Al-Ahram Weekly Online   23 - 29 September 2010
Issue No. 1016
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Indulgence for newlyweds

Mohamed Abdel-Baky goes straight from bachelorhood to heaven on his honeymoon

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Hilton Nuweiba Coral Resort

The realm of relaxation

Going to Hilton Nuweiba Coral Resort was similar to a discovery expedition for us because we didn't know anyone who had been there for their honeymoon. So we decided to tread new terrain and were pleasantly surprised.

The key feeling at this resort is "inner peace". The moment we set foot there, we are transported to a world of relaxation and de-stress. The lobby area is very comfortable, with a bar and small library, as well as several sofas for guests to enjoy a leisurely read or check e-mails on their laptops since it is Wi- Fi supported.

We arrive at 7:30am and since housekeeping is still preparing our suite, we immediately begin exploring the resort which was built in 1993 and officially opened in 1998 -- and it looked like there hasn't been much renovation since. We have breakfast at the main hotel restaurant Blue Blue located in the heart of the resort, overlooking the swimming pool and the beach from various angles. With full stomachs, we head to our honeymoon suite which is packed with unique features and facilities.

The interior design makes the spacious suite look like a modern bungalow with a sea view, plenty of room for a luxurious bedroom area, living room and dressing area. Amenities include radio MP3, television, mini-bar, high speed Internet, as well as a coffee and tea maker. The suite is located on the ground level of a villa, giving us the privacy we need, in addition to the fact that this section of the resort has its own swimming pool and gardens. Rooms at this four-star hotel cost an average LE350-400 on an all inclusive basis.

The staff at the hotel are very friendly and try their best to make guests feel welcome. As honeymooners, we receive special attention and hotel gifts every day, including a delicious "honeymoon cake", large fruit basket, desserts and fruits, as well as a scrumptious breakfast.

There are many activities to choose from, day and night. In the morning, the beautiful sandy beach beckons us to enjoy the sun and relax. The shore is clear of rocks, unlike most beaches on the Red Sea, and only a few metres into the water we are greeted with schools of colourful fish. Water activities are a big attraction at the beach, including water sports and diving centre, beach volleyball and mini-golf. At the beach bar, we put our feet up under the shade of palm trees and enjoy ice cream and cold drinks.

The other bar at the pool is in the shape of a Hawaiian bungalow in the middle of the swimming pool, so we sip our drinks while still in the water. It is also a good spot to be after dinner, where there is a stage and Oriental dance show for entertainment. A variety of entertainment shows are lined up six days a week, and generally end at 10:30pm. If you want to keep going, the hotel dance club opens at 11pm.

During the day, we recommend eating at the Italian Casa Pesto restaurant with a spectacular view of the sea and gardens. At night, there are two options for dinner. First, Blue Blue where we sample delicious grilled kebab and salad, and specialty cuisines six days a week which included a Far East menu with delectable Thai noodles with chicken. Second, is Abu Lu Lu seafood restaurant where guests are served a royal dinner at a private bamboo cabin directly overlooking the sea. The hotel can also provide special decorations if you want to surprise your partner.

The beach at night is a great setting for special romantic moments, or you can opt for a relaxing shisha session at the Oriental tent overlooking the sea, or just enjoy the gardens which also have a beach view. Our experience at Hilton Nuweiba is unforgettable and it wasn't too complicated to get there. Nuweiba is 55km from Taba International Airport, where EgyptAir lands two flights a week at an average cost of LE800 for a return ticket. A taxi ride from Taba to Nuweiba could cost you LE100 and will get you there in 40 minutes, but there is the cheaper option of a bus from Cairo for only LE130 for a round trip. It's an eight-hour ride, so you might want to plan your trip during the night so you don't waste any daytime on the road.

Seclusion in style

You can immediately sense luxury when you arrive at Jaz Makadi Star & Spa. Checking in at the beautiful Oriental-style lobby is a breeze, and I make sure to inform them that we are on our honeymoon. This opens the door to exceptional treatment and privileges, such as early check in at 8:30am instead of 3pm.

