Al-Ahram Weekly Online   8 - 14 January 2009
Issue No. 929
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


By Injy El-Kashef


Desert in style

DO YOU dare explore? If yes, then it's about time to pack up and head to the oases of the Al-Wadi Al-Gadid where projects are aplenty and so too is a memorable adventure in which one can explore the desert's simplicity and do so in style. On a one-day tour, Minister of Tourism Zoheir Garana along with the Al-Wadi Al-Gadid Governor Ahmed Mokhtar inaugurated a number of tourism projects worth LE20 million, all raising the banner of preserving the environment. The most recent project is Al-Tarfa Sanctuary Lodge and Spa, a project owned and managed by Camps & Lodges of Egypt, an eco-luxury lodge in Dakhla Oasis, one of Egypt's most pristine and fascinating destinations.

With a capacity of 20 suites and rooms, Al-Tarfa's intention is to provide its guests with the unique opportunity to enjoy the beauty of desert and oases geographies, and the exquisite, dry weather and sunshine, to learn authentic Saharan cultures and to look into captivating histories and distinctive architecture, all while making use of all the facilities you would expect in a luxury hotel.

Equally stunning is the upcoming Desert in Style, a Swiss- Italian project due to open on the most romantic of all dates, 14 February, Valentine's Day. While committed to fully respecting the nature of the oases, their inhabitants and visitors, the project aims at providing a new dimension to the desert experience throughout its three camps along the valley's oases of Farafra, Dakhla and Kharga. Such camps are designed to provide a touch of luxury for those desert veterans who, while enjoying the beauty of nature, still wish to be indulged. Each camp will host nearly 20 fully furnished tent-shaped suites. In Kharga, the capital of the Al-Wadi Al-Gadid, Desert in Style hosts Tabuna Camp, which took its name from the traditional ovens used to make the famed Kharga bread. Tabuna is situated right in front of the Kysis ruins which combine remains from the Pharaonic and Roman periods. In Dakhla is Shamsiya camp which earned its name after Kharga's famous straw hats worn by the locals to protect them from the heat. In Farafra stands Al-Beyda camp, magnificently situated on top of the desert hills overlooking the humongous White Desert.

Going green

MINISTER of Tourism Zoheir Garana recently announced that Sharm El-Sheikh will be the first example of a green city in the Middle East. A conference organised by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) aimed at coming up with solutions to meet the global economic crisis and ever changing climate. The infrastructure of the tourism industry in Egypt witnessed remarkable success, according to Garana, with an influx of more than 13 million tourists last year. In addition to cultural tourism, Egypt is also considered a hot spot for recreational tourism, the minister added. And, while the minister noted that the current credit crunch will inevitably have an impact on the tourism industry, he asserted that "tourism and travelling won't stop." Consequently, travellers will be looking for destinations close to home that would be both affordable and recreational.

According to the WTO's latest statistics, the Middle East was one of the most attractive tourist spots in 2008; hence, Garana noted that it is the duty of all working in the industry to exert their utmost efforts to enhance such a position.

Hats off to Travco

As is customary of Travco, it provided a strong presence at the World Travel Market (WTM) 2008, the UK's annual leading travel event, and one of the most reputable business forum attracting buyers and sellers from the world over and from every sector of the industry. Travco is continuously expanding its hotel presence in various destinations across the Middle East, several of which made their debut during the WTM. Travco is not only focussing on its expansion but is committed to implementing the highest integrated standards of hospitality services which has caught the attention of companies from, among others, Malta, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to Khaled Koraa, Travco's international sales director. Parallel to the WTM, TUI Travel PLC, the UK's number one tour operator, hosted the Gold Medal Award party in which Jaz Hotels & Resorts received awards for its hotel properties. Additionally, and for the fourth consecutive year, Travcotels' M/S Tania and M/S Royale received the SAGA Food Award from SAGA Holidays, one of the UK's leading tour operators. Travcotels' dedication to achieving the highest standards of hospitality and customer satisfaction played a big role in winning the award which was received by Nelly Fahmi, director of sales at Travcotels during the annual awards dinner. The awards are given on behalf of SAGA customers who scored their holidays in the customer satisfaction questionnaires, highlighting holiday experiences that have consistently gone beyond their expectations.

