Haven’t booked your holiday yet? It’s not too late

Rasha Sadek, Thursday 23 Dec 2010

You can still book a Christmas and New Year break by the sea. Here are some of the hottest deals still available

Sharm el Sheikh's beaches are expected to fill up during the holiday season (Photo: Ayman Ibrahim)

Many hotels, resorts and camps across Egypt’s major tourist sites announced they were fully booked for the holiday season as early as October. “Would you like to be on the waiting list?” has been the standard refrain.

No one wants to spend Christmas or New Year’s Eve on plan B or C. If the Sinai Peninsula on the Red Sea is the destination of your choice, then you have the stretch of Dahab, Nuweiba and Taba to pick from. While many retreats will raise their prices at this time, especially on New Year’s Eve, others maintain affordable and reasonable tariffs. The weather at this time of year is superb: sunny and warm in the morning and only a bit chilly at night.

Dahab is a treasure trove of serenity and enjoys a laid back ambience. Its promenade is a two-mile stretch of bazaars, cafes, hotels and camps on the beach. Dahab is famed among budget travellers for its wide range of camps directly overlooking the Gulf of Aqaba. However, there are five-star and four-star hotels in the other parts of the town.

The five-star Hilton Dahab Resort (+20 69 364 0310) offers double rooms on a half-board basis for LE900 for Egyptians and $260 for foreigners. The Hilton’s New Year’s Eve party, which includes a special dinner, oriental and folkloric shows and entertainment programmes, is LE450 for Egyptians and $140 for foreigners.

Located in Mashraba, the three-star Nesima Resort (+20 69 364 0320) offers double rooms and bed and breakfast for LE440 for Egyptians, 57 Euros for foreign residents, and 68 Euros for foreign non-residents. Celebrating New Year’s Eve, Nesima will offer belly dancing and folkloric shows and a DJ. The price of attendance is LE380 for Egyptians and 50 Euros for foreigners.

The two-star Lareine Hotel (+20 69 364 1642) in Masbat offers double rooms on a bed and breakfast basis for LE240 for Egyptians and LE280 for foreigners. Groups who book five or more rooms are offered a discount. The Lareine and the Blue Beach Hotel (+20 69 364 0411) will not be hosting any special parties to celebrate the holidays — perfect for those who want some quiet downtime. The three-star Blue Beach, also in Masbat, offers double rooms and bed and breakfast for 52 Euros (superior), 44 Euros (standard) and 40 Euros (budget). Egyptians are afforded a 10 per cent discount on these rates.

Lying 87 kilometres northeast of Dahab is Nuweiba, best known for its camping sites stretching north to Taba. There are also luxurious hotels in the town, like the five-star Hilton Nuweiba Coral Resort (+20 69 352 0320). Sea-view bungalows are offered for LE957 and $245 for Egyptians and foreigners respectively. Superior rooms, overlooking the garden, are LE879 for Egyptians and $225 for foreigners. Prices are charged on an all-inclusive basis.

The Hilton is throwing two parties to celebrate the holiday season, including gala dinners and oriental shows. The Christmas party is rated at $90 per person and New Year’s at $140. The rates apply to Egyptians and foreigners alike.

The Waha Village (two stars, +20 69 350 0420) offers double rooms and bed and breakfast for LE200 for Egyptians and $44 for foreigners. On New Year’s Eve village guests are invited to a Bedouin dinner in the middle of the Sinai Mountains.

The one-star La Sirene Hotel (+20 69 350 0701) offers double rooms for LE250 with bed and breakfast, and LE350 half board for Egyptians. Foreigners are offered double rooms for $65, bed and breakfast, and $80 half board. On New Year’s Eve a simple, cosy party will take place on La Sirene’s beach around a bonfire.

Further north is Taba, on the pinnacle of the Gulf of Aqaba. Whereas the 60 kilometres stretch connecting Nuweiba and Taba is dotted with tens of camps (including the area of Ras Shitan) — appealing mostly to travellers on a shoestring — sadly they are fully booked for the entire holiday season. Nevertheless, the four-star Holiday Inn Resort offers double rooms, all inclusive, for LE1,100 for Egyptians and $250 for foreigners for the duration of the holiday break. A gala dinner plus entertainment will be held on New Year’s Eve for $150 for Egyptians and foreigners.

Taba also houses the luxurious Taba Heights complex that comprises five lavish hotels and resorts, a marina that is a licensed international entry and exit point, and an 18-hole golf course between the dramatic mountains of Sinai and the majestic waters of the Red Sea. Taba Heights can be divided into two areas: one comprising the four five-star hotels, the InterContinental, the Marriott, the Sofitel and the Hyatt, all linked through a promenade on the five kilometre beach; the other is the downtown area housing the four-star Al-Wekala Hotel in addition to restaurants, bazaars and coffee shops.

The Taba Heights Marriott Beach Resort (+20 69 358 0100) offers double rooms for LE900 on a bed and breakfast basis, and LE1,097 half-board. The property promises two Christmas and New Year gala dinners together with entertainment.

Out of the Sinai Peninsula are El-Gouna, Hurghada and Marsa Alam. Situated 23 kilometres north of Hurghada, El-Gouna is neatly designed, blending well into the surrounding landscape. The resort has an international marina that harbours tens yachts in its turquoise lagoons. With its scenic views and perfect cleanliness (El-Gouna is involved in environmentally friendly projects like Green Gouna), the resort is characterised by its pastel-coloured domes. The heart of El-Gouna is the Abu Tig Marina and downtown area. Both are rich with restaurants, coffee shops, nightclubs, bazaars, art galleries, Internet outlets, a museum and an aquarium.

