Four Seasons Sharm el-Sheikh
by Jimmy Dunn
One might think that any of the grand, historical hotels in Egypt, such as the Old Winter Palace in Luxor, the Mena House Hotel at the Giza Plateau, the Cairo Marriott on Zamalek (which we are still very fond of) or the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan might be considered the top resort in Egypt, but they are not.
They say wealth is evidenced by sumptuous living. That may not always be the case, but those who check into the Four Seasons in Sharm el-Sheikh are doubtlessly fairly well off, and require some sumptuous accommodations. Of course, very upscale living is what we have come to expect out of the Four Seasons Hotels, but this one is a little different, a little more inspired. Its an architectural award winner with a matching reputation for service.
We were recently contacted by a travel agent who had clients going to Sharm el-Sheikh who wanted the best possible accommodations. That wasn't a hard question to answer. Currently, the Four Seasons is not only considered to be the finest hotel in this sparkling beach community, it is by far the best. It has been ranked by the Egyptian Hotel Association as the finest resort in Egypt just about from the moment it was built, while the Zagat Survey, published in the US, names it as one of the top four resorts in the world.
Of course, it may not be for everyone, but then again, everyone we know who has stayed at the hotel seems to love it. There is no stuffy staff here. They are both professional and super helpful. As one guest put it, "This is perfection in every detail". Another said of it, "You have no clue...It's as if I were in heaven!". The resort is very well known for being quiet and relaxing. There is also considerable space here, even at full capacity, and one may often walk about without even running into other guests. One result of this is that it is becoming well known as a favorite honeymoon destination, and a very romantic one at that.
In a certain sense, Sharm el-Sheikh is a little like ancient Alexandria. It is in Egypt, but not of Egypt, feeling more European than Egyptian, much like 2,000 years ago, Alexandria was more Greek than Egyptian. In a way, or at least architecturally, the Four Seasons reminds one that this is Egypt, perhaps in a rather romantic and magical sort of statement.
Entering the hotel requires going through a few security measures, which might very well be expected since the hotel caters to some very specials celebrity and political guests including, for example, Tony Blair. Guests have reported some of the tightest security encountered in a land that has tight security. The hotel does not sit on the main road, as do hotels along Na'ama Bay, but rather down a long street leading off it, as do other hotels nearer the airport.
Once through security however, guests are met at the reception area with lovely cold, lemon fragranced face towels and strawberry and banana fruit drinks, which are a welcome treat. After a painless and efficient check-in, one is taken to their room in a golf cart.
The resort's rooms are clustered in villas that climb up a gentle hillside with the main resort building at the top along with all the family suites. A funicular railway that plies up and down provides transport to the various clusters of rooms. While it does not operate all of the time, a golf cart can be arranged at any time if one doesn't wish to walk. The hotel is also wheelchair friendly.
Accommodations include 136 private guest rooms, including 27 suites. All of them have a balcony or terrace, and most have stunning Red Sea views. Twelve of the suites even have private plunge pools. There are also 64 two bedroom family suites, all with a balcony or terrace.
Many guests have commented on the size of the rooms, saying they are larger than what was expected. There are a number of different room configurations, though as one might expect, none are standard. Superior Rooms feature a spacious living/sleeping area, a full bathroom, king size beds and all of the amenities one must expect. Deluxe and Premier rooms seem very similar. They are the same size as the superior, and it would seem that the major difference is their view, though most of the rooms are well arranged for good views.
The standard One-Bedrooms Suites are, at 120 square meters, twice the size of the single rooms. They include, along with the color televisions found in all rooms, a DVD player and a stereo with a CD player. There is also a sofa bed. There are Deluxe One-Bedroom Suites which, are again, are somewhat difficult to distinguish from the standard suite.
The Family Suites are about the same size as the standard suites, with some slight variations. However, they feature two bedrooms, one with a king size bed and the other with two twin beds. Try to request one with an ocean view. While only about 7-10 minutes walk away, the family suites are the rooms furthest away from the main pool and the beach. Family suites also tend to be more sparsely decorated than some of the other suites.
Other single styles of suites range up to the Royal suite, a decadent, though stylish accommodation with 490 square meters of floor space that also includes several terraces, a private garden, an outdoor pool and a whirlpool with its own private beach. It has three spacious bedrooms connected by a living room, and also features a private dining room.
Of course, there are the typical amenities one expects of a good hotel, such as a pool and a number of fine restaurants, though none of these facilities are typical. The hotel features five restaurants and grills. The Arabesque is an open concept restaurant that offers indoor and al fresco dining in the main building. Its Ablaq design is exquisite. It offers Mediterranean, Moroccan and Lebanese cuisine, and specializes in Middle Eastern mezzah and fresh seafood. They also serve pizza. There is seating for 90 guests indoors and another 75 in partially covered outdoor seating.
More upscale, the Il Frantoio serves authentic Italian regional (northern Italy) cuisine in an atmosphere of intimate ambiance. Specialties include various meats, seafood and pasta, including grilled beef tenderloin with pesto roasted potatoes, as well as hand-cut ravioli filled with rucola and ricotta. The terrace dining area overlooks the Red Sea. The Il Frantoio seats 46 indoors, another 46 on an outdoor terrace, 14 in a private dining room, and another 30 on a lovely courtyard that includes a fireplace and fountain.
