Castle Zaman - Egypts Only Medieval Castle
By Mona Ibrahim
Castle Zaman at night illuminated by yellow light and stars
If youre interested in medieval castles, and thought you couldnt find anything like this in Egypt, you were wrong! Located in Egypts Sinai Peninsula, Castle Zaman is a brilliant castle built in modern times to mimic the style of medieval European castles. Perched atop a mountainside about 40 kilometers from Taba, and 25 kilometers from Nuweiba, this oasis is a slice of heaven where you can have the Red Sea in front of you, and the mountains of Sinai behind.
Castle Zaman, meaning Castle from the Past in Arabic, was completed in 2003 by Mr. Hani Roshdi who is greatly inspired by medieval architecture. He hired local builders who then assisted him to collect rocks and stones from all over the Sinai Peninsula, including slabs of granite from El Arish, and proceeded to build this incredible structure in the ancient way of building that doesnt include any steel or concrete. This structure consists of private living quarters for the owner and the staff, a pool area, dining area, and even a treasure room in what looks like a dungeon.
Castle Zamans treasure room, filled with many Bedouin crafts
When approaching the castle, a man with a walkie-talkie and the bottom of the mountain stops you to take your information, and collect the minimum charge and give you a voucher that reflects this. After driving up the dirt road, and parking at the top, a glimpse of the view that awaits you becomes a little clearer the stunning Red Sea with its incredible shades of blue, and the distant mountains of Saudi Arabia lie in front of you.
View of Red Sea and Saudi mountains from Castle Zaman
Once you enter, the first thing you notice is the authentic dcor. Hani Roshdi designed the wooden benches himself, and used only wood and items that were found locally. After a brief stop at the bar for an explanation of the rules of Castle Zaman (no drinks by the pool, and to mention the name on the bill whenever ordering something so that its easy to tally the total), youre free to enjoy the atmosphere. At this point youll be asked to choose what meal youd like for lunch/supper from the three or four options offered; youll also be asked at what time youd like to eat, given its a minimum of three hours away, depending on the meal selected.
As Castle Zaman has grown quite popular, its a good idea to arrive as early as possible (they open at noon) so that you can guarantee a good spot by the pool, since it isnt exactly very large. Down the stairs, near the pool there is a store area where you can take bean bags to sit along the pool area on. There are a limited number of these as well, so, once again, the earlier you get there, the better. Once youve staked out a good spot around the pool, you can sit back and relax a little, taking in the view of the sea, or the koi pond across from the pool. The pool is refreshing if youre there in the middle of the summer, though I wouldnt recommend a dip in the cooler months as the water is always freezing!
During the day, the pool at Castle Zaman is quite appealing.
The music selection can only be described as eclectic; the latest chill-out music from Buddha Bar, as well as some old Arabic favorites remixed with a Western beat, are played over a hidden sound system, to help put you in the mood of relaxation and fun, without ruining the view. On any given day, you can find groups of friends enjoying the weather and music together, which definitely adds to the atmosphere. Since children are not allowed at Castle Zaman, you can guarantee that this will be a peaceful day for you, spent lounging around and generally relaxing with friends impatiently anticipating the incredible meal awaiting you upstairs. What makes this meal so incredible is the unique cooking method employed at Castle Zaman, not found in many other places in Egypt the slow cooking method. The idea behind slow food is that local produce is used, and cooked very slowly on low heat, instead of a quicker meal on higher heat. For example, if you ordered the meat, as we did (and it was exquisite!), you were served meat that took 3 hours in the oven at 100F heat instead of 1 hour at 300F heat. Overall, this is probably the most incredible thing, aside from the view, about the place, and I guarantee its what keeps visitors coming back again and again!
And what castle is complete without a dungeon? This castle has its very own dungeon/treasure room which you can reach by means of a stairway with a wooden door held open above. In the spirit of authenticity, Roshdi kept all the light as dim as possible, with only small yellow lights illuminating the displays of local souvenirs lining the passageway. You can find everything from teacups to candleholders in these small windows. At the end of the passageway is a treasure room full of even more souvenirs. Most of these products are produced locally, except for the few books published in Cairo and abroad. The stone there really lends to the image of a genuine castle dungeon, and the yellow light makes everything feel golden.
Dimly lit passageway leading to Castle Zamans treasure room
Since it may be difficult to make it to a real European medieval castle, Caste Zaman truly is the next best thing. With its picturesque location, relaxing atmosphere, incredible views, and wonderful service and food, its an unforgettable experience not likely to be had anywhere else! If youre anywhere in the Sinai Peninsula, plan to make the trek out to Castle Zaman, its definitely worth the drive!
** Photos courtesy of Mostafa El Khafif