Examiner librarian STEPHEN CARTER is a fan of Egypt, in particular of the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh and its showpiece Hilton Sharks Bay Hotel. It’s a welcoming place where a few Arabic words come in handy!
‘Shukran’ is ‘thank you’, with a regular response of ‘afwan’, meaning ‘ you’re welcome’
THINK of Egypt and images of the Pyramids, the Sphinx, River Nile, Valley of the Kings, boy king Tutankhamen and much more spring to mind.
While all these things continue to fascinate visitors from all over the world the last few decades have seen a boom in tourism, mainly around its Red Sea resorts.
Sharm El Sheikh on the Sinai peninsula has grown in just a few short decades from a small fishing town into a resort that has something for everyone.
Sharm, as it is generally known, is now ranked as one of the most popular holiday destinations.
You will be able to find accommodation ranging from self-catering to B&B, half board and all-inclusive deals with a five-star rating.
Sharm is less than an hour’s flight to Cairo if you want to see the Pyramids, the Egyptian museum and other attractions in the capital.
The adventurous – and perhaps foolhardy – can take the regular bus service to and from Cairo. But the journey takes five or six hours!
Sharm is in fact in two bits; Old Sharm and Naama Bay, a short taxi ride apart. Naama Bay is about 20 minutes from the ultra-modern airport and Old Sharm is perhaps about a further 10 minutes away.
Flying time from Manchester is usually a little over five hours.
In July I stayed at the all-inclusive Hilton Sharks Bay Hotel, a short distance from the airport. You may think that noise from all the comings and goings at the airport would have some adverse affect on your stay at this hotel, but this is just not the case.
It is a measure of the hotel’s success that in the six years since opening it has created such a solid reputation for top-class service that a new extension with 312 more rooms is almost ready.
I saw the new extension with the engineer in charge. The whole site will provide masses of space for all guests to relax near three pools (two with water slides) which are surrounded by landscaped gardens.
The rooms are light and spacious with very generous storage space and the usual air conditioning, in-room safe, mini fridge, plasma TV, hair dryer, internet access and direct dial phone. Each room will have a large bathroom with separate walk-in shower and either a patio or balcony.
Six food and beverage outlets, an extensive all-day dining area plus a speciality Asian restaurant have been created to cater for all tastes.
There are two outdoor terrace lounges and a non-smoking relaxation lounge, along with children’s club, health club, gym, tennis courts, table tennis, pool table, dive centre, conference suite and an internet café.
General manager Matthew Mullan and his team strive to ensure that each and every guest enjoys their stay here.
Occasionally you may hear the phrase “The Hilton Family” mentioned .. and all guests are made to feel that they are part of that family.
The original hotel boasts five bars, four pools and two restaurants.
Buffet meals are served in the Mahfouz, where there is a huge choice of dishes to choose from.
Go to the lower level Il Rustico and you can have pizzas made to your own taste or choose from a variety of pasta dishes, along with other Italian specialities.
If you like Indian food you’re not forgotten! A number of your favourite dishes can be found just outside the Il Rustico.
Daytime entertainment is mainly based around the large main pool and in the evening can be in the Chill Out bar, near the Sunset Bar or by the main pool.
Smaller children can take part in their own activities supervised and run by staff in the Chill Out Bar for half-an- hour each evening.
Shops, including a bank, can be found on site either in the reception area or at first floor level near to the main pool.
Alongside the main pool you’ll find Ahmed, who is known as ‘The Sandman’ by guests.
Sit and watch him make a range of sand pictures in bottles of different shapes and sizes. He’s happy for you to watch him at work and you may even try your hand at creating your own piece of sand art.
Ahmed’s little masterpieces make wonderful souvenirs or gifts and are very reasonably priced.
Amble down to the beach area and swim, snorkel, scuba or just relax and sunbathe on one of the many sunbeds. Year-round sunshine is guaranteed with temperatures reaching the 40s°C in the height of the summer.
While swimming in the clear water you’ll see scores of different tropical fish in amazing vivid colours. You might even be lucky and spot a dolphin or two.
Your room will be kept clean and tidy by housemen who are likely to present you with a number of different sculptures made out of towels and left on your bed.
Don’t be surprised to see gardeners tending and watering the gardens very late at night. But don’t worry about noise; they only mow the grass during the day!
Have a go at learning a few Arabic words; it will be appreciated and you’ll be rewarded with truly infectious smiles.
‘Shukran’ is ‘thank you’, with a regular response of ‘afwan’ meaning ‘ you’re welcome’.
I don’t know when I will return to the Hilton Sharks Bay Hotel but I certainly shall.
‘Insh allah’ (God willing) it will be sooner rather than later.