Egypt Feature Story Zaman, the Castle by the Sea
by Jimmy Dunn
According to Modern Bride, the average couple forks up about 3,657.00 USD for a honeymoon. That's a bit short probably of what would be needed, but imagine treating your new princess to this:
Its one of those soft, Red Sea evenings. Just a bit of wind, but that's because your terrace sits atop a cliff overlooking the sea, in a castle. The only sound is that which nature provides, well, at the moment. The servants are busy toiling elsewhere, and it is just you and your new spouse, feeling as though you are soaring over the lovely sea, its color shifting between blue, turquoise, green and gray, here high up in your perch. Tonight, and for the next few, this is your castle. There are no other rooms available for other guests, because there are no other rooms.
It doesn't have to be this quiet. Inside your lavish quarters are all the modern amenities. It consists of two floors providing what many of the most luxurious honeymoon suites in hotels do not. First of all, there is the view of the sea, from many windows. But there is also a satellite, large screen TV, DVD, stereo and even internet access, but for once, web browsing is not on your mind. Sitting by the fireplace on a comfy cushion might be better, toasting a loving commitment with a glass of fine wine, or perhaps a bit of snuggling in the hammock with its real mattress, or a soak in the carved marble bath. Need something? Just ring for your private barman, your private chef, or the masseuse.
Of course, you could also take a dip in your private natural spring-fed swimming pool right on the edge of the rocky cliff, or maybe take a soothing stroll around the Japanese Koi pond, the cascades and waterfalls about your castle. You might even stroll down to the level of other mortals, and walk along your private beach.
This is Castle Zaman. As it turns out, Geziret Faraum, the old Crusader fortress on Pharaoh's Island in the Gulf of Aqaba is no longer the only castle on the Eastern Sinai coast. But unlike Geziret Faraum, this much more comfortable and well appoined castle can be yours, at least for a while, for about $1,000 USD per night. That may be a rather stiff amount, though not for a suite in many fine hotels, but it is a penance for a honeymoon in a castle by the sea that will live on in your memories forever.
When architect turned cartoonist Hany Roshdy was denied a residential license to build a house near Nuweiba, he decided to build something just a bit grander, and it seems that the commercial license was easier to get than the residential one. Roshdy is the mastermind behind the popular pharaoh cartoon in Egypt known as King Dude, as well as Say Cheese rats that are now printed on many greeting cards and t-shirts. Some have even called him the Walt Disney of Egypt, so perhaps his endeavor is not so surprising. And yet, Walt Disney his is not, for old Walt made most of his dreams from concrete and steel.
He now has his view of the Red Sea that he wanted, but from the lofty grandeur of the Zaman Castle. Zaman is actually Arabic for "the past", and he took steps to make sure that the touristic castle is as close to an actual monument as he could. Architecturally, strict adherence was given to ancient construction techniques, which were revived specifically for the project. Every single stone in its construction was handpicked from nearby mountains, and neither metal nor concrete were used in the construction process. Together with local craftsman, Roshdy painstakingly collected granite and basalt stones from dried spring beds around the cliff. The stones, shaped and polished by once gushing water, were color coordinated and used to create Zamans imposing walls. These were lined on the inside with stone slabs specially transported from El Arish. A true architectural achievement, its construction revived ancient techniques of building stone vaults and cross vaults. In fact, many first time visitors who are unaware of its history end up believing it is actually an ancient monument, and even those who know its secrets are hard pressed to find a flaw that might reveal its more modern construction.
There are even environmental awareness features. Reclaimed wood was used in all construction and furniture, and chandeliers and lighting fixtures are all handcrafted from recycled glass bottles.
An underground treasure room has been excavated from beneath the castle. Here one can experience the marvel of an ancient party trick. Midday on April 22, August 20, December 31, and January 1, a sunbeam passes directly through a hole, and subsequently through a glass lens, to magically light a candle in the darkness of the dungeon. This striking, Abu Simbel-like shrine has been constructed to evoke images of pharonic times, and indeed it does. What a neat trick. Now days, there is a treasure hunt-style gift shop in the treasure room where one can purchase a few physical memories of their visit to the castle.
At about 35 kilometers distance from the Taba airport, this thoroughly comfortable and modern, yet authentically executed structure is completely Egyptian, and not very difficult at all to visit. When it is not being rented for honeymooners, it is available for special parties and other events, and when none of that is going on, one can simply visit the castle, have a drink in the bar or a rather authentic medieval dinner in the restaurant.
In the end, this is not the sort of creation that a corporation could, or would dream up. A real commercial endeavor would figure out ways to cut costs, perhaps with a bit of plastic or steel here and there. But there is love in these stones, the furnishings, not made so much of wood, but of dreams, and the pools are full of memories in this castle by the sea.
Last Updated: June 9th, 2011
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