Hotels and resorts

Iberotel opens in Cairo

JAZ Hotels and Resorts announced that as of this month it will be managing one of the most prestigious five-star hotels in Cairo. The hotel, Le Passage, formerly known as Mövenpick Heliopolis, will be managed by Iberotel under the name Iberotel Cairo Hotel and Casino. A signing ceremony in November was attended by Hamed El-Chiati, CEO and chairman of Travco Group, Karl J Pojer, a member of the executive committee of TUI Hotels, and Tawfik El-Kadi, regional director of the Jaz Hotels and Resorts, along with other distinguished guests.

Iberotel Cairo Hotel and Casino is currently owned by Arab World EgyptAir.

"With properties covering nearly all of Egypt's beach resort destinations, we felt it was important for us to have a presence in the capital, and hence cater more to the requirements of the business and corporate segment," explained El-Chiati. "We are proud to be managing such a landmark property which is our first and long awaited property in Cairo," added El-Kadi. "Our team will be working hand in hand with the Iberotel management to ensure that the new look and feel of the hotel's interiors are perfected in accordance with the Iberotel standards and to ensure the smooth operation of the property with guests on board," El-Kadi said. The hotel is ideally situated nearby Cairo International Airport, thus satisfying one of the key features of a business venue. It has eight banquet rooms suitable for conferences, seminars and meetings of all kinds and sizes. The move marks the group's 39th property in Travco's ever expanding hotel portfolio, with an ambitious plan to reach 55 by the end of 2011.

The Indigo experience

FIRST Mall and Four Seasons at the First Residence has announced the opening of the newest addition to its famous group of restaurants and lounges, Indigo. Indigo was designed by renowned interior decorator Didier Gomez who did a brilliant job in the trendy new hot spot. It has Egypt's first ever suspended bar chairs and is set comfortably in contemporary, innovative and ethnic interiors. The gastronomy of Indigo brings you scrumptious cuisine from Spain, Vietnam and Indonesia. The event was attended by some of Egypt's most prominent figures and businessmen who were welcomed upon arrival by Managing Director Nagi Zaki, First Mall Director David Boulouys and Gomez.

Age is just a number

FAMOUS acting couple Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell were present at the Annual Cairo International Film Festival. Managing Director for Egypt and the Middle East at Abercrombie & Kent, Amr Badr, and his wife hosted an extraordinary dinner at the Semiramis InterContinental's hot spot, The Grill, in celebration of Hawn's birthday. Upon their arrival, Hawn and Russell, who have been married for over 30 years, were welcomed by General Manager of the Semiramis InterContinental Juergen Baumhoff, and later indulged themselves in the delights of Michelin-star Chef Eric Heutels.

Mövenpick promotion

MEDIA City Management of Mövenpick Hotel Cairo has promoted Wael Ragaei as director of sales and marketing. Ragaei started as the Mövenpick Nile Cruises sales manager back in 2000. He then worked in several sales positions in Sheraton Hotels, only to rejoin Mövenpick in 2006 as assistant director of sales and marketing.

Celebrations aplenty at Conrad

CONRAD Cairo had a month of hosting celebrities and celebrations. First, it had the honour of hosting Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, president of Argentina, during her recent visit to Egypt. The hotel also hosted a business dinner, attended by De Kirchner and Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Moussa. After winning the African Champions League, as well as qualifying for the Club World Cup in Japan, the Egyptian football team Ahli held their press conference at Conrad Cairo. The conference was attended by Kaoru Ishikawa, the ambassador of Japan to Egypt, Hassan Hamdi, president of Ahli Club, and Emmanuelle Mrawes, representative of FIFA, along with the players and board members.

A night to remember

SHERATON Cairo Hotels and Resorts recently hosted the third annual gathering of StarChoice Programme 2008. Sheraton has been the spot for the quarterly programme seminars for years. The evening was called Sehrayet Al-Kheir, referring to TV presenter Safaa Abul- Seoud's show, Sehraya, which airs on ART. Prominent celebrities present at the event included actor Hisham Selim along with actresses Abeer Sabri and Nashwa Mustafa.

Going cultural

THE EGYPTIAN Society for Allergies chose the Tabia Ballroom at Sheraton Montazah Hotel in Alexandria to host its upcoming meeting next month. During the past few years, Alexandria has witnessed a rapid flow of tourists, from convention and incentive sectors across the world, according to Walid Khalifa, director of sales and marketing at the hotel. "We at Sheraton Montazah had our share of this remarkable flow, due to our excellent reputation amongst other hotels, in regards to quality and the implementation of environmental precautions in all areas," Khalifa added.

