Millennia later, near the place where Moses parted the water and led his people to freedom, hotels are rising from the ground. The new Moses – Samih Sawiris, chairman of Orascom. He leads his people to a new higher land, a new wave of bigger investments -- resorts on the Red Sea.
Orascom has been a leader in self-contained resort development in Egypt, blazing the trail for the industry to embrace privatization and investing in new, undiscovered tourist locations. Orascom Hotels and Development (OHD), Egypt’s largest land development and private hotel company, under the ORASCOM Projects and Touristic Development reports increasingly-positive trends. Its CEO Sawiris, who operates the group’s hotels and resorts functions from Taba Heights in Sinai, El Gouna in Hurghada to Aqaba in Jordan launched an ambitious project billed The Cove in Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates. Harvest time has come after over a decade of waiting, cultivating, few lean months and drought after 9-11.
Sawiris started the ball rolling with developing critical mass through growing real estate, building internationally-branded hotels and outlets, yacht marinas and a local airport before the company accepted business from travel agents and independent clients.
El Gouna is Egypt’s first fully-integrated resort, beachside village and exclusive get-away stretching 10 kilometers along the coastline of the Red Sea Riviera. Resplendent in its natural beauty, the resort prides itself with surrounding dramatic desert mountains, exotic beaches, island inlets and crystal-clear turquoise lagoons. Golf is also a main feature with top US designers Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, and others putting off with their expertise.
American award-winning architect Michael Graves, creator of the Walt Disney Dolphin and Swan – Florida among many, created the resort concept. He also designed the village downtown of El Gouna, today known for top range services, sports, yachting activities, entertainment and luxury accommodations. Alongside the deluxe amenities and features stand Nubian Lower Cataract/ traditional Upper Egyptian architecture and interior décor. Old blends with the new in a multi-use complex 11 million square meters in size. Year-round sunshine, close proximity to the wonders of ancient Egypt (in Cairo, Luxor, Aswan), to the world-known Suez Canal and the exclusive dive spots in Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh make El Gouna appealing to millions of audiences.
The resorts offer fully-equipped conference facilities complete with break-out rooms, state-of-the art audio-visual equipment, seating for all-type set-up or functions, and an array of business executive service. Hotels can manage theater-style seating from 100 to 350 pax.
El Gouna receives repeat guests after playing host to the international fairs and workshops in the last years. Incentives are on the rise after top pharmaceutical firms expressed satisfaction with their events held at Orascom destinations. To assist event organizers, the convention bureau provides meeting planner guides, coordination for site inspection, technical suppliers information, catering services guide, restaurant and banquet facilities, city maps, videos/CD-rom on the meetings destination, city tours guide, ground transport support, airport meet and assist (from El Gouna or Hurghada airports), and organizing/ booking excursions. Golfing is the destinations’ biggest draw in the resorts, with exclusive golf courses designed only by the world’s best.
Meeting and incentive offers are complemented with cultural activities operated from the resorts. There are unique excursions available - from desert safaris to camel caravans, Bedouin dinners in the middle of an oasis, water sports, snorkelling and diving trips to remote dive locations, over-day or overnight trips to historic Cairo (Giza Pyramids, Islamic and Coptic Christian sites), Luxor (Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings), traditional Art Village and regular street festivals and fun animation by Egyptian and foreign groups.
Within the resorts, there is an array of transportation to choose from - shuttle buses, shuttle boats, taxis on call, rental cars, chauffeured limousines are all available. Boats crossing the Red Sea now operate trips from Taba Heights to Aqaba. Should guests prefer to venture out of the resort, there are several ways and means to go around and explore exotic places of interest in the vicinity.
OHD’s developments are the industry’s forerunner in Egypt. To this day, El Gouna receives business from MICE niche markets who realize taking events to these unique Red Sea destinations is the best thing the company has done ever since the last meeting experience elsewhere. After all, who would forget a destination that boasts its quiet desert, azure sea, verdant oases, dramatic mountains, turquoise lagoons, lavish marinas, fresh seafood, flavorful local fayre, excellent hospitality against an otherwise regular company gathering? Sawiris never forgets … not once. Never.