and religious. While the Red Sea needs no introduction to its diving sites with their diverse marine creatures of every size and colour, Sinai boasts hotels that speak in the name of luxury like the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton in Sharm El-Sheikh and the five-star four-hotel complex of Taba Heights, eco-friendly camps along the Dahab- Taba stretch on Aqaba Gulf like Basata, places that can do wonders for the health of one's being like Hammamat Pharaon (Pharaoh's Baths) and religious retreats like St Catherine's Monastery.

Volumes can easily be written about Sharm El-Sheikh, the southern-most tip of Sinai, but for the time being let's leave it to your exploratory self. Neama Bay, the heart of Sharm, will keep you busy no matter how long your vacation is. The posh five-star Four Seasons Sharm El-Sheikh (069 360 3555 or 02 2791 7788) offers double rooms for Egyptians during the months of June, July and August for $285. Foreigners may reserve doubles for $565. These rates are subject to change according to the hotel's availability, and guests may receive lower rates depending on the period of reservation. The four-star Ghazala Hotel (069 360 0150), Neama Bay, offers Egyptians double rooms for LE940, and foreigners $160 on bed and breakfast basis. Also on Neama Bay, Kahramana Hotel, four stars, (069 360 1071) has posted a package for the local market from 10 July to 31 August by which a four-day/three-night deal costs LE780 per person in a standard room on half-board basis.

Heading north, and still in Sinai, Taba is the northeastern gate of Egypt. Dotted with several resorts and camps, and a Hilton overlooking Israel, the most prominent resort is Taba Heights. A gated complex that utters luxury with the different styles of each of its hotels, there's a Marriott, a Hyatt Regency, a Sofitel and an InterContinental plus a four-star Wekala Hotel, in the downtown (geographically uptown) area. The Hyatt ( from June till late August offers double rooms for Egyptians and foreigners for LE696 and $130 respectively. The Marriott Beach Resort (0800 0000 070, toll free) has stabilised its double room prices until late August at $120 for Egyptians and all other nationalities. If travellers pay for their stay via visa, they receive a $100 voucher valid during their next stay on a minimum accommodation of two nights, provided the two stays are less than six months apart.

Out of Sinai, the city of Hurghada has its own clientele. Located on the west coast of the Red Sea, 400km south of Suez, Hurghada boasts a large number of hotels of many categories, and a huge range of entertainment programmes. The five-star Hilton Hurghada Plaza (065 354 9745) prepared an all-inclusive package to its guests. Until 9 July Egyptians are offered double rooms for LE800, and from 10 July till the end of August for LE900. Rates for foreigners are set by the hotel according to the period of reservation, number of days and nationality. The four-star Arabia Beach Resort (065 354 8790) set an all-inclusive package for Egyptians and foreigners alike for LE575 and 88 euros respectively per night in a double room. This offer is valid until late June after which rates increase to LE675 for Egyptians and 106 euros for foreigners. Still on an all- inclusive basis, the three-star Aida Verdi Hotel (065 346 5200) for the month of June offers Egyptians double rooms for LE500, and LE600 for July. Until 16 July, foreigners are offered double rooms for 100 euros, and later for 120 euros. The five-star Sol Y Mar Club Makadi (065 359 0070) offers a 10 per cent discounted package, all inclusive, till 15 July. The offer is valid for the local market, four days/three nights, with double rooms per person for LE878.

El-Gouna is just 23km north of Hurghada. It's a townlet neatly designed and famed for its pastel-coloured domes. Well known in El-Gouna is the Abu Tig Marina area, rife with restaurants, cafés, art galleries, clubs, bazaars, and of course, an international marina. The Steigenberger Golf Resort (065 358 0140), five stars, from June till late August offers its double rooms for LE450 for Egyptians. Foreigners shall pay 96 euros for their accommodation at the resort in June. Starting July, the doubles shall cost them 114 euros. These rates are established on bed and breakfast basis. The Steigenberger enjoys the merit of an 18-hole championship golf course. As for the three-star Turtle Inn Hotel (065 358 0170), located at Abu Tig, double rooms are offered for LE320 and 48 euros respectively for Egyptians and foreigners. While rates for Egyptians shall be fixed till late September, foreigners will pay, starting July, 58 euros. Prices at the hotel are determined on bed and breakfast basis.

