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Remember the other day, when we made a list of things to do in a hotel that don't involve staying overnight, and one of those things was getting drunk at the hotel bar? Well, that's one thing you won't be able to do at Les Rois, a 183-room hotel in the Egyptian waterfront city of Hurghada.
CNN reports that on Saturday, a special ceremony took place marking the hotel's transition to become Egypt's first non-alcohol hotel.
In a gesture of the hotel's commitment to staying dry, owners actually lined up bottles along the bar and smashed them. Subtle, huh?
The ceremony was attended by a Sunni cleric, hotel management, and the hotel's owner, who said the aim of this all is to "provide a new kind of tourism." Indeed, the government has recently cracked down on the number of alcohol licenses that are issued to restaurants and hotels, so this could very well be the first of many hotels in Egypt going booze-free.
Prior to the change, the hotel had two bars and an English-style pub.
When traveling, it's always important to show respect when it comes to others' religious customs, though we gotta say: we can easily see this "no-alcohol hotel" initiative severely backfiring when it comes to luring more tourists to the country. When was the last time you made a point of vacationing somewhere because there was no booze? Yeah, we thought so.
Do you support these new measures? Is a booze-free hotel some place you would ever consider staying? Share your thoughts below!
Earlier this month, we learned about Hilton's plans to put up a new 300-room hotel in Erbil, Iraq by 2016. Further south, the company is also prepping for two new properties in Egypt, where it currently already operates 18 hotels.
Hilton has been firmly planted in Cairo since the 1960s, longer than any other international hotel chain in the city. With the opening of Hilton Giza Pyramids in 2016, Hilton will boast six total hotels there, though if recent growth in places like India and Dubai are any indication, too much is never enough.
A tipster pointed us in the direction of this “breaking news” story on Hyatt’s website claiming “unresolved contractual disputes with the hotel’s owner” for ducking out.
For several weeks Hyatt has been attempting resolution through a series of urgent communications with the hotel owner, Saudi Egyptian Touristic Development Company. Regrettably, resolution of the disputes has not been possible.
Could it maybe be over the issue of booze?
However, Egyptophiles, don’t lose heart just yet. The story also notes:
It is unfortunate that the contractual disputes have not been resolved, forcing us to exit this property, but this does not diminish how important Egypt is and will remain to the Hyatt brand. We will continue to operate two Hyatt hotels in Egypt, and are interested in pursuing new development opportunities there.
Not a sight you want to see from your hotel room
So we’re guessing that Egypt isn’t top of your must do travel list for the near future, because although things are looking a lot better for the remaining tourists than the locals, the situation sounds nothing if not grim.
Although we haven’t seen any specific hotels named since the Sheraton was caught in the middle of the fray last week, in Cairo, there are tales of hotels locking their doors, shutting down elevators, telling tourists to take shelter on the roof and posting guards armed with water cannons in case flares are shot at the buildings, while the tourists gather to watch the protests and sip on free drinks laid on by the hotel.
It’s not just Cairo, either. According to CNN, “tension is beginning to build” in tourist hotspot Luxor, too. And last night, it appeared that security was being stepped up in holiday central Sharm El Sheikh, with a BBC correspondent reporting that by the time he came back from dinner, his hotel had been "barricaded".
There’s nothing like a bizarre spa treatment to get us going here at HotelChatter and today’s comes courtesy of the Taba Heights resort in Sinai, Egypt, which has announced the opening of a new salt cave that will be open to guests of all the hotels at the resort.
We have to admit we hadn’t heard of a salt cave before this (that probably makes us spa ingenues), but turns out it’s a health thing that goes way back, helping ailments such as:
Dermatological diseases, nervous system disorders, metabolic disturbances, digestive tract problems, underproduction of hyperthyroidism, heart disease and illnesses of the respiratory tract.
Down on the Red Sea in Egypt, something huge is going on. We may not hear anything else about the project for years, but when we do, rest assured that what is being billed as the World's Largest Resort Development will impress.
It's called the Sahl Hasheesh International Resort Community, and all hashish jokes aside, the 10,000-acre resort looks more like a city than a resort complex. After all, the plan calls for it to have businesses, civic centers, schools, regular apartments and even a university.
But of course there will be hotels, too. The whole Sahi Hasheesh development will focus on relaxation and well-being, like some sort of rebirth in this fertile area, if you listen to how they describe it:
Let us preface this post by saying that we are not hotel snobs. We can take just as much pleasure in spending the night in a bamboo shack on the beach (more of that tomorrow) as we do checking out the latest fancypants hotel (although we’ll make sure we’re wearing full-cover, Damian Barr-style PJs in the shack – just to make sure of those sheets).
