While we have our fair share of five-star resorts, sometimes simpler is better. We take a look at the most awe-inspiring environmentally-friendly hidden retreats in Egypt...
Whilst we might feel all warm and fuzzy inside at the thought of Sahel's crystal clear waters in anticipation for a break from reality, nothing quite compares to the romanticism, wonder and sense of serenity that true break from modernism brings. Egypt has an unparalleled plethora of eco-lodges scattered all over the country from couture celebrity hide-outs to rustic oasis-side mud huts and desert village culture hubs that allow you to fully connect once again with yourself and nature. Whilst the concept of an 'Eco-Lodge' may cover a broad spectrum of facilities, utilities and environmentally-friendly aims, what they all have in common is an alternative experience and a secluded environment. It's easy to look at Cairo's heritage and it's surrounding landmarks for tourism but these isolated slices of heaven are a unique feature to our sand-scapes that provide an adventurous cherry on top of the huge array of attractions Egypt boasts for both local and international visitors. We take a look at some of the country's best hidden gems...
New Hermopolis - El Minya
Situated where the ancient city of Khmun once stood in Upper Egypt, the eco-friendly retreat centres around cultural exploration, arts and heritage for development that embraces organic farming, local gastronomy as well as offering creative skills and educational services to the local community. Aside from acting as a catalyst to develop the local area and inspire those like it, the NGO provides blissful accommodation for visitors who want to explore the region's antiquities or for artists and writers looking for a long term residency, as well as providing "unique setting for various academic and training conferences." The architecture is brimming with symbolism fitting for its ancient roots; for example the axis of the buildings are designed to have an astrological relationship with the sun whereby the light of the sun will flood the retreat’s inner courtyard with its square Lotus lake following the times of the solstice.
The Adrère Amellal - Siwa Oasis
Recently made world famous by the UK tabloid the Daily Mail's viral headline - "Egypt's stunning desert hotel where mobiles are banned" - the stunning Adrère Amellal, situated at the foot of the White Mountain in Siwa, does indeed cost nearly 5,000 LE minimum for a night stay and has hosted the likes of Prince Charles and a host of other prominent personalities. The hotel which blends in perfectly with its desert surroundings has direct access to the salt lake as well as the Great Sand Sea and each one of its hand built rooms has a unique look and theme furnished with local artisanal interiors.
Al Tarfa - Dakhla Oasis
The 20 room eco-friendly property is nestled in between the breathtaking location of the Dakhla Oasis and features all the luxury amenities of a modern hotel, from spa to swimming pool, whilst offering excursions on horseback or hiking exploring the surrounding Saharan culture and architecture. Al Tarfa was voted 'Best in Egypt' by Conde Naste Traveller in 2009, as well as winning The Tatler Travel Award in 2010. It is also a member of the selective Eco-Luxury Retreats of the World Organization.
Taziry - Siwa Oasis
"A bowl of freshness, sweet blossoms, and ever-flowing smooth waters. Majestic palm trees and graceful birds. Never were the days as sun-drenched and nowhere will the night sky be as star filled." This is their dreamy description of Taziry. The eco-lodge seems like it's an extension of the Red Mountain on to which it is built. The concept of Taziry revolves around the conservation of the local Amazigh (Berber) culture of Siwa and around the Mediterranean peninsula. A market place with 50 handicraft workshops has been operating in Taziry to revive the sustainable living know-how of Siwa’s ancestral natives. In addition, a library and museum have been built to highlight not only the wonders of the Berber arts, literature and music, but also the universal sciences that pursue and stir sustainable development.
El Mandera - Fayoum
The seven suite El Mandera (The Guest-House) is situated on the coast of Lake Qarun in Fayoum just an hour and a half away from Cairo. It's surrounded by famous ancient sites such as Wadi Rayan (Egypt's largest waterfall). The resort was previously a series of rundown buildings before being renovated using local, sustainable building materials including mud brick and palm fronds. El Mandara serves up traditional Egyptian cuisine, including locally-sourced fish, feteer and local honey, recommended to be eaten at sunset for the prefect rural and peaceful experience.
El Hammra - Wadi El Natrun
This eco-lodge is situated midway between Cairo and Alexandria in Wadi El Natrun, an area well known for harbouring four of the world's most famous and oldest monastries. The word 'Natrun' refers to the types of salt that the lakes next to the eco-lodge produce. It's said that immersion into Hammra Lake cures skin disease. Wadi El Natrun, which lies under the jurisdiction of Al-Beheira Governorate, also boasts a unique location 24 metres below sea level, the 14th lowest point on earth.
Basata - Sinai
Allegedly Egypt's first ever eco-lodge Basata is situated in South Sinai between Taba and Nuweiba and, as its name suggests, absolutely oozes the simple life. The stunning white beaches and crystal blue waters make it a perfect snorkling spot and you won't find a better place in the world to lay back and stare at the stars.
Desert Rose Eco Lodge - Bahariya Oasis
Camouflaged within a blanket of flowers and plant life, the Desert Rose Eco Lodge is just 350KM away from Cairo in the Bahariya Oasis; one hour away from the famous White Desert pictured above. The hotel is perfect for campers looking to explore the surrounding sights including a multitude of hot and cold springs, the Crystal Mountan (made entirely of quartz crystals) and the Mini Museum of Golden Mummies. The entire construction of the lodge was done by local craftsmen, all water is used from local wells, bed linens 100% Egyptian and food grown and cooked from their own organic farm.
Anakato Hotel - Aswan
With it's bright colours and modest luxury the Anakato Hotel is Nubia personified, rising up from the banks of the Nile in the village of Gharb Soheil in Aswan. It features 19 rooms across three houses and possibly the most awe-inspiring view of the Nile you'll ever get to witness.