Pyramisa Isis Luxor Hotel (Egypt)
The Pyramisa Isis is located on Khaled Ibn El Waild Street in Luxor, on the bank of the Nile. The street itself isn't very interesting, it has a few more hotels (The Sonesta St George, Le Meridien, The Sheraton, The St Joseph), and a some shops, mainly selling touristy type things like jewellery, papyrus paintings, snacks, ... postcards.
The hotel is large - it has 400 rooms and 55 suites. There are 3 restaurants and 2 cafes and a pool bar, as well as a few shops, again selling tourist stuff.
We went in July, which is off-season as it is so hot, and the hotel was quite empty. This was nice in a way, because the pool and restaurants were quiet, but it also meant that 1 of the restaurants (the Italian one) and one of the cafes weren't open at all. We took a package deal with Cosmos.
Hotel reception is quite big, with a large waiting area with sofas and tables. The staff speak good English, and are very helpful. There are safety deposit boxes located in a room behind reception and these are free to use. One thing to note is that if you charge any extras to your hotel bill (room service, meals, etc), the hotel like you to pay in foreign curreny rather than Egyption currency. If you want to pay in Egyption currency, you have to prove that you have changed that amount from foreign currency since you have been in Egypt.
Our room was on the 5th floor, so we used the lifts. There are stairs as well if you are feeling energetic. The room was clean and comfortable, but not particularly luxurious. It had a balcony with a view of the Nile, and good air conditioning. One downside was that instead of having a double bed, there were 2 single beds pushed together, which was a little uncomfortable. The bathroom had 2 sinks and a bath with a shower over it, and there was some shampoo and soap there when we arrived.
The "house boys" who clean the room were very good. The room was always cleaned well each day. They also folded the towels into swans and left them on the bed with flower petals on them which was sweet. They are on a low wage, so it is expected that you leave them about £20 as a tip for the week.
There are 2 pools at the Isis, and a large tropical garden with pathways to walk through it. They water it a lot so it is always green. The pools were clean and warm, and there were always sunbeds available, most with umbrellas. There is a separate sun terrace away from the pools as well. Pool towels are provided, for a tip (about 10p). You are expected to tip for EVERYTHING in Egypt - it is called baksheesh. The larger pool is shaped kind of like a kidney bean, with a bridge over the narrow bit, and has a swim up bar for drinks. The other pool is smaller and further away from the Nile.
There is a tennis court, but bizarrely it was under 2 inches of water when we went, so we didn't use it. We didn't use the spa facilities either, as the tour guide told us that those at other hotels were better, so we used those instead.
There are 2 cafes in the hotel - one by the Nile, which was closed, and one attached to the main building. It was good for snacks and drinks in the day time, and did the most fantastic ice creams. They even make their own cones fresh each day.
There are 3 restaurants in the hotel, but one of them was closed when we were there. This left the main hotel restaurant (where you would eat if you were on half board), and a Chinese restaurant called The Pink Panda.
We ate in the main restaurant once, on the first night we were there. You pay one price and then eat as much as you like from a buffet. It wasn't very good really - the food was a bit bland and not hot enough, but I was too tired to remember much about it. Breakfast was great in this restaurant though - lots of fresh pastries, cereal, a really neat toasting machine that was like a conveyer belt, fruit, juice, etc. You could also get omelettes made with whatever you wanted, and they were cooked in front of you.
The Pink Panda was a really good restaurant, typical chinese food, but done well. The exchange rate meant that an evening meal for 2 with drinks cost about £25.
The hotel is well located, with Luxor temple, lots of restaurants, the market and museums within walking distance. The Valleys of the Kings and Queens, the temple of Hapchepsut and other tombs are on the other bank of the Nile, so are a short taxi/coach ride away. The temple at Karnak is also a short taxi ride.
If I go back to Luxor, I would probably choose to stay in the Isis again. It is not the poshest of all of the hotels in Luxor, but it has the biggest pools and the most space. You are able to use spas and restaurants in other hotels whenever you want, which gives you the best of both worlds.