Further down, and for a new experience, 14km south of Marsa Alam is located an eco-friendly lodge by the name of Deep South. What's different about this ecolodge is, simply, everything. The African huts are unique in that each is painted from the inside with a theme different from the other. The service is genuinely excellent, and in no time one makes friends with the staff. Accommodation in Deep South (010 395 9492) is on full board basis. A hut costs 35 euros for foreigners while Egyptians are offered a 25 per cent discount. A 10 per cent sales and taxes fee is applicable to both foreigners and Egyptians. The area where Deep South ecolodge is located is called Hadabet Um Tondoba, and is proximate to Wadi Al-Gemal protectorate, Galaan nature reserve and Honkorab, a virgin beach.

Transported to the Mediterranean, Alexandria is a whole other story. A different mood and a different smell of breeze. An ancient city, it has a bit of everything; wreckdiving, sightseeing from various eras, and most of all reaching the core of genuine Egyptian spirit. For the latter, one is advised to stroll the Corniche that extends along the coast of the city for 20km.

For an authentic Corniche experience coated in a five-star accommodation, Sheraton Montazah Hotel (03 548 0550) offers in June double rooms for Egyptians for LE1,300 and foreigners for $300. In July, rates go up to LE1,500 and $350 respectively. Prices are on bed and breakfast basis, inclusive of tax and service. In Semouha, the five-star Hilton Alexandria Green Plaza (03 420 9121) is located in a complex that comprises a shopping mall, various eateries, bazaars and cafés. Accommodation during the months of June and July are unified at a rate of LE1,500 for Egyptians (BB) and $190 (bed only) for foreigners, inclusive of tax and service. Al-Manshia, precisely Al-Nasr Street, hosts the three-star Amun Hotel (03 481 8239). A 30 per cent increase in room rates has been effective starting June. However, rates will stabilise for the rest of summer at LE220 for Egyptians and LE250 for foreigners, bed and breakfast.

West of Alexandria extends the North Coast, all the way till Alamein. The sahel is dotted with dozens of tourist villages and resorts, most prominent of which is Marina. This complex-cum- city previously appealed more to Egyptian clientele, but with the development of several luxurious hotels, it's now attracting tourists of various nationalities. In Marina, however, rates for Egyptians and foreigners in most hotels and resorts are the same. For instance, the five-star Porto Marina Resort and Hotel (046 445 2711), the finest addition to the North Coast, is part of the Porto Marina project that speaks summer with its ambiance, scores of restaurants, brand stores, cafés, international marina and artificial lagoon. Until the end of June, single or double rooms lagoon- view cost LE900, sea-view LE1,200. Starting July and till the end of the summer season, prices will hike up to LE1,700 on the lagoon, and LE2,500 overlooking the Mediterranean. The mentioned rates are on bed and breakfast basis, including tax and service. For a less extravagant stay in Marina, the Sea Gull Hotel (046 406 1091) for June offers double rooms (bed and breakfast) for LE650, while in July and August rooms will be reserved for LE750 on weekdays and LE900 on weekends (Thursdays and Fridays). The hotel rating is yet unclassified, though the reservation department assures us it's a four-star hotel.

Charm Life, 140km west of Alexandria and a 15-minute drive from Sidi Abdel-Rahman resort, opened a little over two years ago to offer a sahel experience away from the hassle of Marina. The five-star hotel (046 419 0060) offers Egyptians reasonable prices through June; LE550 on weekends and LE500 on weekdays for double rooms. Foreigners' doubles stand at 90 euros. Come July, rates for Egyptians will jump to LE1,550. July will be milder on foreigners in Charm Life, with rooms standing at only 98 euros. The July rates, for both Egyptians and foreigners, shall remain the same until September, the hotel's reservation department asserts. Egyptians are offered their rooms on a bed and breakfast basis, while foreigners will have theirs bed-only.

So there you have it. Simply, pick and pack.

Please note that all prices are correct at the time of going to press. The newspaper is not responsible for any subsequent change in prices.

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