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Ios: Inside Sahel's Utopia

Boasting a gorgeous boutique hotel, Ios is set to be the focal point of Sahel this summer with some of Cairo's favourite brands and a mammoth nightclub that evolves into an underground after-hours lounge.

"Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean Sea." – Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek.

Astounding architecture and vibrant culture sit nestled across the beautiful blues of the Aegean Sea on the exotic isles of Greece. And while we long for the serenity and tranquility of the clear Mediterranean waters by day, and the bustle of a life well lived by night, we forget that we needn't cross the Aegean Sea no more for that taste of Grecian heaven – it exists right here along Egypt's own North Coast.

“Here in Sahel you're back to life! Back to greenery! Back to nature! If you are a normal fucking human being, you will appreciate and understand it a million percent! This has to happen. People in Cairo… In Alex… In these cities…they are lost. Suffocated! They do not realise that they are [live tragically]. There is no life!”

Though not as poetic as our beloved Zorba, Pierre Marco speaks exactly how you’d hope someone called Pierre Marco would speak. His thick Mediterranean-French accent is on a passionate rant. You’d think he was arguing for the sake of humanity in a blockbuster thriller, urging the population to migrate to utopia, as appose to discussing his new Sahel commercial complex. Though, for him, it might as well be the same thing. Founders Pierre and his brother Shady, the half-Egyptian half-Uruguayan siblings, are set to open Ios (pronounced 'eeyos') the weekend following Eid – a project he hopes to be a “focal point of Sahel,” not just this summer, but all year round. Consisting of a boutique hotel, a nightclub called MINT, and a retail strip with local shops and restaurants, this is what Pierre would refer to as his 'utopia'. And why should we trust Pierre and Shady's utopia? Unlike most big businesses that migrate north for a period of two months with the aim of making as much money as possible, they are Sahel residents and were of the first 10 people to live in Diplo. Within that time they've been able to call the area home, build strong relationships with the Bedouins, and understand fully all the pitfalls Sahel has for tourists to a tee. They now seek to rectify each and every one of these pitfalls and make Sahel a leading tourism destination in the world through this modest – yet absolutely exhilarating – piece of art we call Ios Village.Ios’s aesthetic is based on the captivating aura of a small Greek island village, hence the name Ios, which is renowned for its quaint and cosy atmosphere. Ios village fulfils the purpose of emulating the feeling of being on a Greek island amidst the Aegean Sea within the Mediterranean. Think wood and all natural elements, blues and whites, with each building with its own unique shape and character. Strategically speaking, it’s in the perfect Sahel location in front of the new Diplo entrance and Stella compound’s extension. Like its Greek counterpart, it’s also extremely high up. Finding a place to stay in Sahel is always a neverending chore for Cairenes in summer. Adding to that, finding a place that actually has good service is high on the list of impossible things. Ios’ boutique hotel promises five-star quality services without the frigid, manufactured feel most pop-up Sahel establishments exude. “We are about originality and being extremely authentic and not over the top,” Pierre tells us of his hotel, which boasts 42 rooms, a cosy indoor restaurant area, and an outdoor terrace looking over the whole village that also acts as a bar. Rooms at the hotel cost between 1,500 and 2,000 LE per night.The Ios village will also play host to a number of premium shops, F&B outlets, and Cairo favourites that will do well to turning this destination into a community and not just a one-stop shop for summer frolics. You can expect the likes of Butcher’s Burger and Shawerma Garage, Cou De Penny hairdresser, The Third Left clothing store made up of a collective of some of Egypt’s best designers, and even a Drinkies opening up.

Finally, the Marcos' pièce de résistance and what will arguably be the most popular party destination this summer – MINT. Set to be the biggest nightclub constructed in the North Coast and designed by one of Egypt’s leading architects, MINT will be a multi-layered hotspot set to attract a diverse crowd looking to mix a little sophistication with a lot of fun and the best bites – there’s no à la carte, but a set menu for table holders with 20 automatically refilled patters curated by the “number one chef in Egypt,” as Pierre vouches. “We are nightlife people,” says Pierre, “We saw all the defects we personally faced in other clubs and have worked to avoid them." Anyone who’s every been party-hopping in the middle of the night in Sahel on the dangerous roads knows what a nightmare it can be trying to find the ‘after’. So, the best part about MINT? It has its own underground, after-hours nightclub called Pabou that will also work as a ‘proper’ Sahel bar during the weekdays.

So, whilst half the population follows the cattle up north this summer, Pierre and Shady Marco want us to experience and appreciate it a little differently at Ios. And, if they get their way, we’ll never go back home at all.

Ios opens on July 14th. For reservations contact 01229444467 or 01229444468.