Recently touted as the “perfect break destination”, few tourists even know where the latest Egyptian resort of Soma Bay is. Situated on the western shores of the Red Sea, about 50 km south of Hurghada, it is one of the newest resorts in the area. Unlike other Red Sea resorts however, Soma Bay has an upmarket atmosphere which is hard to find in the party town of Hurghada or on the crowded sands of Sharm El Sheikh.
This desert peninsula was once owned by the Egyptian military and has recently been developed as a premier holiday destination by several leading luxury hotel chains including the Sheraton, Caribbean World and InterContinental. Nightlife revolves around the hotel entertainment – not good for those who suffer from cabin fever – but during the day it is within striking distance of the Temple of Seti I at Abydos, the city of Luxor and the Emerald Mines at Marsa Alam.
With recent scares from shark attacks, now may be a great time to get some winter sunshine by the pool at this new resort at a knock-down price. Flights by Easyjet are currently under ₤100, leaving plenty of spending money for luxury indulgences. With an 18-hole, par-72 championship golf course by Gary Player, a spectacular thalassic spa at Les Thermes Marins des Cascades and a five star Kempinski Hotel on the beachfront, this may well be the place to head for in early 2011, before temperatures rise above the pleasant 20-27C it usually basks in until late April.
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
This year could see British travellers increasingly looking for holidays that allow them to give something back to their destinations.
That’s the prediction of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), which has coined two specific terms for such trips. One is ‘chadventures’, a combination of adventure and raising money for charity. The other is ‘voluntourism’, where travellers elect to do voluntary work overseas. The popularity of this has prompted some tour operators to join forces with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
In its annual survey, ABTA also sees a demand in 2010 for what it calls ‘X-factor destinations’ with something different to offer. Examples, it says, might be a trip to South Africa for the soccer World Cup or to the setting of the Twilight teen vampire saga – Forks in Washington State.
Demand should be good for Istanbul, next year’s European City of Culture, while ABTA said it also found a desire to visit areas emerging from troubled times, such as Sri Lanka or Iraq.
Egypt, Turkey and Morocco are also predicted to be strong destinations for 2010, as investment in luxury hotels and infrastructure - including more efficient airports and roads - look set to attract holidaymakers searching for high standards at lower costs.
by Andy Moreton
The ancient wall painting fragments that caused a feud between Egypt and the Louvre Museum in Paris (see my article Luxor Relics Repatriated ) have been returned to Cairo.
The five frescoed pieces – believed to be from a 3,200-year-old tomb in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor – arrived by air last week.
French officials had maintained that the Louvre had acquired the fragments, known as steles, in good faith. But Egypt’s antiquities department said the Louvre bought the fragments in 2000 and 2003 despite knowing they’d been stolen in the 1980s. It broke off ties with the museum in October, saying they would be restored only when the fragments had been returned.
Egypt is stepping up demands for the restitution of many relics, including the Rosetta Stone, on display in the British Museum, and the bust of Queen Nefertiti in the Neues Museum in Berlin.
“Everything which was stolen from us should be given back,” said Zawi Hawass, the head of the antiquities department.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re travelling to Luxor to see the wonders of the Valley of the Kings, take a look at Luxique’s two selected luxury hotels: the Old Winter Palace and the Hotel La Moudira.
France has said it will return to Egypt five relics stolen from a tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor and sold to the Louvre museum in Paris.
A special commission of the French museums agency decided unanimously to give back the five painted wall fragments from the 3,200-year-old tomb. They were taken in the 1980s and ended up at the Louvre in 2000 and 2003.
Egypt’s antiquities authority had accused Louvre officials of knowing the pieces had been illegally imported when they bought them. The museum insists they were acquired in good faith.
Relations had become so strained that the Egyptians announced that they would suspend co-operation with the Louvre, which would have stopped work on an archaeological dig on the necropolis of Saqqara, south of the capital, Cairo.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re travelling to Luxor to see the wonders of the Valley of the Kings, check out Luxique’s two selected luxury hotels: the Old Winter Palace and the Hotel La Moudira.
There’s been a warning that the ornate tombs built for the pharaohs in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens could vanish within 150 to 500 years, partly because of tourism.
Apparently, the breath of thousands of tourists every day, coupled with poor ventilation, is damaging the carvings and painted decorations inside the chambers.
Egypt’s authorities have taken action to protect the tombs by implementing new ventilation systems and setting a cap on visitor numbers.
For the long term, it’s been decided that some original tombs will eventually be closed to tourists and replaced with replicas. These could include the most visited - those of the boy king, Tutenkhamun, and Queen Nefertiti.
“A team of experts is currently using laser technology to examine these tombs in order to build the replicas, which would then open to visitors in a place near the Valley of the Kings,” said Zahi Hawass, the Head of Antiquities.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique has carefully selected seven of the best luxury hotels in Egypt for your trip of a lifetime, including the sumptuous Al Moudira in Luxor - only two-and-a-half miles from the Valley of the Kings.
The Pyramids at Giza are a ‘must-see’ for tourists, but for me and my family, it was spoiled by the small army of aggressive hawkers.
Now the Egyptian authorities have erected a 12-mile chain-link security fence to put a stop to the trading. The fence comes with motion censors and CCTV. Visitors now enter the site through a security building equipped with metal detectors and x-ray machines.
Up to now, hawkers, mostly from nearby impoverished neighbourhoods looking to benefit from the tourist dollar, have had free rein.
Tourists have been besieged by peddlers selling statues, T-shirts and other trinkets while men on camels selling rides or photos sometimes refused to take no for an answer. Young men have even tried to force their way into taxi cabs carrying foreigners toward the Pyramids, looking to steer them to nearby horse stables for a ride around the site.
Egypt’s leading archaeologist, Dr Zahi Hawass, has welcomed the new security measures. “It was a zoo,” he said. “Now we are protecting both the tourists and the ancient monuments.”
The new security arrangements are the first step in a programme to modernise the site which is just outside Cairo. There’s to be a new lighting system, museum and café.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can offer competitive rates at three award-winning luxury hotels in Cairo and Giza, including the world-renowned Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at the First Residence and the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza.