Vacay Time

The last time in my life when I went for a sun-and-sand style vacation was more than 12 years ago with my mother. I’m just much more of an adventurer/city girl, enjoying ancient and not so ancient ruins and monuments and the hustle and bustle of world capitals. Thus, I was more than a bit skeptical about going to El Gouna (a resort by the Red Sea) to chill for some days. Hmm, scratch the above 12 years.. I did in fact go to a Gharda2a/Hurghada  resort some 7 years ago but I fled back to Cairo after only a couple of days, feeling totally claustrophobic and out-of-place in that small tourist town filled with mildly lobster-colored, relaxed people. In any case, I decided to give it a fresh try since Cairo was a bit crazy and since I didn’t get to travel for the Eid holidays like I planned to.

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Me watching the sun set over the desert from a hilltop

Not a bad decision! Apart from El Gouna being a magnificently beautiful place, and the company being the best I could hope for, the clampdown on the Rab3a and El Nahda sit-ins started the night after we arrived, making Cairo more chaotic than what was previously the case (and lamer too, because of the 7pm to 6am curfew). 4 days of fun, sun, water, activities, and delicious food went by in no time, and I can strongly recommend it for anybody out there. Egypt has so much unused potential, wallah!

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Day one (the day of my arrival) was spent familiarizing ourselves with the huge resort property, eating some of the best seafood I’ve ever had – seriously, grilled shrimp and lobster has rarely tasted that good (oh and the dessert? We had to order one of them multiple times), and philosophizing while counting shooting stars on the beach (it is magical; I managed to count 5!). Day two was a little more active, as we, after having enjoyed the beach for a while, went racing in the desert. Magnificent scenery, random camels, and freshly baked bread with tea in the dark made it a memorable activity, despite some technical problems. Of course, the news from the capital as the day went on (especially upon our return – the 4G isn’t great in the desert) were quite distressing and thus caused us to have a quiet, reflective rest of the evening.

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One of the best things about this trip, however, occurred on the second full day. I’m not a too-shabby horse rider – in fact I feel the freest racing people while on horseback, feeling the wind in my hijab as I gallop past whoever is in my way. It has always been a small-scale dream of mine to ride a horse in the shallow water by the beach right before or at sunset. And guess what? I can cross that dream off my list. Elhamdlilah. It was also a great satisfaction for my competitive spirit to beat whoever present – guides and others – galloping back through the desert. A hearty and surprisingly well-made late Moroccan dinner in the marina was the end to our day as I – exhausted as I was – started dozing off after finishing the meal.

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Galloping in sunset in the desert, pre-sunset on the beach behind a guide, and getting ready for the whole thing at the desert stables (bottom left).

The last full day started early. I would go snorkeling for the very first time in my life – yay (I mentioned I’m not a beach-and-sun kind of traveler)! We went by boat to two different locations, and spent a couple of hours in the water in total, discovering the beautiful and diverse corals and colorful fish of the Red Sea. If you haven’t done it already, you should. It is a must.

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My modest but stylish Madamme BK swimsuit pre-snorkeling in the Red Sea – still the most beautiful Muslim swimwear out there.

What could possibly be better after three days of activities and with most my muscles aching? A spa treatment! I spent a whole three hours getting pampered at what the hotel claimed is the biggest spa in Egypt. Mmmmm. It was so worth it.

Sadly, my time in El Gouna came to an end the next day, as it was time to return to closed-down Cairo. I did manage to sneak out during curfew time for sushi, but my vacation was dearly missed only few hours after its end.

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