There aren’t many hotel options in the quaint Red Sea-side town of El Gouna, but that’s definitely a net plus for this destination. The more popular place to go around here is about 20 kilometers south to Hurghada, where the cheap holiday package tourists from Europe and elsewhere crowd into the myriad mediocre resorts there. But just up the coast is the quieter, lesser known, and much more upscale village of El Gouna. And within this access-controlled town, my absolute favorite place to stay is the Sheraton Miramar Resort.
There are only two real resort properties in El Gouna, the Moevenpick and the Sheraton, although there are a few smaller hotels and motels around the café- and yacht-lined marina. However, for a place to stay that has the amenities and quality of a major international brand, these two properties are it. But travelers need not look farther than the Sheraton Miramar Resort for a fun, fabulous, fantastic mid-week or weekend retreat from the hustle and bustle of the rest of Egypt or for a nice and relaxing week-long vacation on the Red Sea. You would probably run out of things to do and see in the area after about a week, unless relaxing and/or working under an umbrella on the beach overlooking the azure waters of the Red Sea is your thing (as I’m doing right now).
The Sheraton Miramar in Gouna is a sprawling property stretched out over a series of islands and turquoise lagoons and inlets. The villa-style buildings feature unique and modern Nubian-style architecture, as do most of the stand-alone private villas scattered throughout the rest of Gouna. Unlike Cairo and other more congested parts of Egypt, pollution and smog are nowhere to be found along this stretch of the coast, and even if it were, the uncharacteristic (for Egypt) expanses of greenery and wildly colorful flora would surely capture and convert it into perfectly breathable air pretty quickly. But no need for that, as Gouna’s constant light breeze blows beautifully clean air all around you here 24/7.
The multi-lingual staff at the front desk, in the restaurants, and behind the counters throughout the property are always courteous, friendly, and professional. Most of the guests tend to be Germans, Brits, Russians, Italians, and maybe a few other Euro-types, but you can find the occasional Americans, East Asians, and even well-to-do Egyptians here from time to time too. During peak season, there are a good number of families that come and stay here, but the atmosphere seems to always remain calm and easy-going year-round. I’ve been coming to this Sheraton for nearly a decade now and I’ve never once felt like I needed to get away from my lovely getaway.
The rooms and common areas have an earthy feel to them, so I often describe the property as an eco-resort for that reason. There is a visible effort to focus on recycling and water conservation around the property, although I’m not sure of the extent to which this is just for show or a cost-saving measure. The real test of that would be behind the scenes with housekeeping and in the restaurants.
Speaking of restaurants, the Sheraton Miramar has a number of dining options right here on the resort, although none of them stands out as spectacular. They’re more in the decent to good category. For better culinary adventures, venture outside of the resort and over to the marina area. But for those who don’t want to leave, you can get hearty and filling meals at the main Miramar Restaurant just off the lobby, which has spectacular views of the Red Sea and expansive buffets, or one the other eateries located throughout the property. The pool-side and Italian restaurants are quite nice. The hotel also insists that it has an “oriental” restaurant on site too, although I’ve rarely seen it open.
In between meals or jaunts out to the marina and downtown areas, relaxing by the large meandering pool is another relaxing option. There are actually five separate pools in the pool area (the temp-controlled meandering one, a rectangular one for laps, and three kiddie pools), but don’t spend all of your time there when you have an incredible private beach just a few meters away. In fact, that’s where I’m lounging right now as I write – on a lounge chair, under a large umbrella, and overlooking a lagoon, a vegetation-dotted sand bar, and beyond that the beautiful [blue] Red Sea. I’ve tried striking it with sticks a few times to see if it would part for me, but no luck yet. At least I can console myself for this failure with snacks or a big fruity drink from one of the service staff walking around.
As mentioned earlier, the rooms have a sort of earthy feel to them that makes me think “eco.” In a major city they would perhaps be considered 2- or 3-star, but out here on the beach they do have a more luxury quality to them because of the eco-feel of the entire resort. The beds are soft and comfortable and linens are always clean and bright white, but the furniture (in the rooms that have extra) is just a basic wood design – perhaps a little too basic. The bathrooms in the Sheraton’s rooms are quite nice and large, and my favorite part of the rooms is the shower. They’re all tiled with striking lapis-colored small tiles and the shower heads are such that you feel like you’re taking a shower out in the rain.
The TVs in the rooms are modern flat-screens with channel choices in 8 or 10 languages. There’s a good selection in English, but like most hotels in Egypt they tend to be mostly news channels here too (CNN International, BBC, EuroNews, Russian TV in English, Al Jazeera English, Bloomberg, CNBC, etc.). But in terms of connectivity to the outside world, the biggest drawback of the Sheraton Miramar Resort in El Gouna is with internet access. The hotel charges a ridiculous daily rate for internet (either wired or wireless) and doesn’t have a free option anywhere, even in common areas or the lobby/reception. Furthermore, you have to go to the business center and rent portable USB modems or purchase pre-paid access cards for both wired and wireless internet throughout the property.
Overall, the Sheraton is still my go-to hotel property on the coast of Egypt proper (meaning minus the Sinai). I’ve stayed here more times than I can count and I keep coming back with friends, clients, and sometimes just solo. It’s a great place to relax and explore the surrounding area while having everything taken care of during your stay. And the surrounding town of El Gouna is so much nicer than it’s more popular and populated neighbor to the south.