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The Three Corners El Wekala Golf Resort (Taba, Egypt)
When you bring the image of Egypt to mind, you automatically think of seas of golden sand dunes rolling off into a distant horizon, and whilst that maybe representative of the Western Desert, there is a whole other aspect of the country waiting to be discovered further east. The Eastern Desert and the Sinai peninsular contains a ... different aspect, which is only just beginning to gain momentum as a tourist spot. The mountains and rough open plains of the Red Sea coast offers another avenue of Egypt to be explored, very diverse from the dunes of the west but no less beautiful in its own way. The other added attraction of the Eastern part of the country is the Red Sea itself, a haven for divers from beginners to experts and boasting some of the top dive sites on the planet. To respond to the growing numbers of tourists holidaying here each year, new hotels are appearing at a rapid rate of knots, and one of the most recent is the Three Corners in Taba Heights.
Taba is the closest Egyptian town to the Israeli border, almost within shouting distance of Elat, with the Jordanian port of Aqaba visible beyond that. About half an hour south of Taba is the resort of Taba Heights nestling snugly between the red mountains and the azure waters of the Sinai coast. The resort is completely tourist orientated, that is to say that there is no local settlement in the immediate vicinity except for the dwellings of those employed at the resort. The handful of hotels that make up the resort form a boundary around a small golf course which, as I write, is not yet open to the public. The Three Corners is the hotel that will eventually cater specifically for those who have opted for a golfing holiday, but as yet normal tourists populate it.
The Three Corners, in keeping with the other hotels at the resort, is a stylish affair. A collection of mainly one and two storey buildings are connected by courtyards and green-bordered walkways, fountains and walled garden features softening the earth tones of the complex. The overall look of the place is very Egyptian. Not the real Egypt however, but almost what we in the west would like to think an Arab palace should look like. It may not be a totally authentic look, but then it's a holiday resort and with that in mind the look and feel of the hotel fits the bill amicably. As the hotel is on a slope at the base of the mountains, one nice touch is that the accommodation rises in height from the front of the hotel to the back, meaning that most of the rooms have a great view of the sea. The view is of the Gulf of Aqaba, the narrow stretch of water that forms on of the northern forks of the Red Sea. Opposite is the northern coast of Saudi Arabia to the right and outlying port facilities of Jordan's only waterfront to the left. The port isn't intrusive to the view during the day and at night is lit up like a Christmas tree giving an attractive free light show.
The rooms are surprisingly spacious, cool with good air conditioning and a veranda. A T.V. supplies you with a mixture of Middle Eastern and American programs, but then you're not here to watch the telly are you. A well kitted out bathroom with a luxurious and powerful walk in shower room completed the accommodation nicely. The room service was good and there is a laundry service available. The rooms also contain a programmable safe for your valuables, which avoids the need to check stuff in and out of reception when you need them.
All meals are taken in the one main restaurant, which is divided into three sections. A small indoor area provides a shaded and enclosed eating area. There is also a outdoor area open sided but sheltered by a high roof allowing the best of both eating outside but not having to subject yourself to the full glare of the Egyptian sun. Finally the veranda is the popular choice for evening looking out to the twinkling lights across from Jordan and aired by a cool breeze coming off of the water. Food is in the form of a self-service buffet. Starters comprise a wide range of fruits, salads, grains, pulses and sauces, cheese and cold meats and various types of bread. The one criticism I do have is of the main meals. Based very much in a European style, a fair range of meat and vegetables are available along with rice, potatoes and pasta. Whilst the food is good the variety is lacking somewhat. By the time you get a few days in to the stay, the food will become a bit predictable. However the desserts do help make up for that slight grumble. One thing that the place seems to do well is in the sweet department, often a dozen different types of cake or pudding are on offer and of course the advantage of self serve is that you can go back as many times as you like.
