Monday, July 7, 2008

Porto Marina

Many of our Egyptian friends have been urging us to go take a break at Porto Marina, so this weekend, hubby surprised me with a 3 day stay at the place. Approximately 260 km / 3.5 hours drive from Cairo, at el Alameen, Porto Marina is a resort complex on the North Coast, comprising a resort and spa and a HUGE apartment block.

It's supposed to be a recreational spot for the affluent Egyptians so the price tag is reasonably steep, well, at least for expats it is... The complex consists of the Porto Marina Resort & Spa , a whole apartment block, a shopping mall along a canal, and a Golf Resort. We were staying at the Resort & Spa. You can choose between a sea facing or a pool/canal facing room - the cost of the sea view (the price difference between a sea facing and pool facing room)? $225! While the Mediterranean sea is indeed startling in its blue and the beaches are a lovely sandy white, I am not sure they merit the difference..

Its in the middle of nowhere, so Porto Marina has tried to create an ambience to keep people occupied. A shallow artificial canal runs through the middle of the resort complex, on which runs a Gondola service every evening.

There are shops along the canal, and the shopping mall also has eateries like Chillies, Studio Misr, Johnny Carrinos, Alan de Notre, and, a couple of others. The resort has a Spa , and, three pools, and 3 restaurants, two of which are open air.

The complex also has a movie theatre, which, unfortunately, only screens Arabic movies.

I must admit that they have beautifully recreated the European Promenade right here in Porto Marina. The esplanade is lovely in the evenings with open air restaurants and absolutely buzzes with life!. There are mimes dressed in black who walk and perform along the promenade. The sea breeze is wonderfully nippy as you sip your drink and watch the mimes. It was my son's first experience watching mimes and he was fascinated!

The first night, we decided to stick to Johnny Carinos, followed by a long lazy walk to the ice-cream man. Other than restaurants, the promenade is dotted with promotional booths for everything from banks to cars to cosmetic products, adding to the feel of a busy, buzzing street. On a Friday / Saturday night, the atmosphere is bustling, lively, crowded yet immensely enjoyable!

While the promenade is exciting, the rooms are a different story altogether. For a resort, I thought the rooms were small, and, we seem to have got unlucky. The lights didn't work properly, the shower leaked, and we spent numerous phone calls trying to get things in order.

That is the other problem. If you are an expat who does not know Arabic, hope to get lucky in trying to find out things/ get understood. While the staff has a ready smile, you end up spending fair amount of time communicating, most time rather unsuccessfully!

Next day headed to the beach. The sand is a beautiful, soft white and the blue of the Mediterranean sea is a pleasure to behold. My son and I frolicked in the water for ages before deciding to try the water sports. A ride in a speed boat would put you back by 700 LE for an hour while a balloon ride over the sea by LE 200. Was very tempted to try the later, but decided that I needed to shed a few kilos before I tried that! Though the water sports guy assured me that the harness was strong enough, I did not feel inclined to verify his claim. The water jet ski and the scooters are great fun and a must try.

Even after 2-3 hours at the beach, son was not happy, so decided to take him to the pool. Ah, here lies the catch! The pools are very shallow, not even a metre deep, I suspect. But that's ok. The catch is that the whole apartment block looks down on you while you are swimming. These are residential apartments which are not a part of the hotel. Also they can use the pools, so that makes it almost like the public baths. That certainly offended my sense of privacy, well, whatever there might be when using a hotel's pool!!

Treated myself to a Mediterranean sea salt scrub at the Spa which was very invigorating and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Surprisingly, the only place, where you would not need an English speaking staff, I got one! My attendant was an Austrian lady who has been in Egypt for the past 3 years, and, she was good. The Spa, I would recommend whole heartedly...

That night we decided to try the open air hotel restaurant which had live music. We sat on one of those table / sofa contraptions that you can rock, had some simple food, listened to some really rhythmic Arabic songs, seated right next to the Mediterranean sea, being gently buffeted by the salty sea breeze, shivering a little in the cold nippy was an awesome experience!! Difficult to believe that in July when Cairo is blazingly hot, we were actually wishing that we had a light jacket or a stole to be cozy! A definite must do!

The one thing that did strike us was that we were among the handful of expats who were at Porto Marina. The bulk of the people were either locals or Arabs from neighbouring countries. And the fact that the staff is not so well versed with English seemed to suggest that this was not such a big expat location. or maybe , it was just the time of the year..

As we packed our bags in the afternoon and got ready to leave, I was honestly not too sure whether I would like to come back. While the place is definitely not value for money (VFM), when you come to a beach resort you don't necessarily look for VFM. You look for a great sea, great beaches, good ambience, good hotel, good food and great service. While Porto Marina scores high on the beach and the sea, the rest need to be worked on. As for me, I think I would take Sharm any time over Porto Marina.


Anonymous said...

So are you saying its not worth going to? IS SHarm better? Most wgyptians seem to think that its a great place to go to....


I believe that your comments stand in a close position to mine. Good article!

Midwestevp said...

I was told Porto Marina is going to have a Paintball field this summer, is it true? Thanks