Where help is needed

M…VENPICK Hotels and Resorts-Africa, and Habitat for Humanity Egypt, joined forces to build their first house for the needy in Al-Sayeda Zeinab, in the heart of old Cairo. The project, which aims at providing affordable decent housing solutions for families in need, is a milestone in the progress of the partnership of Mövenpick and Habitat. Through a generous donation made by Mövenpick, Habitat started building its first house for housewife Heba Hamdi and her family. The project is expected to raise awareness about the vital need for economical and healthy shelter that will improve the lives of hundreds of families across Egypt. The first project between the two international organisations started with a pilot project in Tanzania last February. Multiple ways of contributing to the community is achieved through the partnership of the two. Guests of the Mövenpick Hotels in Egypt have the opportunity to contribute to the project which will directly impact local Egyptian families' living conditions. In addition to financial contributions, guests can also volunteer in the building process, thus creating ties of friendship with the local community. Habitat has helped to improve the lives of more than 11,500 families through safe and affordable housing solutions.

All for children

AS PART of its continuous efforts towards supporting the community, Ramses Hilton's General Manager Haitham Nassar, together with a number of hotel managers, recently visited the Children's Cancer Hospital 57357 and spent a day full of love and fun.

More than 400 patients from the hospital also enjoyed an outing to the Pharaonic Village, with Abdel-Salam Ragab, the village CEO. After lunch, gifts were given to the children who took part in a clown and magic show and face painting. The day was organised by the village in alliance with the Association of Goodness and Forgiveness.

Royally yours

THE CONFRERIE de la Chaine des Rotisseurs in Egypt recently held a lavish dinner at Fairmont Towers Hotel attended by 150 VIP members and guests. The event was held at the luxurious Canyon Ballroom with a royal theme.

Fairmont Towers' Resident Manager Renaud Gregoire welcomed the Cha"ne members and their VIP guests to the hotel, including the US, Belgium and Indian ambassadors to Egypt. The evening commenced with an elegant cocktail reception at the hotel's Tea Garden uniting international culinary experts and professionals with their distinguished guests. The event took a royal theme beginning from the one royal table for all 150 guests, which was the talk of the gathering, followed by the event's menu shaped like a royal bulletin with the Cha"ne stamp and the hotel executive chef's signature.

Great experience, great spirit

A TEAM from the Semiramis InterContinental Hotel management and employees led by the General Manager Juergen Baumhoff visited the Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE) to celebrate winning the Golden Nugget Award for the hotel's community activities, its recycling programme and continued active role in serving and supporting community projects.

APE is a private voluntary organisation headquartered in the Moqattam district in Cairo and which has branches and committees in other regions. It combines the dual aim of protecting the environment and improving the livelihood of garbage collectors through empowering them, particularly their women, children and youth, to become technologically able to manage a viable system of household waste including recycling in Egypt through comprehensive development in health, education, social, economic and cultural programmes, and to become agents of change for a better environment.

African run

EGYPT hosted Africa's first international marathon in December. The event consisted of four races -- a marathon, half-marathon, 5km and 10km distances -- in the Red Sea coastal town of El-Gouna, popular among international tourists as the ideal holiday getaway.

El-Gouna is a well equipped venue for professional-level sports with unrivalled services, centralised management, and a range of accommodation.

The first event of its kind on the African continent, local and international sponsors began plans over a year ago to publicise the event. Highly favourable results saw the marathon welcome participants from 12 countries, an important step for Egypt in becoming a permanent presence in the running world and an accomplishment made possible by El-Gouna as a successful venue.

As a complete town, participants were able to enjoy all that El-Gouna has to offer, on the course and off, and runners took pleasure in its beaches, sports, dining choices and entertainment options.

For the international event, a course was charted by professionals from Switzerland, and had participants running through a diverse setting alternating between desert, gardens, streets, bridges, lagoon and seashores, and residential and commercial areas. "It was nice to have such a variety of scenery. When you're running for hours on end, it's nice to have things change around you. It feels like you are really moving," said one participant after finishing the race.

The total number of 433 runners from 12 countries competed for prize money worth $40,000 and LE178,000. European and Egyptian reporters as well as Egyptian Nile TV covered the event that saw Kenyan runners take first place in every race.

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