By Juergen Stryjak
Last New Years Eve, my family and I wanted to spend some time in the sun, far away from Cairos traffic and its pollution, from the noise and the dust and the sometimes rather overly invigorating cool weather during wintertime in Egypts capital. We chose the Gardenia Resort as our holiday destination, about 500 km (300 miles) away from Cairo, in Sharm El-Sheikh, on the south tip of the Sinai peninsula. We got what we were looking for: peace and quiet, clean air and brilliant sunshine, and at the end, we were very happy to have made that choice, because we unexpectedly had a very special reason to spend most of our time, our five days, inside the Gardenia Resort.
The special reason, unfortunately, was a car accident. We had rented a car in Cairo, a new Suzuki Swift. Happy to have survived the overland ride to Sharm El-Sheikh, we started in the morning of our first day for a little trip to Naama Bay, the tourist center of the village. Just in front of the Marriott, a Peugeot taxi crashed into the back of our car, with an alarming speed of approximately 50 miles/hour! Our car was badly damaged, our three-year-old son cried, but none of us were injured. We escaped with only a bad fright, only because we all had already fastened our seat belts on that December 31st, one day before the Egyptian authorities started to enforce the new traffic law which mandates the use of seat belts in Egypt.
To be in Sharm El-Sheikh without a car is a little difficult. Taxi drivers charge a lot, compared to what one pays for a taxi ride in Cairo. So, we preferred to enjoy the Gardenia Resort, and we didnt regret it. The resort is a fully equipped, romantic vacation spot, located at the Sharks Bay in Sharm El-Sheikh, which is the younger brother of the well-known Naama Bay. Naama Bay is the home of all of the famous Five-Star hotels, with all necessary facilities surrounding them, restaurants, bars, discos, pubs, supermarkets, fast food chains, casinos and, of course, wonderful, wide beaches. The Sharks Bay area, 15 km (9miles) away is different yet, above all more quiet. Some resorts there opened recently, among them the Conrad International and the Baron, and a few building sites around show that Sharks Bay will keep growing, but we enjoyed being remote from the ever noisy tourist crowd at Naama Bay.
From our sunny terrace, we saw the Red Sea, especially beautiful in the morning, and from one of our bedrooms, we could watch the relaxed goings-on at the pool and garden area inside the resort. The Gardenia consists entirely of little two-story villas, build in a style what I would describe as being very modern with a slight Mediterranean influence, but not very traditional. A lot of the newly opened resorts around feature pretentious, kitschy architecture, which pretend to be somehow oriental or Arabic or Nubian or whatever the architect found in his rich box of second-hand styles, not at all to my liking. The Gardenia Resort, on the other hand, is very honest, simple, but smartly styled, very fresh and bright, an oasis for the senses and at the same time very luxurious.
All rooms have large windows, terrace, air-conditioning as well as a TV-set, both with remote control, a hair-dryer in the spacious bathroom and hot water around the clock. All of us especially liked the interior design of our rooms, which continued the pleasantly unobtrusive style of the resort outside: floor tiles in warm pastel colors, cozy sofas and chairs, high-quality wooden furniture, comfortable spacious beds and tasteful paintings on the walls. There was nothing left to be desired, and since we had a rented an apartment including a kitchen, we felt completely at home. The kitchen was fully equipped with plates, glasses, cooking utensils, kettle, refrigerator, and stove.
Every morning, after having breakfast at our large dining table, we went straight to one of the several swimming pools or, as demanded by our son, to the childrens playground. We could have joined sport and gymnastics groups, too, but we preferred to lie around lazily at poolside on the lounges. In the evening, we dined at a little restaurant beside the pool, but always managed to depart from the place just in time, before a live band started to entertain the guests with jazz and pop music.
The Gardenia Resort features a hotel section with 330 rooms as well as a section for time-share apartments with two, four or six rooms. Not all of facilities are finished yet, since the Gardenia Resort only opened last December, but in April 2001, as the manager told me, the guests will find several more restaurants, bars, oriental coffee shops and even a large supermarket. The little private remote Gardenia Beach at the Red Sea is already working, including cafeteria and bar, but reachable only by car or by bus. This is not a problem at all, since the Gardenia provides a free shuttle service to and from the Beach for its guests. The same comfortable bus shuttle service, by the way, connects the resort in the evening with the hustle and bustle of the Naama Bay, likewise free-of-charge. We didnt use this service, as we choose to stay in a family-oriented atmosphere, an environment for which the Gardenia is perfect.
The staff was always helpful and attentive. The manager himself even offered his personal assistance after our car accident, but the rental company immediately sent someone from Cairo to Sharm El-Sheikh, who, in fact, arrived at the same night. This man solved all problems at different offices, the police station, the technical inspection etc., without involving us. For people who look for a good Cairo-based local car rental company with reasonable prices and well-maintained cars, I highly recommend M. Hafez Co. Rental Cars address and telephone numbers see below.
Gardenia Resort. Sharks Bay. Sharm El-Sheikh/South Sinai. Telephone: +206260 06 06. Fax: +206260 18 80.
Cairo Office: CARRERA Hotels & Resorts. 26, Soor Nadi El Zamalek, Mohandeseen, Cairo. Telephone: 330 32 766 or 330 58 353.
Fax: 30 34 128. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
M. Hafez Co. Car Rental. 4 A, Haroun Street, Dokki, Giza, Cairo. Telephone: 376 00 542 or 374 86 652. Fax: 74 81 105.
Mobile: 01014 16 321. E-Mail: email@example.com