Al-Ahram Weekly Online   24 - 30 June 2010
Issue No. 1004
Travel
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

A surviving legacy

In the early 1980s, holidaymakers would be "going to Magawish" not to Hurghada. Today, the place still keeps its charm

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For an unforgettable vacation by the beach, don't miss out on what Magawish has to offer

On the road leading to Safaga and Sahl Hasheesh lies Magawish, a resort that already stood proudly in 1979 as one of the very first in Hurghada. Owned by Misr Travel and then managed by Club Med, its reputation was founded on the abundant activities and facilities it provides. As I set out on my scouting mission to Hurghada, a colleague recounted her 1980s Magawish experience and urged me to return with a full report on what has become of the resort 30 years later.

This is how she and her entire generation remember Magawish: "I was a little girl when my dad took us to Magawish on the mid-year vacation. Though both Hurghada and the entire Red Sea resort concept were still new on the Egyptian tourism map back then, the pleasure we had remains engraved in my heart to date.

"As soon as we stepped out of the bus driving us from the airport, we were immediately received by Magawish's animation team singing the resort's special song while we sipped our welcome drink. As a matter of fact, the French- operated Club Med team kept us entertained day and night, always engaging us in exciting games and shows. There were no TV or radio sets anywhere; it was more of a back-to-nature experience.

"The breakfast buffet had the best kinds of French and Egyptian dishes and the unforgettable French chef baked delicious Parisian baguettes, the scent of which still fills my nostrils. My sister and I were almost in tears when it was time to leave and, despite the passing of the years, whenever Hurghada is mentioned the Magawish vacation immediately surfaces to our minds. Everything was just perfect."

It was my turn to discover Magawish, three decades later, and after a management shift to Swiss Inn, following a brief Misr Travel operational interlude until 2007. Although the resort seemed in good condition, restoration was underway. "Beside over 50 refurbished rooms, we conduct renovations all the time with Misr Travel's assistance," said Magawish Swiss Inn General Manager Ahmed El-Edel.

Hopping on a golf cart to move through the 42,000-metre resort, I passed by the different kinds of rooms, apartments, and suites available there, though I couldn't inspect any from the inside since they were all occupied. I could still note, nevertheless, that the Magawish accommodation system is all inclusive, and the housing designs impressive.

The standard single and double rooms -- consisting of one bedroom and bathroom -- are fashioned as separate white chalets surrounded by gardens. The apartments in the Lotus Area -- comprising a living-room and bedroom -- are located beside the pool and painted a vividly rich red colour. Other accommodation options include suites connecting two rooms, three-room villas with reception, and royal suites boasting luxurious bedroom and living room.

Finally time to sample the Manta Restaurant for lunch -- a spacious, simple and convenient affair. The open buffet was customarily divided into sections for breads, salads, main dishes, desserts, and drinks but, finding authentic Egyptian cuisine beckoning me, I headed straight for the main dish. My choice fell on green beans with tomato sauce, rice with vermicelli, and kabab halla (beef and vegetable stew) -- absolutely delicious. Once more, following a similar incident at the lobby, fresh juice remained unattainable, with only the instant powder mixes on offer. And though the fruits were extremely fresh and tasty, the dessert section paled in comparison to the rest of the buffet.

Heading for the beach, I found that the 1,200- metre long stretch of sand was joyfully vibrant, abuzz with holidaymakers enjoying all sorts of fun and games. There were children everywhere, playing, running in and out of the crystal water and laughing with abandon. A kids' garden, where kids can play while their parents enjoy some quiet and still keep an eye, was also teeming with young ones.

For sports aficionados, the Colona water sports and diving centre offers every activity in the book, while a gymnasium is also available beside a couple of tennis and squash courts. The belly- dancing class was particularly entertaining. More than a dozen ladies of different age groups, with rattling cotton scarves wrapped around their waists, amused a gathering audience that watched, clapped, photographed, and even shot videos of their spirited enthusiasm. The animation team does indeed keep visitors busy.

At night, the various bazaars are stacked with all possible shopping needs, and the two-storey Panorama Bar located directly on the beach provides a perfect seascape before which to unwind at the end of an eventful day. Don't worry about overindulging in the house's special cocktails -- a medical centre will take care of any gluttonous excesses.

When it was sadly time to leave, I realised that I could have easily spent an entire week at Magawish without needing to leave the premises at all. My friend had every right to remember this spot so fondly and to need reassurance over its long-experienced charm. A visitor who's lived such memorable moments would not bear to see this legacy spoilt.

For more information and reservation contact: +20 (65) 346 46 20/9, fax: +20 (65)34646 33, or visit: simagawish@swissinn.net or www.magawish.com

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