Tourism

El Gouna: Paradise on the Red Sea

El Gouna: Paradise on the Red Sea

The hustle and bustle of Cairo – from the political tension that has gripped every Cairene to the incessant use of car horns by Egyptians –  can often be hard to cope with. So, it is no surprise that many Europeans and foreigners tend to avoid Cairo all-together, and instead flock to Egypt’s turquoise Red Sea during the winter and summer holidays. Along the Red Sea there are many renowned resort towns.

Traditionally, tourists have chosen  Sharm El-Sheikh – arguably the oldest resort town along the Red Sea, but is well known for its stellar diving conditions – as their primary destination along the Red Sea, while other resort towns, such as Taba (popular among Israeli tourists) and Dahab, also attracted high numbers of tourists. However, with the development of a fairly new resort town by the Sawiris Family (owners of Orascom), tourists have been ditching the livelier Sharm El-Sheikh for a quieter – paradise – along the Red Sea: El-Gouna.

El-Gouna's hot spot with cafes, restaurants and bars: Abu-Tig Marina
El-Gouna’s hot spot: Abu-Tig Marina

What defines Paradise? Religiously, paradise is defined as a ‘heavenly’ location where one experiences timelessness, peace, comfort, and an abundance of happiness. El-Gouna captures each of these characteristics of ‘paradise’. Whether you spend your time at the five-star hotels, such as the Sheraton Miramar Resort (where the majority of my time was spent), the Movenpick, or the Steinberger Golf Resort, or at four (or lower) star hotels, such as Club Med, you are bound to experience ‘paradise’.

The Sheraton Miramar uses the beauty of El-Gouna excellently. All rooms – including the dining areas – have spectacular views of the Red Sea”s crystal clear, turquoise water.

The view from one of the rooms.
The view from one of the rooms at sunset.
One of the many views while having breakfast or dinner at the hotel
One of the many views while having breakfast at the hotel.

Even while simply walking from one location to another inside the large sprawling resort, visitors are treated to stunning images. The Architectural design throughout El-Gouna – regardless of the hotel – seems rather uniformed: buildings are inspired by Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern architect and tend to be characterized with specific earth and sea-color tones.

One of the buildings at the Sheraton Miramar
One of the buildings at the Sheraton Miramar
Different earth-tones used throughout El-Gouna.
Different earth-tones used throughout El-Gouna.
The lighting on this building allowed its design to shine even at night.
The lighting on this building allowed its design to shine even at night.
[Bad attempt at long exposure] Whether you're in the hotel or at the Marina, the design is very similar.
[Bad attempt at long exposure] Whether you’re in the hotel or at the Marina, the design is very similar.

Although there is this visual-uniformity throughout El-Gouna, each hotel and area of the town provide their own unique flavor. The result:  a perfect blend of traditional and modern elements that allows El-Gouna’s natural landscape to standout above other locations across the Red Sea and the globe.

At the hotels, there is plenty to do: from canoeing and snorkeling, to simply soaking up the sun on one of the many relaxing beaches or unwinding on one of the many chaises-longues that are dotted around the pools.

At the end of this pier is where visitors of Sheraton Miramar go for snorkeling. The water is so clear that you can see fish swimming beneath the pier.
At the end of this pier is where visitors of Sheraton Miramar go for snorkeling. The water is so clear that you can see fish swimming beneath the pier.
Canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats are available for use for a relatively cheap 50L.E. per hour.
Canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats are available for use for a relatively cheap 50-75 L.E. per hour.
The central pool at the Sheraton Miramar.
The central pool at the Sheraton Miramar.

Yet, no amount of water sports or entertainment can ever replace simply spending the whole day at the beach. Services at the hotels – especially at Sheraton Miramar – allow you to spend the whole day without leaving the beach (or pool). A beach bar is conveniently located on each beach at the Sheraton, with waiters that you can call by pressing a button next to your chaise-longue. This means you can have your lunch or enjoy a snack and some drinks while soaking up the sun. More importantly, the weather each day is sunny and warm, regardless of the time of year.

All chaises-longues are perfectly places, allowing you to sun bathe while enjoying spectacular views.
All chaises-longues are perfectly places, allowing you to sun bathe while enjoying spectacular views. Why would you want to leave this for a pool?
Whether you swim or simply lay there, you'll enjoy yourself.
Whether you swim or simply lay there, you’ll enjoy yourself.
Another beach at the Sheraton.
Another beach at the Sheraton.
Did Moses split the Red Sea in two halves? On a hot day, you can walk a long distance into the sea.
Did Moses split the Red Sea in two halves? On a hot day, you can walk a long distance into the sea.

Of course spending a whole week at one resort would be ludicrous especially since El-Gouna has much more to offer. The ‘downtown’ area provides visitors with an authentic Egyptian experience. You can visit one of the markets selling souvenirs or go to one of the many cafes with shisha (hubbly-bubbly/hookah) and Egyptian food while Arabic music blasts through their speakers. On the other hand, Abu-Tig Marina is known as El-Gouna’s hot spot: visitors can enjoy dinner or lunch while enjoying stellar views.

One of the many restaurants at Abu-Tig Marina.
One of the many restaurants at Abu-Tig Marina.
Abu-Tig Marina's entrance.
Abu-Tig Marina’s entrance.
The view from a restaurant - Seventh Star. Amazing desert!
The view from a restaurant – Seventh Star. Amazing dessert!
Even at the Marina the sea remained turquoise.
Even at the Marina the sea remained turquoise.

At night is when you realize that maybe El-Gouna is too much like paradise: it was unusually quiet despite the existence of numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants. This was due to a recent tourist slump that has been the result of the 2011 revolution and subsequent events. According to a hotelier, El-Gouna was at 40% occupancy. A local-taxi driver stated that normally, this time of year (the Christmas and Winter holiday period) would be the busiest, providing them with more revenue than any time of the year. This meant that all restaurants, cafes, and bars (no exaggeration) were empty throughout the night. Meanwhile, the Sheraton’s “boat bar” (which operates at night) remained closed throughout the Christmas period due to the lack of visitors.

The Sheraton's 'Boat Bar' featured awesome bean bags! Despite it being quiet, you could still go in.
The Sheraton’s ‘Boat Bar’ featured awesome bean bags! Despite it being quiet, you could still go in.
Local transportation: tuk-tuks take you anywhere around El-Gouna for a mere 5 L.E. Shuttle Buses were also available, but tuk-tuks are far more enjoyable.
Local transportation: tuk-tuks take you anywhere around El-Gouna for a mere 5 L.E. Shuttle Buses were also available, but tuk-tuks are far more enjoyable.
This well-known bar/cafe was unusually quiet.
This well-known bar/cafe was unusually quiet.
The Movenpick's bar was livelier than the Sheraton's, but was still relatively quiet.
The Movenpick’s bar was livelier than the Sheraton’s, but was still relatively quiet.

Still, despite El-Gouna’s nightlife not living up to its daylight wonders, the town is a jewel along the Red Sea. For travellers looking for a truly comfortable, timeless, and fun destination then El-Gouna should be on top of your list.

For more information on El-Gouna, visit http://www.elgouna.com/. For information on the Sheraton Miramar resort, visit http://www.sheratonmiramarresort.com/.

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