Al-Ahram Weekly Online   7 - 13 May 2009
Issue No. 946
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

A birthday treat

Jailan Halawi on the importance of being you

April is the month of many holidays to celebrate whether national or religious. It marks the beginning of Spring and three significant birthdays in my life; my father's, my niece's and myself. Being the last on the calendar of celebrations, by the time my birthday rolls around, blowing out candles or throwing a party seems a little too much, so I seek alternative ways to celebrate.

Last year, my friends and I spent the entire evening lost around Marioutiya Canal trying to locate a famous pub, which turned out to be closed for renovation. We ended up eating dinner at a Lebanese fast-food restaurant in Mohandessin amidst the disappointment and embarrassment of my friends who had wanted to make my day special. But I had had my fun, spending hours looking for that pub as they persevered to locate it.

This year, I had hoped for a birthday on the beach by the Red Sea. But I settled for a day-use at the Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort, 6th of October City on the outskirts of Cairo -- a 40-minute drive from downtown. It took my friend and I another 15 minutes because we missed the shortcut exit on the Ring Road to Media City.

Upon arriving, we were welcomed with the sound of silence, the humming of birds, extraordinary scenery and gentle breeze. In the lobby, the hotel seemed empty of guests, but I assumed they were out on day trips and will be back by night. I was glad to have all this charm to myself. We were met with a welcome drink the components of which remain mysterious to this day, but it had a strong strawberry flavour with a guava aroma. So fresh and tasty that I decided to postpone my diet and sample the hotel's delights.

Since it was my birthday, the hotel upgraded our room and sent us the Hilton's landmark chocolate cake. My friend and I devoured it to the last bite, leaving no room for proper meals. In between chocolate binges, we would lay back by the swimming pool in awe of the spectacular view of the rock and palm tree, jacuzzi and bar, yet neither of us could move a muscle and take a plunge. After hours in the sun nibbling on cake, we took a tour of the hotel in preparation for our next visit which will be for a longer stay.

The hotel's recreational facilities were many, being part of tycoon businessman Ahmed Bahgat's Dreamland project which constitutes a city comprising of a luxurious residential area and group of hotels. As part of the Dreamland Golf and Sports Club, guests at the Hilton have access to a 27-hole championship golf course, tennis and basketball courts, as well as a football field. Since none of these sports is my cup of tea, I found my haven in the gym. I promised myself that on longer stays, I will spend hours there, running on the treadmill in penance of my caloric sins, then indulge in the spa's various therapies and skin care.

Alas, the sun was bidding us farewell and it was almost time to leave and meet other friends in Mohandessin for dinner. But before I left, I had to test our room's spacious jacuzzi and the renowned French Sothy's toiletries. Just a few drops of the shower gel created plentiful lather which one could bathe in for hours and never have enough.

Shortly before departing, we discovered a sliver of birthday cake which we decided to share over coffee in the terrace. We gazed at the stars and admired the tranquillity before we headed back to the hullabaloo of the big city.

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