The five-star Steigenberger Golf Resort (+20 65 358 0140), offers for Egyptians double rooms and bed and breakfast from 24 to 28 December for LE550. For foreigners, from 24 to 26 December, double rooms on a bed and breakfast basis are offered for 100 Euros, and on 27 and 28 December for 140 Euros. Unfortunately no rooms are available at the Steigenberger for the New Year. However, a Christmas Eve gala dinner with entertainment will be held.

Also booked for New Year but available for Christmas is the five-star Sheraton Miramar Resort (+20 65 354 5606). On a bed and breakfast basis, double rooms are offered at the resort for LE650 for Egyptians and 160 Euros for foreigners. The Christmas dinner party is offered for LE480 and 50 Euros respectively. In downtown El-Gouna, the four-star Dawar Al-Omda Hotel (+20 65 354 5600) offers double rooms on a half-board basis throughout the holiday season for LE960 and 110 Euros for Egyptians and foreigners respectively. On New Year’s Eve, a gala dinner is to be hosted by the hotel for LE700 or 100 Euros.

Hurghada rivals with only Sharm El-Sheikh, Marsa Alam and Dahab in scuba diving. With its abundance of marine life and countless diving sites, Hurghada has earned itself a place on top of the must-visit list. There is a wide range of five to one-star hotels in the city with prices reasonable for those looking for a luxurious stay and affordable for budget travellers and backpackers.

The five-star Hilton Hurghada Plaza (+20 65 354 9745) offers double rooms, a sea view, on an all-inclusive basis for LE1,450 for Egyptians and $320 for foreigners. On New Year’s Eve, the hotel will throw a gala dinner and a Russian show. Tickets cost LE850 for Egyptians and $150 for foreigners. The Conrad Hurghada Resort, four stars (+20 65 346 0020), offers Egyptians double rooms, all inclusive, for LE1,800 plus LE800 for attending the New Year Eve’s gala dinner. Prices for foreigners vary according to nationality. At the three-star Gezira Hotel (+20 65 354 7785) double rooms on a bed and breakfast basis stand at LE160 and LE220 half-board for Egyptians. Foreigners are charged $12 and $18 respectively.

Some 235 kilometres south of Hurghada is Marsa Alam, a world-class diving spot. It is here that Jacques Costeau once said, “the Red Sea is a corridor of marvels — the happiest hours of my diving experience have been spent there.”

From Marsa Alam, you can head further south by car to the virgin beaches of Honkorab and Galaan and visit Wadi Al-Gemal — all nature reserves. Most hotels in Marsa Alam and the townlet of Port Ghalib (a marina and international point of entry and exit) are luxurious, ranging between five and three-star properties. The five-star Iberotel Coraya Beach Resort (+20 65 375 0000) offers Egyptians half-board double rooms on 24 and 25 December for LE740 and from 26 December until 3 January for LE880. Foreigners are charged 92 Euros and 126 Euros for the same respective periods. The resort will throw Christmas and New Year parties with special buffet and entertainment shows. Tickets for the Christmas party are offered for LE480 for Egyptians and 65 Euros for foreigners, while New Year’s Eve celebration tickets cost LE780 and 105 Euros respectively.

The three-star Shagra Ecolodge (+20 23 337 9942) offers huts without bathrooms for LE220, or 35 Euros per person. Chalets without an AC stand at LE300, or 40 Euros, per person, while air conditioned chalets are offered for LE345 or 45 Euros.

Ain Al-Sokhna — or Cairo’s beach — is situated on the Gulf of Suez and lined by a range of tinted mountains only 140 kilometres from the capital. Perfect for a short vacation or a weekend getaway. The azure waters of Ain Al-Sokhna and its long stretch of beach are only some of the exquisite features of the location. Ain Al-Sokhna is also an excellent place for water sports like windsurfing, canoeing, water skiing and fishing.

While some hotels in Ain Al-Sokhna are not preparing anything special for Christmas and New Year, others will host entertainment shows that will include belly dancers and DJs.

The five-star Swiss Inn Stella di Mare (+20 62 325 0100) offers double rooms, half-board, for Egyptians for LE720 (garden view), LE 860 (pool view) and LE930 (sea and pool view). On Thursdays and Fridays prices increase by LE100. The rate for foreigners is $170, $200 and $215 respectively. On Christmas Eve, the hotel is going to host a dinner party for LE340 per person (or the equivalent in dollars for foreigners), while the New Year’s Eve party will include a gala dinner, entertainment shows and a belly dancer for LE440 per person (or the equivalent in dollars).

The four-star Palmera Beach Resort (+20 62 341 0818) is offering double rooms on Christmas Eve for LE600 and on New Year’s Eve for LE900 including access to the gala dinner held on 31 December. Prices are on a half-board basis.

Amigo (+20 62 341 0001) is a four-star two-village resort that has reasonable prices for those wishing to avoid the party scene. Double rooms on a bed only basis are offered for LE220, with breakfast for LE275, half-board for LE375 and full-board for LE450.

All prices are correct at the time of writing. Ahram Online is not responsible for any change in prices by hotels and resorts.

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