At the current time, all packages run using this hotel are full board and all inclusive, which means that all meals and drinks are free. Whilst this seems like a good deal it is not all it is made out to be for the simple reason that after you've had your evening meal, there really is very little to do. There is a small English style bar, which is included in the "all-in" deal but it is not the most salubrious of surroundings and the selection of drink options is fairly limited. If you are willing to step outside the already paid for deal the options open up a bit more. Each of the hotels has an independent restaurant, which you are allowed to guest at, but obviously you will have to pay your own way if you use them. There is often a range of styles available, Lebanese, Indian, Italian, but oddly no Egyptian food on offer. On the drinks front, you can use any of the bars at the nearby hotels as a paying guest. There is a nice little bar next to the Three Corners itself called the Bar Pol where all of the normal range of drinks can be ordered at pretty much UK prices, as well as having Shisha pipes available at a small cost for those that want to get into the spirit of the place. Other attractions are a small casino at the nearby Hyatt Regency and most hotels have some form of in house dance show or entertainment.
Although the area is currently quite quiet, especially as I say, at night, it becomes apparent that a few years down the line, after the golf course is open there are will be a lot more on offer to the visitor. Already there are many nearly complete buildings that presumably will house a range of cafes and nightspots. The Three Corners does no well on the shopping front however. There are about a dozen tourist shops within the centre of the complex, a small mini-mart and even a pharmacy. I the shops all of the usual gifts and souvenirs are available without the hard sell and haggling that you experience in the outside world. Papyruses, pipes, statues, clothes, perfume, metal ware, leather and the like are all on offer but do shop around before committing yourselves.
The big advantage of the location of the resort is that it makes an excellent base of operations for some fantastic trips. Although Cairo is about 5-6 hours away by coach its still worth doing an overnight trip to see all of the obvious sites, the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, The Citadel and the Old Market. Even if you don't manage to travel that far a field, there is a lot to do in the vicinity. Petra is only a few hours away, as is Elat where you can swim with dolphins. In Egypt itself is Mount Sinai, the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments and St Catherine's Monastery that sits in its shadow. Diving is excellent both in the form of organised trips or just off of the shallow waters in front of the hotel.
If you are looking for a more interesting nightlife then you probably need to be looking at Sharm El Sheik in the southern tip of Sinai. If you are interested in water sports then Dahab further down the coast may be a better destination. If however you are happy with a quieter life but like being in a prime location to venture into the surrounding countries as well as Egypt itself, then Taba Heights will fit the bill and the Three Corners is as good a hotel as any in the area. First Choice and Longwood seem to be the main operators in the area and due to the fact that the resort is yet to take off, there are some good deals to be had. I managed to book a 2-week holiday, for two people, all-inclusive with flight for less than £1000. The excursions available are fairly reasonably priced as well so you will not need much spending money on top of your initial payment.
Try seeing the forgotten end of Egypt, the area is as rich in history and wonders as the better known Nile region and has a stark beauty all of its own. Much of the Sinai coast is also a nature reserve so that beauty is being preserved for the future. Visit the region before everyone catches on to its cheap attraction and push the prices up. And if you chose to stay at the Three Corners then you will be guaranteed a peaceful stay in a tranquil environment and it won't break the bank.
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Nuweiba Hilton Coral Resort (Egypt)
A truly lovely and fantastically friendly resort, you can't get much better than this anywhere else in South Sinai, Egypt. My son and I travelled there in July 2004 for two weeks of bliss and had the most wonderful time, with new experiences at every turn and making lots of friends - both Egyptian (workers) and other ... nationalities (holidaymakers just like us). It is our little patch of heaven on this earth and a recent return trip to Egypt (along the coastline of the Red Sea Riviera to Taba Heights) just confirmed this to us.
If you remember the cheesy Magicool advert during the past two summers for the spray which cools you and you saw the family jumping in pools in idyllic surroundings - that's Nuweiba Coral Resort. Beautiful, eh?!
I have never met friendlier staff anywhere else in the world and they just adore children (of all ages). Neither do they hover around expecting tips or baksheesh (more of this later) which can be quite intimidating to us reserved Brits!
As we wove our way through the South Sinai desert landscape from Taba International Airport, my son and I grew increasingly more despondent. Surrounded by partly-built hotels with nothing else around except sand and stunning mountains, with the odd patch of habitation and a few camels wandering along the wayside with goats as companions, it was very different to the hotel brochures!