We had arrived on an EgyptAir flight at 7am, and were whisked away by the hotel shuttle from Hurghada International Airport to the hotel. Our early bird flight cost LE250 per person one-way, but afternoon flights could reach LE400 or LE450 one-way. It took us 30 minutes to arrive in Makadi City, sprawled over 3.5 million square metres and home to 2,000 residential units and eight hotels. We chose the luxury Garden Suite at Jaz which guaranteed privacy and serenity at every turn.

Upon entering the suite, a long corridor takes us into a spacious lounge, with a large TV, DVD player and mini-bar. Turning to the left we see the open bedroom area, which is a feast to the eyes. The interior designers could not have done a better job by leaving the sleeping area without a door, but instead installed a handmade Islamic-style gypsum structure with two Ottoman sconces one on either side of the entrance leading to the king size canopy bed.

We walk out into the garden where there is a private swimming pool under a large awning which shields it from the view of other rooms, making it a unique and secluded pool area. While you can spend your days enjoying the sun at the private swimming pool by your suite, or nestle undisturbed under the beautiful sky with your spouse, you can also choose from a variety of activities at the resort. There's water polo at the main swimming pool, tennis courts, and a world-standard golf course which has hosted several international championships in recent years.

Mornings at Jaz begin with a healthy breakfast at Al-Warda restaurant; the chefs there are guaranteed to pamper you as a newlywed couple. At night, we head to Al-Warda again and ask the chefs at the food stations for their specials which include pasta and barbequed quail. After dinner, our options are limited; the Makadi souq or market is the destination for shisha smoking and belly dancing shows, as well as dozens of shops designed in traditional souq style. Items are overpriced, however, so a little bargaining can help reduce expenses.

The best rate for the Garden Suite per night is LE2,200 on a half board basis, which is cheaper than other honeymoon suites at similar facilities in Makadi or Sahl Hashish.

'You will come again'

"I spent my honeymoon here nine years ago," Naguib, another guest, tells us in the lobby of Sheraton Miramar Resort El-Gouna, Hurghada. "I come back to this amazing place every year at the same time."

The concierge takes us to our room after a tour of the resort on golf car, to show us all the facilities spread over nine islands surrounded by separate exotic gardens. Designed by world famous architect Michael Graves, the resort is inspired by Nubian styles with various islands overlooking the lagoon, pool or private beach. Our superior double room with a sea view at half board basis cost us LE645 per night. It is roomy enough to fit a king size bed and a dining table, but the best feature is the large terrace with reclining chairs which directly overlooks the beach. It is surrounded by trees, so we spend the first day just relaxing, napping on the terrace and enjoying the sea.

The hotel treats us to a "Honeymoon Sheraton Cake" accompanied with a card to welcome us; Guest Relations also called to tell us about a Bedouin dinner in the desert at night. It's very easy to find a romantic spot at Sheraton Miramar. The private beach has a dreamy quality to it because of the scenery and the lagoon shape, which makes the beach very quiet and dotted with several places where couples could be alone with the sea.

On the second day, we decide to be more active and use the facilities to the fullest. Guest Relations stepped in and put together a packed itinerary for us for the next three days, day and night. The prices of the boat trips are very reasonable compared to other hotels in Hurghada, and Guest Relations handle the booking and transaction.

Our first cruise is the Mini-Submarine which takes us on a five-hour cruise to explore vibrant coral reefs and tropical fish for LE180 per person. When we come back, we stretch out on the beach for about 20 minutes, and it is time for our next trip on a medium-size boat that takes us on a one-hour tour around El-Gouna City. Other couples rave about snorkelling trips in the Red Sea, but we've run out of time and are leaving the next morning. We are more than satisfied with all we had done, so a key tip is to head straight to Guest Relations after checking in and asking them to organise a programme that fits your needs.

Dinner at the hotel is very special and food is prepared with great care and skill. At night, a trip to downtown El-Gouna is a treat with dozens of restaurants and cafés to choose from, and a Bedouin show at the centre of the district. By the end of our stay, we completely agree with Naguib and may end up returning here every year like him.

There are many ways to reach El-Gouna, but the most comfortable is to fly out from Cairo and be picked up by the Sheraton shuttle, at an average cost of LE500 (per person for a one-way flight). A much cheaper option is to take the bus directly from Cairo to El-Gouna, using any of the six companies that work on this route daily at various times, at a cost of LE75 per person for a one-way ticket.

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