Al-Ahram Weekly Online   2 - 8 August 2012
Issue No. 1109
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Can you beat the Bahamas?

Perhaps, as Mahmoud Bakr finds out

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Stretching over 3,000 square metres of land, Orange Bay is nestled on the island of Gaftun Al-Kobra in the protectorate of Elba, five miles away from Hurghada. Nearby, the Nasraniya Lagoon, almost 3km in width, is calm and smooth like a swimming pool. In the early hours of the morning, the entire surf glows with a shade of orange, hence the name of the resort.

Ihab Ali Dandash, director of Orange Bay, got the idea for the project when he went on a trip to the Bahamas with his family. The boat passengers, paying around $100 per trip, watched a dolphin show and enjoyed various water sports.

Back in Egypt, Dandash quit his job as a police officer and began looking for a similar spot to start his project. Preparations for the project took most of 2006 and 2007, and it finally launched in November, 2010.

According to Dandash, the project cost a total of $2 million, spent on building and equipping a water sports facility, a restaurant and bar, and nearly 13 bungalows. All the installations are made of bamboo and wood to keep the project environment friendly. The destination has contracts with tourist agencies to bring customers from East Europe and Russia; the agencies sell the half-day trip for about $45 from which Orange Bay receives $20 or so, allowing it a profit margin of $1.5 per person.

The company is not doing as well as Dandash had anticipated. In 2011, the project stopped for three months because of political turbulence, and the resort is now operating well below its capacity of 3,000 visitors per day.

Down but not out, Dandash is trying to diversify the services of his facility. He will get better boats, improve the dolphin show, and build squash courts. He has an agreement with the Arab Union for Youth and the Environment to create a marine environment educational centre to train young people seeking jobs in coastal facilities.

Orange Bay will soon host a ten-day summer camp for students of the St Mark School in Alexandria, during which students will be busy with a clean-up campaign and sea scouting programmes.

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