However, as we drove from Taba and Taba Heights down to Nuweiba (about 65km away) we managed to fall asleep, despite the bumpy roads and usual crazy Egyptian driving. We awoke to find ourselves entering Nuweiba - a port which has a catamaran and ferry service to Aqaba, Jordan. and not much else. We'd passed Nuweiba Tarabin while asleep (a small town built by the local Bedouin, which has markets and tea stalls by the water) but our spirits were restored by the view of the Nuweiba Hilton.
Mildly alarmed by the armed security police at the entrance to the hotel, with mirrors being passed under the coach to check for bombs (an everyday experience - you soon get used to it, it is for the tourist's protection), our breath was completely taken away as we pulled up to the reception area, greeted by smiling staff bearing drinks made of coconut and milk (supremely refreshing) before checking-in. Check-in was so smoothly done you never even realised what was going on until you found yourself in your room, soaking up the fantastic views.
The grounds are immaculately tended each day, from dawn to dusk; beautiful date trees drooping with heavy fruit, gorgeous scented flowers and grass - yes, even in the Sinai desert!
There are two types of rooms, standard and deluxe (deluxe are on the ground floor, larger and more for families). The rooms were of a nice size, including the bathroom. Admittedly the bedrooms were in need of a lick of paint and a makeover (with very rustic furniture) but the beds were very comfortable, linen changed regularly and airconditioning which never let us down. The bathrooms could have done with refurbishing but were always clean. Our balcony had the most beautiful views out across the Red Sea (to our right) and the mountains (directly in front), with palm trees rustling away in the sea breeze.
The rooms, we found, were always faultlessly clean, with fresh water bottles placed in fridge each day, along with a range of other soft drinks (free if on the all-inclusive option) and we never saw any creatures in our room at any time - and only saw two lizards throughout the whole of our stay, out in the grounds.
You will be looked after very well by your housekeeper. All housekeepers are male in Sinai. Our housekeeper bought me flowers one afternoon when he found out that I had been in the room all day, unwell. Very thoughtful. Some housekeepers - if you were lucky - rearranged your nightdresses, if left on the bed, into roses or beach towels into the shape of swans.
There were three restaurants - the main restaurant, an "Italian" restaurant - which we always found too hot even in the evening - and an a la carte restaurant on the beach. The food was always exceptional in every restaurant.
The main restaurant (Blue Blue) had varied menus, a different theme every night. My favourite was "Egyptian night" but the BBQ night was always a good deal for the meat-eaters amongst us - tender beef steaks and divine mini-burgers cooked outside, where you could pile your plate up as high as you liked, or come back for seconds, thirds and more. Cakes always seemed to be covered in dessicated coconut but there were always huge varieties of foods available, for every meal. Breakfast was always a treat for those with a sweet tooth, fabulous mini pastries and fresh bread. The only minor criticism was a lack of fresh fruit but as everything is shipped in from Cairo, you learn to live without. Salads I learnt to keep clear of - if suffering from a delicate constitution back home, although they wash the salads in purified water, it can still cause a minor upset.
The "Italian" restaurant was an open-sided restaurant by the beach walkway and the heat never seemed to escape because of the roof! A huge variety of foods were to be found here, but the real draw for children was that you could choose your own toppings and watch your pizza being made by one of the many chefs available. Lots of children went to dine here by themselves and were well-looked after by Sammi, the wonderful restaurant manager there. It was also close to the Shell disco (where the pool tables were) so that was another draw for the children!
The a la carte restaurant (Abou Lou Lou - specialising in fish dishes) which is located on the beach itself, was not included in the price of the all-inclusive option but you were given something similar to "points" which were put towards a meal in the a la carte restaurant. I only dined once there during my two week stay and really, the only differences I found were that (a) the menu was more geared towards English tastes and (b) it wasn't that busy! Well worth a try 'tho, the decor was beautifully thought out.
There were two large swimming pools (one temperature-controlled) and of course you have a private beach on your doorstep!
