As Egyptians plan their escapes from jam-packed Cairo during weekends, or for the lucky ones, extended weekends, more and more are looking to head to new locations that put serenity and peace at the heart of the trip.
And many are planning to escape to their country’s own beauty spots, in order to remind themselves that Egypt is more than just soul-crushing, overpopulated streets.
Sahl Hasheesh, a private resort-complex just outside Hurghada, is just that – a newer resort that is hoping to attract locals and well as foreign beach-lovers.
The resort features six hotels with different themes and 12.5 kilometres of sandy beaches. It will also feature activities ranging from diving to golf to horse riding on the beach, some of which are available now and some of which are coming soon.
It’s also becoming known as a perfect resort for young honeymooners who are looking for a tranquil getaway spot.
A couple in a yacht in Sahl Hasheesh (Photo Courtesy of Sahl Hasheesh website)
Planning your trip
Sahl Hasheesh is a mere 12-minute drive from Hurghada’s international airport, so flying is an easy option.
Travelling by car from Cairo is also straightforward, and takes around five to six hours. It’s a bit of a dull trip; the maximum entertainment is a brief stop for coffee at the overcrowded Ain Sokhna petrol station.
The 32-million square mile complex is home to six different hotels, each with a different style: Baron, Old Palace, Pyramisa, Premier Le Reve, Premier Romance, and Tropitel.
Ahram Online opted for Premier Le Reve, and we were met with a glamorous sea-front setting that allowed us to take in the real beauty of the Red Sea location – and we were reminded that the hotel identifies itself as a honeymooners’ escape, so no children under 16 are allowed.
Premier Le Reve Hotel Sahl Hasheesh (Photo Courtesy of Sahl Hasheesh website)
At Premier Le Reve, a deluxe double room with views of either the sea or one of the pools will set you back around EGP 2,000 per night for two people.
Waking up the next day, we understood why their strict “no children” policy was enforced, with holidaymakers enjoying the calm atmosphere whether by sunbathing, talking to their loved ones, or just reading their favorite books – or the latest gossip magazines -- at the pool…all in peace.
The hotel beach is home to spacious sun beds, and is a great spot for those looking for complete relaxation away from the pool, where the animation team would in theory provide entertainment.
Sahl Hasheesh beach (Photo: Menna Alaa El-Din)
Having said that, the animation team seemed to be quite low-key and on Ahram Online’s visit could not be spotted, leaving guests at the pool to relax with their own music on iPods or MP3 players instead.
But for those with energy to burn, there are plenty of other activities on offer that will get you up off the sun-lounger.
You can roam the whole resort on rented bikes, or strap on your scuba gear for an unforgettable experience exploring the nearby coral reefs.
And for those after the maximum amount of relaxation, there is the hotel spa, with special rates for Egyptians that include a discount of around 50 percent; with that discount, a whole body scrub and massage will cost you a maximum of EGP 700.
For us, the problem was that the spa’s staff were a bit too intrusive, bringing us out of our chilled mood to advertise their services.
We had to assert multiple times that our trip was a short one so we wouldn’t be able to look into their offers, but they just kept coming!
Where to eat
Swimming makes you hungry, you say? No problem: most of the restaurants located in the resort providing all-inclusive dining services, including breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner…and if you’re still peckish, well, there’s 24-hour room service at the touch of a button, although different rates apply.
Breakfast was our favorite meal, with varieties of foul medammes and eggs made according to your preference, as well as sausage and baked beans just like the Brits do it.
Vegetarians are also catered for, especially at lunch and dinner, with options like vegetarian sushi and other carbs that we didn’t really mind, since we left our carb-counting obsession back in Cairo.
The snacks were not vegetarian-friendly though, especially with pizzas, burgers, and chicken Caesar salads only provided at their all-inclusive restaurants.
After all that food we made sure we visited the gym; it’s nothing fancy, just a couple of treadmills, but that still didn’t stop us from running our 3-4km.
What to do
Unfortunately, while the mornings were somewhat relaxing, the nights were definitely boring for us singletons. We felt a bit like we were the one single person at the party: lonely, surrounded by couples enjoying their time together.
There weren’t many night-time activities at the hotel, and even a mediocre disco was nowhere to be found, so for some dancing and to shake off our feeling of being out-of-place in the midst of all the couples, we had to go all the way to Hurghada.
We were keen, though, to ask about the inconvenience of the lack of nightlife, especially with the hotel beach bar closing at midnight!
The answer is that the hotel is designed to be a quiet place, and so parties are limited to seasonal events at Easter, Christmas etc.
We were also hoping to go horse riding during our trip, but unfortunately this activity wasn’t available, which was a shame, because all we could think of was how much of a hassle it is to ride a horse around the pyramids back in Cairo, and how different it would be to ride along the beach with a view of the Red Sea!
We will definitely go back just for that.
Horseback riding at Sahl Hasheesh (Photo Courtesy of Sahl Hasheesh website)
Watersports are still a plus one when it comes to excitement during any beach holiday, and Sahl Hasheesh in theory offers kite surfing, parasailing, windsurfing, and of course, the always-fun banana boat.
Having said that, we were only able to spot people parasailing, perhaps at a different hotel? And the hotel desk’s staff were not available to ask about the services.
Watergames at Sahl Hasheesh (Photo Courtesy of Sahl Hasheesh website)
Diving, of course, is a must when it comes to the Red Sea, and Sahl Hasheesh identifies itself as a top location for diving, with pristine coral reefs and clean, uncrowded waters.
We were not able to try it out on this short trip, but next time we plan on taking our diver friends with us to see if they live up to their promises.
For a nice walk, we paid a visit to Sahl Hasheesh’s Old Town, a small commercial district, where we enjoyed the perfect weather and explored the international and local stores and restaurants.
It’s nothing fancy; a few shops with salesmen standing in the door, trying to win you over.
Sahl Hasheesh' Old Market (Photo Courtesy of Sahl Hasheesh website)
What we definitely loved was that moving around is never a hassle: forget about cars and honking, as you can move around with the always-available golf carts. (Also, did we mention that the resort’s golf courses are under construction, if you feel like trying your luck soon, Future Tiger Woods?)
The resort town, half the size of Manhattan or around 15 times the size of Zamalek, as the CEO of the company that runs it, the Egyptian Resorts Company, described it once in an interview, was destined to make us a little disappointed when we leave for the crowded cities we call home.
For now, though, we have one request: please, more activities for us singletons! Honeymooners are covered – all they need is love, after all. The rest of us could use a dance floor or two.
No matter – we can always come back, as we were told while there, with some cash for the real estate options provided within the resort.
For more details, see the resort’s website: www.sahlhasheesh.com.
For horse riding, contact the Sea Horse Club: +2 01060858000.
For scuba diving, contact Pro Divers Corner: +2 01062404994.