However, if a hotel is trading under a brand like, oh, say, Hilton, we do expect it to be a certain standard. And that standard is a little higher than a lobby that makes us want to run straight back to the airport:
Note: This video is about two minutes and 20 seconds long, which is how long the funicular ride is. Enjoy!
You know the drill: you’re on holiday, you’re feeling kinda lazy, lying by the pool is great but hauling your bod back to your room is a trial.
Luckily, the folk at the Four Seasons in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, feel your pain, as we found out when we stayed there last week*. The resort is built over five levels running down the cliffside to the Red Sea below. Which is ace, because it gives buckets of space for the 200+ rooms (they’re self-enclosed little cottages), meaning that the resort feels half-empty even when it’s at full capacity as it was while we were there.
The downside, of course, is that with the pool and beach at the bottom of the resort, the reception and restaurants at the top and the rooms in between, your day could involve a lot of walking, which would hardly be conducive to a holiday state of mind.
There are 67 steps between the pool and the lobby – a lot for holiday feet. So to avoid over-stretching your calves (it’s hot, after all), they’ve had a funicular railway shipped over from Sweden to lug your sunburnt bones back to your room. It goes up and down all day, the journey takes just over two minutes and, as you can see from the video, gives you some pretty nice views of the resort.
BudgetTravel just posted a special all-inclusive, 13-night package to Egypt - $1,999 per person - courtesy of Foreign Independent Tours. The price buys you airfare out of New York, local flights to your various destinations in Egypt, a four-night cruise, and a bunch of other perks. They're covering most meals, taking you on a bunch of tours that hit a bunch of highlights, and even hooking you up with an English speaking tour guide.
There are hotel stays on each side of the cruise, first at the Oasis Hotel in Cairo and then at the Al Nabila Grand Bay in Hurghada. Both are super-swank establishments and are quite suitable for a trip revolving around pre-planned daily excursions and nighttime spa pampering. The Oasis Hotel, just a few miles from the Pyramids of Giza, is a functional full-scale nine-acre resort in the middle of the desert. However, TripAdvisor reviews warn against staying in a room closer to the hotel's disco. Also, we're not crazy about that room decor (above.)
When is a tour more than just a simple follow-the-guide and snap-photos-when-you're-told kind of expedition? Well for one, when the tour includes an expert who's good enough to accompany President Obama. The Fairmont Hotel Global Explorer Series has got one event left this year and it's obviously of a Presidential caliber—but without the high-flying price.
The tour of Egypt runs November 27-30 and is a package including one night at the Fairmont Towers Heliopolis and two nights at the Fairmont Nile City. Included are tours of the pyramids, the Cairo Museum, a felucca trip on the Nile and a dinner lecture from Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Egyptologist deemed expert enough to accompany Obama to the pyramids earlier this year.
Near Cairo, the Fairmont Towers Heliopolis has just had a major addition. Working around the original hotel while it was still operating, some magic builders have now created a fancy new conference center and 247 new hotel rooms right next door, and judging by this pic it is something special.
The architect got into the idea of the hotel being in Heliopolis, which means "city of the sun", by incorporating lines like sunrays into the design and even including sun motifs throughout. The new restaurant and café are impressive too: there's an artificial river running through the Aqua e Luce restaurant and Café Heliopolis is right in the center of the atrium entrance. Oh, and it even serves camel milk ice cream.
Advance purchase internet rates start at $136 a night, and they also have a few packages going: we like the bed and breakfast package (starting at $200 a night for a double) because it literally includes a full breakfast in bed, and the romance deal (with wine and cheese and a lovely late 4pm checkout) starts from $210 a night.
We're looking forward to the new year; January 1st is traditionally a day for renewed hope and fresh beginnings, and no one is taking more advantage of this than Cairo's Nile Hilton. When the clock strikes midnight (Egypt time, of course), the 431-room historic hotel on the shores of the epic River Nile will become the Ritz-Carlton Nile Hotel.
As the first Ritz-Carlton in Egypt's capital city, The Nile Hotel will have to dust off its top hat and tails to remain a leader in Cairo and keep pace with the 5-star standard of Ritz-Carlton. What does this mean, exactly? It means sweet, sweet renovation of course. Beginning in mid-2009, the hotel will begin an ambitious 2-year revamp, while continuing to host guests. Although there will no doubt be angry TripAdvisor reviews about the construction, you just can't flip a Hilton into a Ritz without a little elbow grease (and a lot of brocade).
In case you're wondering why Ritz-Carlton picked this old Hilton as their new property, we refer you to its breathtaking view of the Nile and the abundance of hookahs they keep poolside. Too bad they didn't add belly dancers to the room service menu; then they probably would have gotten five-star status without the help of Ritz-Carlton.
[Photo: Etihad Holidays]