El Gouna

EL-GOUNA is a resort with vision. Just 22km north of Hurghada, it’s far more than a strip of haphazardly clustered five – star hotels catering to mass tourism. Starred as a self-sustaining town by the Sawiris clan back in the mid-1980s, El-Gouna has become a miniature Riviera on the Red Sea. It has its own international school, radio station, downtown, marina, hospital and permanent residential areas. The Sawiris family remains its primary patron: Their stamp is indelible on everything in the resort from the elegant architecture to the sophisticated lifestyle.
The destination’s four large five-star hotels offer everything on demand, but some find the eight smaller hotels, each developed with a unique theme, somewhat more charming. Two of El-Gouna’s most popular hotels, the Sheraton Miramar and the Steigenberger Golf Resort, were designed by renowned American architect Michael Graves. His avant- garde designs in the stunning earth colors of the surrounding mountains-brightened up with splasher of blues, greens and turquoise- are not only refreshing, they set the tone for the entire resort: a sort of eclectic persona that mixes modern influences with traditional culture.
Many of Egypt’s elite have opted for second homes in El-Gouna, with elegant villas and apartments clustered around El- Gouna’s lagoons, but the hottest real estate in the area is in the Abu Tig Marina. The trendy townhouses and studio apartments above and around the shops and restaurants at the marina have turned it into the yuppie neighborhood.

Although all the large hotels have private beaches, most of the smaller ones don’t, so quests join El-Gouana’s residents Mangreovy Beach on Zeytouna Island. Although the beaches lack the white sand and wide shorelines of Sharm El-Sheikh and the North coast, they make up for it with atmosphere. Mangroovy Beach hosts parties on most weekend night for the younger crowd (mainly teenagers and young adults) while Zeytouna is the place to be in the mornings.

Young and old alike congregate in Kafr El-Gouna and the Abu Tig Marina. Kafr El-Gouna-also known as ‘down-town’ – is a stylized version of a small upper Egyptian village. Narrow, dimlylit cobblestone streets are lined with traditional craft and gift shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and even an aquarium (ideal for the youngsters). The two main attractions here though are El- Gouna’s branch of the popular Cairo restaurant nightspot Le Tabasco and Kiki’s, and Italian restaurant directly overlooking one of the main lagoons .Dinner on the second floor terrace at Kiki’s offers spectacular views a Gouna tradition not to be missed.
If you are traveling with children and want a break from the sun, sand and water, a visit to El-Gouna’s fish farm will delight the kids. There, they will be able to fish in one of three large pounds and feed the ducks, chickens, geese and flamingos. El-Gouna also offers horse back riding, go-kart racing and, of course, bungee jumping.
After a few days in El-Gouna, it’s easy to forget that there’s a world outside, one where Michael Graves hasn’t painted a candy-colores skyline and where noise, cars and pollution replace the tranquility, yachts and fresh air.