There are a variety of areas for children to play, on the beach and in the actual main part of the hotel. On the beach there are beach loungers all the way along and some evenings you may even see tourists lining up to learn how to bellydance (my son almost disowned me at this point!).
There are squash courts and tennis courts, if you are crazy enough to play in that kind of heat. Not really my cup of tea, I was delighted to just lounge around and hop in and out of the sea to snorkel.
The watersports were a mixed bag, I thought. The Water Centre really upped the prices once school holidays kicked in (by almost 40% on the snorkelling trip) but even then prices were reasonable. You can use the pedalos free of charge, but there are charges for water-skiing, wind-surfing and kayaking. For the more adventurous there is also the Banana-boat!
The Dive Centre is located behind the Italian restaurant and you can either learn to dive there, or go out on night-dives or cruise dives if suitably PADI-qualified. The centre appeared to offer very good deals and courses can be booked before you fly out to Nuweiba. If I am lucky enough to return to Nuweiba, I have promised myself I will learn to dive there.
There are also a few shops in the resort which are well worth looking in for a few holiday mementos - I bought a beautiful Egyptian pottery horse-head and it has pride of my place in my front room, a bargain at £25.
However, where this resort really comes into its own is the quality of coral so close to the shore. You definitely need to wear jelly shoes (or the like) in the water due to all manner of spiky fish lurking on the sand but in certain parts of the beach you only had to wade out 2m to find some stunning fish on the coral. Snorkelling out there is fantastic (with a couple of good locations known only to some of the staff there so do get to know them well!) with the opportunity to swim with huge angelfish and tortoises. Later in the afternoon, there were always shoals of fish leaping into the air as eels chased them - don't worry, the eels aren't concerned about you, they are just chasing their dinner (not you, thankfully). The water was always beautifully clear, calm as a mirror except when the ferries or catamarans passed by from the local port, and I found you could easily read a book while laying on your back.
At night you will be captivated by walking onto the pier and seeing all the lionfish spread out under the walkways - we also saw cuttlefish.
Children's entertainment was superb. We got to know the entertainments staff very well and they had a running program (alternated each day) which went from mid-morning right through to 9pm in the evening, culminating in the Shell disco. When we stayed at Taba Heights last August the entertainments manager at El Wakala (a livewire Israeli gentlemen - excellent with both adults and children) was taking up the entertainments manager post at Nuweiba Hilton so if you go there this year, you will be in for a treat!
Adult entertainment was also very good, varied each evening and we loved the shows they put on for us (even getting us up and making fools of ourselves). If someone had a birthday, they really pushed the boat out and made it a very special event.
Two of the most popular day activities were the aquaerobics (hilarious to watch as well as take part in) around midday, and then around 2.30 there were always water-polo matches which seemed quite violent from a spectators point of view, 'tho my son always seemed to be in the middle of all the spray.
The pool bar was always very busy but with excellent staff. Rose wine was the only drinkable wine, I found, but some of the spirits were a bit harsh to handle with the heat hitting 46 each day! Under the pool bar is a little cave-like room, decked out in cushions, rugs and various teas and fruit flavoured-smokes in the bongs available at a small price, adding to the Arabic authenticity.
The reception bar was always wonderfully cool, with airconditioning going full-blast as adults and children took a relaxed round of pool or snooker in, in the evenings.
Drinks always came promptly in the restaurant but I soon learnt that lemonade comes much quicker than rose wine, 'tho always served with the same smile!
The beach bar had a limited service and snacks were on a pay-basis (unlike at the pool bar).
The service was 5*++ at the restaurants and bars (three bars - beach, pool and main reception area) and at the pool bar you were waited on hand and foot, even at midnight. Service was discreet but highly attentive.
There are a good variety of day - or longer - trips to Cairo, Petra, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, as well as St Catherine's Monastery, at very reasonable prices. Have a look at other Tour Company's trip boards by reception, not just your own. We travelled with Longwood Holidays (and also took our trips with them) but the prices varied enormously.
It was very simple to book and you always booked lunch boxes to take with you (free of charge if on all-inclusive option) and a meal ready for you on your return to the hotel, even if at 2am in the morning - your tour representative would telephone ahead to warn the reception staff when we were expected.