The Reef Grill is located on a coastal strip near the beach and overlooks the Red Sea. It offers a selection of local specialties, including grilled and barbecue dishes. There are two restaurants and bars at poolside. At the main pool, known as the Waha Pool, a large dining area serves a selection of salads and Asian-influenced casual fare. Specialties include various sandwiches, seafood and pasta, such as prawns, chicken and shredded omelet, while there is also a selection of ice cream and a range of beverages. It includes seating for 126 people.
The heated, free-form main pool is approximately 1,000 square meters and includes a whirlpool. It features a landscaped pool deck, island bar, private canvas cabanas, and even underwater music (yes, underwater music) and views of the Red Sea. Various guests have also commented on the abundance of lounge chairs about the pool, saying that there is no need to rise early in order to find a suitable space. Service staff appear the moment one approaches the pool or the beach to accompany you to your chair, open the umbrella (if you want) and lay out as many towels as you want. The wooden chez lounges are larger than normal and well spaced out. They even have tented loungers, which are perfect for protecting young children from the midday heat. Staff comes around about once an hour to offer free chilled water, smoothies and fruit slices. There is also a children's pool alongside the main one.
The secondary Gezerah pool is surrounded by family suites. Here, a 40 seat restaurant specializes in appetizers and light, Mexican fare.
There are also two additional lounges. The Citadel lounge seats 48, spread amongst an indoor and outdoor area, and offers a spectacular view of the Red Sea. Along with Cocktails and other beverages, it also offers snacks and other light fare. The Observatory Lounge offers a relaxed, candlelit ambiance with views of not only the Red Sea, but the Island of Tiran. It also serves a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, but be sure to ask about the daily specials.
Of course, here in Sharm, the Four Seasons is indeed a beach resort, and therefore offers considerably expanded facilities. The private beach belonging to the Four Seasons stretches 100 meters and has imported, smooth white sand. Guests report that there are plenty of chaises lounges along the beach.
Otherwise, the hotel has all the facilities one might expect from the best of the best in Sharm el-Shiekh. Most hotels that offer tennis courts simply offer a court, but the Four Seasons offers more of a club. It is operated by Peter Burwash International, a well recognized form of tennis professionals. Here, the pro shop not only provides the needs of all levels of players, but also serves refreshments. Tournaments, private and group clinics and lessons are available. Note, however, that there are court fees. There is also a racquetball court available for guests next to the Reef Grill.
But the hotel also offers a complete fitness center and Spa. The Daniela Steiner Beauty and Wellness Spa provides a complete range of all-natural treatments and massages. These services are designed to promote relaxation, invigoration and renewal. The spa offers 13 treatment rooms, including a couple's treatment room, sauna, steam room and relaxation area. There is also a lap pool. The spa's services are available for guests 16 year of age or older, though the massage treatments are only available to those older than 18. It also offers a coiffeur and stylist, in a full service beauty salon.
There is also a fitness facility in the spa, which includes upright and recumbent bicycles, elliptical trainers, treadmills and free weights, stationed indoors and outdoors. The fitness center also organizes some activities, such as snorkeling boat trips, water therapy, among others.
There is also, nearby, the Jolie Ville Movenpick Golf Course, one of the best in Egypt and the site of Egypt's first international golf tournaments.
Of course, what would a Sharm el-Sheikh resort be without a dive center. The Four Seasons Dive center is operated by Sinai Blues, which is very professional and well organized. Besides scuba diving, they also provide other water activities such as kayaking and banana boat rides,. They offer daily boats for scuba diving, as well as live-aboards for extended outings. Of course, they also offer various instructions, including a full range of Padi courses. One guest, who is a Padi instructor himself, commented that , "I can honestly say that I've never dived with a more enthusiastic and professional bunch".
The Four Seasons in Sharm also offers a variety of child related services. Children receive special treatment, beginning as they walk through the doors at registration, such as complimentary coloring books and crayons, child-sized bathrobes, complimentary bedtime milk and cookies and more. The hotel also provides supervised activities for children (Kids for all Seasons program) between the ages of five and twelve. The hotel also provides babysitting services. Guests have reported that there are ample activities for children, including various arts and crafts, beach games, computer games, kite-flying and even tennis for children, among many other activities. Various guests have also commented on the outstanding attitude of the all female staff that supervises the children programs, saying that they "really seem to adore kids," and expressing a very high rate of comfort with their supervision. Also, every night there is a special kids buffet with the usual favorites.
Few guests at this hotel would rank any part of the hotel lower than five star, and a few have even suggested that it needs a sixth. It has very few drawbacks, but a couple have been mentioned. Several guests have suggested that the food, and more particularly the drinks are a bit over priced. However, others have pointed out that, compared to pricing at many other world renowned resorts, overall including room rates, the Sharm el-Sheikh Four Seasons is actually dirt cheap. Nevertheless, one might consider bringing a little of their own alcohol from the duty free shop or from home. Otherwise, a few guests have laminated on the resorts distance from Na'ama Bay, which is a bit to far to walk, thus requiring a taxi or the hotel's limo. This complaint is somewhat of a mixed bag though, as its location also adds to its excellent reputation for security.
In the end, one must consider that the Four Seasons Resort in Sharm el-Sheikh is considered by a number of organizations to not only be the finest hotel in Egypt, but one of only a handful of the finest in the world, and given that, a very reasonable value the memories that will be made here.
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Last Updated: April 26th, 2011
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