Egypt: The Exotic Resorts of Soma Bay
Exploring Egypt’s Soma Bay Dream-World
By W. Ruth Kozak
The hot, dry climate of the Red Sea coast makes it popular with Europeans who often spend their holidays there. For a budget traveler like me,when I arrived at the Soma Bay resort, I felt as if I had entered a dream world. I surveyed the sprawling, exotic Moorish-style Kempinski Hotel with its sprawling oasis of waterfalls, pools and luscious landscape it seemed as though I had awakened in Shangri-la!
Despite many Americans’ fear of all things Egypt, at Soma Bay things couldn’t have been more peaceful and tranquil.
The hotel occupies a beachside area spanning 150,000 square meters with a view of the sparkling turquoise water of the Red sea. The Kempinski Hotel offers luxury accommodations and all the amenities one could wish for at a holiday destination. No wonder it is known as the Pearl of the Red Sea!
I was fortunate enough to be hosted as part of a group of travel writers from Canada who had come to Soma Bay to explore the hotels and spas of this lively resort area 45 kilometers south of the city of Hurghada. I was shown to my comfortable accommodation that had a view of the beach. After our long journey across the desert from Luxor, 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 a sea that I had long-ago heard about in Bible stories! The brilliant turquoise Red Sea got its name from the red coral reefs that lie off-shore.
I envisioned myself drifting in the crystal clear water, so what a surprise when I discovered that the shallows stretch far out from the beach and I had to wade out a long way before it was deep enough to submerge myself!
There are several other options for swimmers. The hotel has many recreational facilities including a large swimming pool, a family pool, two children’s pools, a lazy river and open air Jacuzzi. There’s also a Health Club Spa that features a fully equipped gym, saunas, steam rooms and other relaxation areas including massage rooms.
One of the best spas in the world, the Thalasso Center, is located nearby. It has 65 treatment rooms that offer everything from traditional massages and beauty treatments to the latest in aesthetic treatments and hydrotherapy, administered by highly trained therapists.
After a gourmet dinner in the hotel’s “View” Restaurant, my friends and I sat out on the terrace sipping glasses of Omar Khayyam Egyptian wine, and relaxed while smoking a water pipe of pear-flavored sheesha. This is a communal pastime in Egypt, a sweet-tasting and non-narcotic tobacco 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 just two miles are developed. The Kempinski Hotel is one of several luxurious spa-resorts on the shores of Soma Bay. Just down the beach is the Residence Des Cascade Resort where we escorted in a golf cart around the 18-hole championship golf-course. This par 72 course is right by the sea, the lush green fairways a contrast to the distant desert landscape.
If you’d rather opt for a less exotic holiday, nearby is the Breakers Hotel, designed for more laid-back adventurous folks. It has a Dive Centre and Kite House offering kite surfing and kite racing on the long stretch of sandy beach.
I watched dozens of brightly colored kite-surfers float like giant butterflies, hovering over the water. A four-day kite surfing course is offered here as well as scuba diving lessons at the Dive Centre. There is also a volley ball training court.
Because of the reefs, diving is a popular sport on the Red Sea coast and from Hurghada north there are many dive schools that offer gear and lessons for those who want to try. The area is a prime location for scuba diving and fast becoming a popular resort area as well. The beaches are some of the purest, most unspoiled in the world and is known as the Red Sea Riviera. www.dive-the-world.com/diving-sites-egypt.php
Most of the resorts have dive schools and instructors for those who want to try snorkeling or scuba diving. As well, they offer other water sports such as kite surfing, wind surfing, jet-skiing, sailing and fishing. Or, like I did, you can take a cruise on a glass-bottom boat and survey the wonders of the sea from above. As the boat passed over the beds of red coral I could see clearly all the sea-life below: fish, anemones and crustaceans. I even spotted a couple of scuba divers exploring the reefs.
Another hotel resort on Soma Bay is the Steigenberger Aqua Magic resort. This is one of the most vibrant family-oriented resorts on the Red Sea and is definitely geared for families with children. An entire area is devoted to a Disney-like theme park for kids, with water slides and a pirate ship. A special program called Magic Tots Club for young guests includes fun and educational activities so parents can enjoy some leisure time on their own. There are lots of teen activities too, including a games room, electronic games play station, billiards, table tennis and a soft drinks bar.
For adults, the Steigenberger offers all the amenities you could wish for including a 9-hole golf course, a dive centre, and a shopping and leisure promenade where guests can shop and dine. The accommodations are posh, beautifully decorated with a congenial staff who showed us around. And when I checked the prices they were amazingly reasonable: €160 a day all inclusive for double occupancy.
My friends and I decided to explore the town of Hurghada so we set off by van one evening for the 45 km drive. Hurghada was once just a small fishing village but investments along the Red Sea coast have turned it into a busy town with a population of 248,000 inhabitants. There is a busy yacht harbor and an amusement park and the town offers lots of water sports and nightlife.
There are many shops along the main street, even a McDonalds! As in most Mediterranean towns, the cool evening is when families and friends congregate on the streets and the friendly Egyptians, young and old, greeted us in their gracious manner. What intrigued me were the little cafes, some of them resembling tents, where people sit on comfy lounges around low tables. We went to an Italian cafe and I ordered lasagna that was the best I’ve ever tasted, served with a little tomato on top carved into a rose.
Without a doubt, my three-day visit to Soma Bay and the beautiful resorts with their friendly ambience was an experience I won’t soon forget, and I’d love to have a second visit. I would recommend this destination to anyone who likes exotic luxury and a safe, friendly environment where you can relax and soak up the Egyptian sun.
W. Ruth Kozak has been a travel writer since 1982. Her publications include the newspapers and magazines in Canada, US and the United Kingdom as well as on-line publications. Ruth is a frequent visitor to Greece and recently wrote an ebook guide for Athens which will be published by Hunter Publishing USA. Ruth also edits and publishes her own on-line travel zine at www.travelthruhistory.com
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