Exhausted but exhilarated from our whirlwind introduction to Cairo, we arrived at Marsa Alam International Airport on the southwest coast of the Red Sea, just an hour’s flight from the capital. Flying in you can see why Marsa Alam has earned its reputation as one of the triad of top diving destinations in Egypt (and the world). The sea here is a deep, clear blue and you can spot its renowned coral reefs from the plane – an amazing contrast to the brown eastern desert with its dark mountains that flanks the green belt of Marsa Alam.
And just five minutes up the road from Marsa Alam is the oasis of Intercontinental The Palace Port Ghalib Resort – our unbelievably luxurious five-star home for the next two weeks. Originally built by magnate Sol Kerzner’s Sun International, it was taken over by Intercontinental six months after being completed. And like The Lost City, it specialises in pure luxury (somebody pinch me please).
We’re greeted by a long row of staff members handing out glasses filled with Hibiscus tea and the traditional Egyptian beverage Dome, and cool hand towels to mop our sweaty brows. It’s tough to hide our collective gloating when the hotel’s senior PR officer Ramona Rack shows us round the Arabic-styled hotel. There’s a massive man-made salt-water lagoon, a huge pool and a myriad restaurants to choose from, as the Crowne Plaza has two hotels flanking Intercontinental The Palace Port Ghalib Resort.
The private beach stretches as far as the eye can see and there are piers where you can dive straight into 17m-deep waters. We each get allocated a beautiful room – some with views over Port Ghalib’s beautiful marina.
We celebrate our arriving-with-our-bums-in-the-butter at Souk Al hana restaurant with its frighteningly extensive dinner buffet. We get to choose from Asian, Indian, Italian and Mediterranean dishes and then round it all off with puddings even Willy Wonka would be proud of (coconut tart, apple torte, brownies, coconut biscuits, banana-nut pudding, ice cream… gulp, we’re in trouble).
Hey, even COSMO SUMMER’s sizzling models tuck in and conveniently forget about their imminent swimwear shoots – yes, contrary to popular belief, models do appear to imbibe solid food. I’m just not sure where they put it all (I’ll keep my eyes peeled and report back to you about this oddity in two weeks).
And then it was off to a bed bursting with big, fluffy pillows. In fact, this is the kind of hotel where you get to choose your favourite pillow: Downy, Extra Soft, Midi Pillow, Comfort, Ultra or Buckwheat. Niiiiiice!
At this rate, there’s no doubt we’re all arriving back home well-rested, tanned, fat and happy (and jobless, in our potentially size 10 models’ cases)!