Safe-boxes were located behind reception and I greatly appreciated the lengths they went to, to ensure privacy and security. I cannot remember offhand how much they charged but it was a very reasonable price, and they did not mind you going back and forth during the day.
There are also doctors on-site - useful for the occasional tum bug or ear infections (quite usual when snorkelling).
There were also massage facilities available, placed on your bill at the end of the holiday. I had a foot massage and loved it so much that I am now studying to be a massage therapist myself! Again, prices were very reasonable and you book at reception (they had a special book for reserving massages). There were a variety of massages available 'tho most were not recognisable as those we find in Western Europe. This did not, however, detract from the luxury of having a fantastic massage, whatever name they had it down as!
There are also internet facilities available - just buy a card from reception staff. The bank also provides an excellent exchange rate, far better than any available in the UK even with commission charges taken into account.
A trip to Nuweiba Tarabin is also a good way to see Egyptian desert life at its best. Some of the stalls in the market have very kooky names! Be prepared to fight people off and really haggle to get what you want - they will claim you are going to leave their children unfed but don't let it put you off (they view us as a soft touch - easy money!). You can pick up some excellent bargains. My son purchased a bong for £3 including charcoal disks and a few fruit-flavoured smoke packets.
For female travellers who are travelling without male company do beware when out of the resort. My son and I travelled from Nuweiba Port to Aqaba to visit a friend and we had the most unbelievable nightmarish journey there and back.
Baksheesh is a type of tip - wherever you are in Egypt, you will be asked for baksheesh, whether you ask someone for direction or whether you take a photograph of a policeman riding a camel! It can be very intimidating for first-time travellers to Egypt, so be prepared with very small amounts of money (save your single Egyptian pounds as they will be very handy, but are quite scarce).
Be careful of the salads and of ice in your drinks if you are susceptible to tummy problems.
* * * *
In short, if you are looking for a relaxing time away with family or a group of friends, then you couldn't find better in my opinion. Nuweiba is a very small town, Hilton Coral is a small-ish resort, but charming and peaceful - not for partygoers or those looking for a wild time, it's just not that kind of place, but for those who are jaded and just wish for beautiful surroundings and somewhere where you can just lie back and watch the world go by, I don't think you will ever find better.
All in all, fantastic value for money and an experience not to be missed!
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Flight: We flew from London Gatwick to Taba International - excellent flight times with Monarch and Astreus (757 aircraft), usually landing at Taba around 4pm their time. The transfer time from the airport to the hotel is approximately 1.5 hours as you drop off holidaymakers to other hotels along the way. Do take some tissues with you in your hand-luggage; if you get caught short while going through passport control, you will have to buy some toilet paper from the attendants (all male) and you invariably only have big notes to offer them at that stage of your holiday!
Egypt is 2 hours ahead of GMT/BST
Cost: We paid £619 per person for 2 weeks, all-inclusive
Trips: We paid approx. £109 at current exchange rates for our 2-day trip to Cairo (incl. 1 night, HB, at Le Meridien Pyramids with view of the Giza pyramids from our hotel room); our Bedoin trip (scary camel ride, Bedoin market and dinner in a Bedoin tent) was approx £19 per person, both booked through Longwood. Our trip to Jordan (catamaran there, ferry back) cost approx. £180 for two, including visa fees, Jordan taxes on departure from Aqaba.
Tour operators: Longwood Holidays; Peltours; Cosmos(there are others, but those are the only ones I remember seeing which are based in the UK).
(My review of Nuweiba Hilton Coral Resort - which this is based on - was first published within Ciao under the name of Moonpoppy on 15.04.2005)
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Jolie Ville Moevenpick Luxor Resort / Hotel International / Jolie Ville Moevenpick Luxor / Crocodile Island / in Luxor / Egypt / Phone: +20 952 374855/ Fax: +20 952 374936 - Bungalow style rooms each with private terrace, located on Crocodile Island, on the Nile, just 14km from Luxor Intl. Airport. 24 acres of ...
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