For the third consecutive year, El Gouna resort was abuzz with anticipation of New Year’s Eve. Revelers began the celebration a few days prior to the big night and the party lingered on for a couple of days.
Party guru Ahmed El Ganzoury (a.k.a Ganz, and now labeling his events as ByGanz) was throwing his signature bash on the big day, this year with a gold theme.
While I am starting to realize that New Year’s Eve is probably the biggest anticlimax of the year, the rest of the trip lived up to expectations – Gouna is more magnificent than ever.
What was once barren land 22 km from Hurghada has in 10 years flourished into a vacation hotspot with lagoons surrounding clusters of houses and hotels of diverse architectural styles, from Bedouin to Italian.
Unlike what we are used to seeing around the country, this town is so well maintained that there is no sight of litter or traffic – and absolutely no harassment (not even a cat whistle), enabling you to walk freely around even if you’re wearing a mini skirt and stilettos.
The picturesque town is the brainchild of business tycoon Sameh Sawiris of Orascom Hotels and Development. He had a simple vision: Turn this piece of desert into a booming standalone retreat.
Besides the private parties held in a few of the glitzy villas, the night life in Gouna has become a lot more eclectic than it used to be, even compared to just a year ago.
There are two main hubs, one being the downtown Kafr area (especially popular with teens) which has a few chill hangouts such as Sandbar, which features a pool table, baby foot, rock music and one great burger. Other downtown venues include the Club House – with a beach and a pool – and the popular local chain Tabasco. Definitely worth a mention is Italian restaurant Kiki’s, which has great gnocchi.
When it comes to gourmet dining though, the Abu Tig Marina is the place to go, and this focal point is tastefully landscaped and awfully romantic. All of its venues serve up a great bill of fare, and like everything else in Gouna, the quality is high-end all the way.
La Scala, Seven Stars and Peer 88 (a floating restaurant/pub) are some of the most popular.
A few small bars are tucked away around the marina, such as Bar Ten (the same as the teeny weenie red bar at Cairo’s La Bodega) and Peanuts. An authentic Irish pub called Smugglers is a great place to watch a good match in those sleepy midday hours.
To many, Gouna is merely a holiday destination, but to others, it’s a year-round home. Today, the resort town is a self-sufficient municipality with a hospital, school and even a university center that is affiliates with the American University in Cairo.
Gouna’s nightlife is full of entertainment options during high seasons like New Year’s and Eid. And of course, there’s a lot to do during the day when the sun is shinning. A few sandy beaches like Mangroovy and Buzza Bar were open, but this time around Gouna was a bit too cold for beach fun.
A great way to spend the afternoon is go take in a round of golf – a sport growing in popularity around the country. The Steigenberger Hotel has a great range for amateurs like myself, where you can hit the balls straight into the lagoon.
For the more adventurous, Gouna’s breeze makes it great for kitesurfing – one of the fastest growing extreme sports in the world today.
On this last trip, which only ended a couple of days ago, the Gouna guest list included the likes of Spice Girl Melanie B (Scary Spice) and the drummer or guitarist (no one was really sure) of American alternative rock band Incubus.
Unfortunately, rumors of Paris Hilton flying in to spend New Year’s Eve in Gouna were just talk – I guess Egypt is still making its way up the global party agenda.