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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

EXPLORING THE NIGHT LIFE OF HURGHADA


 



The evening after we arrived at the posh Kempinski Hotel at Soma Bay,  Markos suggested we should go into the nearby city of Hurghada to have a look around.  Hurghada is the area’s best known resort area with lots of dive shops and other amenities. This was a kind of ‘secret’ get-away so only Linda, Markos and I set off by van for the 45 km drive north of the Soma Bay Resorts. The others had gone for a long spa treatment, which I had turned down in favor of the Hurghada adventure because I knew I’d be too tired. Yves was, and that’s why he didn’t accompany us.

 



 


Hurgada started out as a small fishing village but because of the investments made along the Red Sea coast it has become a busy town with lots of watersports and nightlife.  The hot, dry climate make it popular with Europeans who often spend their holidays there. Today Hurghada has 248,000 inhabitants.
We were met in the town by a tourist rep who escorted us on a walking tour down Hurghada’s busy main street.  Just as in other Mediterranean resorts the town comes alive at night when things have cooled down a bit.  There were plenty of people on the streets including families with children. 
 
The main street has a variety of shops. Linda and I bought some souvenirs in one shop and that’s where I met my little mascot, Abdul the Camel.  I couldn’t resist him and from that evening on he accompanied me on all my Egyptian adventures. 


Meet Abdul the Camel


There is a busy yacht harbour along the sea and an amusement park area.  But what intrigued me most were the little cafes, some of them resembling tents with people sitting on comfy chairs and couches around low tables. 


 
We found one that was an Italian cafe, and I ordered lasagna that was one of the best I’ve ever tasted with a little tomato on top carved like a rose.
 
  Markos ordered a shisha pipe and we sat under the canopy smoking apple-flavored tobacco, as we sipped Egyptian wine and  dined on our delicious meal. That was one of the most fun evenings, just the three of us and the tour guide enjoying some leisure time together.  

Linda, me and Markos having fun! 
 




NEXT:  Another Spa Tour and the Red Coral Reefs  

 

 

 

 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

HAVE I DIED AND GONE TO SHANGRI-LA? THREE LUXURIOUS DAYS BY THE RED SEA


No kidding! I thought I’d died and gone to Shangri-la when we drove out of the desert and entered the exotic and luxurious Kempinski Hotel at Soma Bay on the Red Sea.  For a traveler like me who usually goes budget, even back-packs and camps, this sprawling Moorish style hotel-spa was like waking in a fairy-tale dream.  The hotel occupies a beachside area spanning 150,000 sq meters offering 325 rooms designer furnished with views overlooking the hotel lagoon and creation pools to the sparkling turquoise water of the sea.
As I surveyed the luscious landscape, the waterfalls, streams, heated swimming pools and the long stretch of beach I could only gasp and say “Wow!”  No wonder the Kempinski is known as the Pearl of the Red Sea!



Welcome to My Room!

 
After our long journey across the desert, I could hardly wait to go for a swim so I donned my bathing suit and headed for the beach.  Imagine! A chance to swim in the Red Sea (called that name because of the red coral reefs), a sea that I had long-ago heard about in Bible stories. I envisioned myself drifting in the crystal clear water. 

I started to wade out and went farther and farther from shore, the water barely reaching my shins!  Now I know how Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt across the sea. They waded across! Finally I squatted down so it appeared that I was submerged and had my friend Linda take my photograph, just so I could say I ‘swam’ in the Red Sea.

 
Wading in the Red Sea
 

Pretending to Swim


 Camels on the Beach
 
 

Then I returned to shore and joined my friends by the pool side.  It is such a large pool it was almost like swimming in the sea so I spent the rest of the afternoon splashing around and lolling in the sun by pool-side.
 

There’s pool-side restaurant, Al Mar, where sunbathers can order snacks or drinks.  The hotel’s main restaurant is The View where we were served a spectacular buffet dinner later that day.
 


Some of the Luxurious Surroundings 



 It was fun just hanging out in the vast and beautifully decorated main lounge area where we lounged on comfy couches and checked our emails on our iphones and tablets.


 In the evening Markos, Linda and I sat outside on the patio, ordered glasses of Egyptian wine (my favorite was the Omar Khayyam) and smoked a water pipe of pear flavored sheesah. This is a very communal type of pastime in Egypt, relaxing and sweet-tasting and not a narcotic smoked from a tall ornate pipe with long tubes for inhaling. Even a non-smoker like me enjoyed puffing away as we chatted and watched the glorious rosy sunset over the sea.


The Soma Bay Peninsula is 10 square miles but only 2 miles are developed. The Kempinski Hotel is one of several luxurious spa-resorts on the shores of Soma Bay.  Just down the beach we visited the Residence Des Cascade Resort, another spa hotel.   
 

 
We were taken around the 18 hole championship golf-course on a golf cart. This would appeal to most golfers, a par 72 course right by the sea the lush green fairways a contrast to the distant desert landscape. 



 
 
Later we stopped at the Breakers Hotel, designed for the more laid-back adventurous folks. There’s a dive centre and  a Kite House offering  kite surfing and kite racing on the long stretch of beach.  We watched dozens of brightly coloured kite-surfers, like giant butterflies, hovering over the water. You can take a 4 day kite-surfing course as well as learn how to scuba dive at the Dive Centre. There is also a volley ball training court.



 
 
 Nearby is the Soma Bay Thalasso & Spa, said to be the best spa in Egypt and one of the largest in the world. It has 65 treatments rooms offering everything from traditional massages and beauty treatments to the latest in aesthetic treatments and hydrotherapy administered by highly trained therapists.  It’s located at the Cascades Hotel but is available to guests in the entire Soma Bay area. 


 We were invited to return for a free spa treatment.  But Markos, Linda and I had other plans: a night out in the nearby city of Hurghada. I knew I’d be too tired to enjoy the fun if I went to the spa, so I passed up the chance.  Good job too, because Yves was too tired to join us as we set off by van for a night of adventure in the city.

http://www.residencedescascades.com/

 

 

 
NEXT:  Exploring the Night-life of Hurghada.