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Taba tackles winter blues

Thea Euryphaessa luxuriates and ruminates on the Red Sea

Written by . Published on December 15th 2010.

Taba tackles winter blues

(Disclaimer: warning this article contains images of blinding sunlight and clear blue skies.)

Leaving behind Sharm-el-Sheikh, I wondered what Taba – a resort located two-and-a-half hour’s drive north along the Red Sea coastline – might have to entice flocks of wintersun seeking Brits. I rarely do beach holidays. When I get the chance to travel, I have to be off, doing something. I’m bobbins at sitting still. Makes me antsy.

But then, I don’t have a family to think of, children to entertain. So it’s easy for me to opt for off-the-beaten-track, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants escapades. Having said that, if I did have kids in tow and I’d just flown five-and-a-half hours, would I really want to travel another two-and-a-half hours to my destination, when I could’ve easily rolled straight out the plane and into one of the many all-inclusive resorts in Sharm itself? This place had better be special, I thought as we began our stomach-churning, ear-popping ascent through the mountains.

Thankfully, it is.

And French, too. Ooh-la-la!

Shiny, happy, fabulously dressed people greeted me with enthusiastic Bonjours! Bonsoirs! and Bon appétits! at every turn. “Didn’t you know Club Med is a French-owned company?” someone asked me over dinner that night. “Erm, no. I didn’t,” I mumbled into my, by now, much needed, very large glass of Egyptian produced, organic red wine. Tasty it was too.

On this occasion I hadn’t done my research. Because if I had known just how chic it was going to be, I’d have travelled in style and arrived in something a tad classier than my forlorn, frumpy looking assemblage of jumper and jeans. I also soon discovered there’s an airport located twenty minutes away in Taba, and that it’s serviced by direct flights from Manchester. But on the dates we needed to travel, there were no flights. More’s the pity.

Bright and early the following morning, I was up and at ‘em. My trip to St Catherine’s Monastery, I was told, would leave at 6.30am – Club Med Time. Club Med Time? I checked my phone to see if we’d crossed another time zone without my knowing. Egypt is two hours ahead of the UK. Club Med Time is an additional one hour ahead. I never did receive a satisfactory explanation of why this is so, but think it may be more to do with making the most of the daylight hours. In retrospect this actually made sense, as the nights here can be long – in a very good way, of course.

Fortunately, what I may’ve lacked in smart arrival dress, I made up for in evening wear. Pack your cocktail frocks, ladies. With extensive nightly entertainment, this is a resort which, should you wish, gives you the option to get glammed up and throw a few shapes on the dance floor. I could write a separate article entirely about the nightlife; but what happens in Club Med, stays in Club Med.

If you’re feeling adventurous, several excursions are included within the cost of the all-inclusive package. Half and full-day excursions include trips to Petra, Jordan (one of my favourite sites in the whole wide world), Mount Sinai and St Catherine’s Monastery (St Catherine’s impressive Icon collection is worth checking out), the Coloured Canyon (pack hiking boots), and quad riding in the desert. Tours are well organised, informative and available in French or English.

If you have children and want to leave them behind, they can be entertained all day long at either Baby Club Med (4 months – 2 years old: optional extra), Petit Club Med (from 2 – 4 years old: optional extra), Mini Club Med (4 – 11 years old: included in your all-inclusive package) and Club Med Passworld (11 – 18 years old: included in your all-inclusive package). Facilities for teens and wee ones are exceptional.

Food is buffet, sorry, banquet style. It’s good. Actually, I’m being picky (writing for Confidential has ruined me). It’s very good. Presentation is excellent. Cuisine is international and varied, although vegetarians had little choice.

Alcohol is free-flowing, with all the well-known brands available. I quaffed enough Mumm’s Champagne to last me a lifetime. Cocktails are okay. Actually, to be fair, we were the very first guests to stay and I’m a pernickety so-and-so when it comes to cocktails. All things considered, they weren’t bad. I’m sure the bar staff will find their feet in time.

Activities are wide-ranging and include academies for golf, sailing, and tennis. There’s also archery (I really wanted to try this, but didn’t get the time), snorkelling among the otherworldly delights of the Red Sea, kayaking, windsurfing, and of course, doing sod all while enjoying a crisp cold glass of white wine on a quiet stretch of private beach beneath sun split skies. Bliss.

There’s also a Zen-like spa where I enjoyed a papaya salt scrub on a heated marble table top. This is the life, I thought, as the therapist scrubbed over my multitude of mosquito bites. However, be warned – only local men work in the spa. Egyptian law currently forbids local women from working in the resort (well, from working anywhere whatsoever apparently).

As for the resort design itself? I’m a sucker for beauty. The design has been so well executed, I thought it not only complemented the surrounding landscape, but actually enhanced it. No small feat for what could so easily have been another run-of-the-mill holiday resort.

With a rich, bold colour palette of blood orange, creamy bluffs and dazzling whites set against a craggy desert backdrop, it was reminiscent of the American southwest à la Santa Fe. Drawing inspiration from local design, the subtle architectural perspectives are lost on camera, and I suspect, will be lost on most guests too. But for those with an eye and appreciation for such things, the architect deserves full credit. Interior accommodation is what I’d describe as Club Class: swish and spacious with clean, elegant lines and an emphasis on comfort.

Although this is a French-owned resort with staff whose dominant language is French, most everyone speaks fluent English. They also speak very good Spanish and Italian. The thing about Club Med is, although it’s not exclusive or luxurious (nor does it try to be), it still manages to be aspirational and sophisticated, yet warm and friendly.Everyone’s genuinely concerned for your wellbeing. I couldn’t help smiling at the staff who scuttled towards me with concern whenever I so much as frowned. Having said that, although attentive, they weren’t obtrusive – that would’ve driven me mad.

If you’re a family or couple seeking a mid-haul destination with fabulous weather throughout winter and spring, perhaps consider leaving Sharm-el-Sheikh to the masses (and the sharks, Ed) and make with the cognoscenti to Club Med’s Sinai Bay resort instead, where you’ll find a stylish, welcoming blend of Charm et Chic.

Thea flew direct from Manchester and stayed in Club Med’s brand new Sinai Bay Resort, Taba, Egypt.

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