El Gouna, Egypt
At the start of 2011 I never imagined that we would be seeing the end of it at an exclusive Egyptian resort on the Red Sea. But when a friend bought a villa in El Gouna and asked us to spend the New Year with her, we were faced with one of life’s tough decisions. Leave England in late December for golden sunshine, periwinkle blue skies and swaying palm trees? We struggled with the choice - but we went.
So after a week in the sun, two great expat parties, a boat trip round El Gouna’s lagoons, and a wonderful visit to Luxor’s ancient treasures, it’s back to normality, but we will certainly return.
El Gouna is a protected town, carved out of the desert with a golf course, lagoons, marinas, hotels, shopping centre, and residential villas and apartments. Different styles of architecture ensure a visual vibrancy in harmony with the lush green golf course, brightly coloured flowers, sparkling lagoons, and the beautiful Red Sea, which is actually striped in greens and blues, rather like the Great Barrier Reef.
The resort is situated a few miles from Hurghada, a renowned centre for divers, and a bustling town with a wide variety of shops and its own airport. Travel in this area, usually by taxi, is comparatively cheap. In fact most things are inexpensive - a bit attraction for holidaymakers and expats.
We made a long but worthwhile visit to Luxor. First stop was the Valley of the Kings, where we saw several tombs of the pharaohs, with stunning details painted on the walls and ceilings. I noticed that ancient Egyptian princesses were always slim- Duchess of Cambridge thin - so some things never change. Then on to the huge Temple of Hatshepsut - the female pharaoh who was probably the world’s first Iron Lady; next, the amazing Colossi of Memnon; and finally the Temple of Karnak. No matter how many times you have seen this in films or books, nothing prepares you for its scale.
Trips to the pyramids near Cairo are manageable by road from El Gouna, although flights from Hurghada are recommended. That’s on our list for the future.
Egypt’s own future is currently being resolved following democratic elections after last year’s removal of dictator Hosni Mubarak. Most people are convinced that a stable government will be formed and there is a feeling of optimism for better times ahead in Egypt.
El Gouna was untouched by events in Cairo and there is an upswing now in holiday bookings and property purchase. We spoke to Edward Hill, who is marketing Ancient Sands, El Gouna’s latest development, he said: “It’s the champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget, all under guaranteed 365 days sunshine. El Gouna is the St Tropez of the Red Sea, offering emerald clear warm waters, cross-generational fun and a genuine holiday for all.
“I have been here for the last three years. I escaped urban crime and debt-ridden Spain, with a sea full of nasty stinging jellyfish in the summer. The desert, the ocean and the people in El Gouna were and are its key beauties. It was a really refreshing change and it’s a real privilege to live here.
“Ancient Sands offers a rental programme: it’s making money whilst others sleep. Participators in the scheme will never get any management or utility bills for their units. The apartments are maintained to a five star standard by the operator at all times and there are no ‘block out’ periods on their generous 45 day usage allowance. In a nutshell, it’s owning an overseas property with no headaches and with contractual rental guarantee returns.”
Kim and Andy Earl and their 11-year-old son Ayrton not only live full time in El Gouna, but they also run a local estate and management company, Red Sea Star, which sells and rents out villas and apartments. Kim says: " El Gouna has been our permanent home since for 2007 and our son attends the El Gouna International School. We left England behind and have never looked back; our family and old friends come to see us here: one look and you can see why.
“There is a growing expat community who either live here all the time or who have holiday homes. This really is a paradise resort. It's warm, clean, safe, with lots to do. Apart from golf, there are water sports, especially snorkelling and diving, and you can watch dolphins playing in the Red Sea. El Gouna's slogan is 'Life as it should be'. I can't think of anywhere else as perfect — we definitely agree!"
For Ancient Sands, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website. To buy or rent established villas and apartments, contact email@example.com or visit the Red Sea Star website.