Once you’ve made it to Egypt, it’s hard to remember why, exactly, you had always delayed coming here. Sure, those Caribbean beach getaways were easier, the logistics of a trip here always seemed daunting, or every itinerary flat-out exhausting, but those hardly seem good enough excuses for leaving Egypt on the bucket-list cutting-room floor.
Perhaps, then, a little balance is in store when planning a trip to Egypt. What many a traveler might not know is that this country of pyramids and temples and gold-covered mummies also has one of the world’s greatest beach destinations—Sharm el Sheikh. And just in time for travelers flocking back post-COVID and the opening of the new Grand Egyptian Museum, the Four Seasons has unveiled an overhaul of its resort in Sharm, which also happens to be its largest in the world and the latest selection for Beast Travel’s column on new hotels, Room Key.
Generally speaking, we lead hectic and demanding lives and a vacation should still feel like a vacation. Your batteries, to use the cliché, should actually feel recharged. It’s why I’m a firm believer in the balanced trip—push yourself, maybe rough it a little, but make sure to also relax and treat yourself.
At the end of summer I spent two weeks traveling alone in Egypt, visiting some of the most astounding and spectacular sights I have ever seen. And while this trip will forever stay with me as an incredible experience, I certainly would not categorize it as my most relaxing trip. At the end of my vacation, I was both mentally and physically fatigued from all the 4 a.m. wake-up calls practically every day to beat the sun and crowds, the long drives, and the deluge of new knowledge dropped on me each day. Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy myself—for instance, in Cairo I was able to escape the mind-boggling hubbub of that megacity each day at the Four Seasons property right on the Nile. (Side note: If you can, go on one of the Four Seasons Nile Plaza’s felucca rides at sunset. Cairo may be seething with modern life, but the Nile still has a timeless quality. Plus, the hotel does as good of a job as one possibly can at creating an oasis of calm in one of the most relentless cities in the world.)
But I cannot tell you how glad I was that I had made the decision to end this trip with a few nights at the Four Seasons in Sharm el Sheikh, which sits on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula of the Red Sea.
During my travels I always keep a notebook, filling it here and there with notes and musings that, read weeks later, can seem incoherent. But the first thing I wrote upon walking through the public rooms of the Four Seasons Sharm El Sheikh was clear—“dramatic.”
The lobby is a cavernous, mausoleum-like space of elegant horseshoe arches, columned arcades, and a dome pierced to allow in small shafts of light. In a wonderful contrast, the lobby leads to a cream-colored atrium with latticed arches that opens up to the Red Sea itself. Drama, check.
Every time someone brings up a large resort, my biggest concern is if it will have enormous structures that make it resemble Disney World rather than a stylish, well designed community. The Four Seasons here may be sprawling, but it’s made up of several little villa-like structures that are all connected to one another by outdoor staircases and a grand lighting walkway with fountains. The low-slung buildings with Egyptian-inspired design allow for a sort of blending with the nature.
The appearance of blending in is also aided by the exterior's sand-like color, allowing them to almost disappear when looked at from the water. And as the villas are built into the hillside, a walk down to the water always offers a spectacular, unobstructed view—the sole contrast with the sea being the geometric roof lines, a vision right out of an Orientalist painting.
I got to stay in the newest portion of the hotel which runs along the left side of the property from the lobby. The rooms were expectedly luxurious but not over the top. Although the interior of the new addition is considerably more contemporary than the traditional architecture, the color scheme is quite similar to the exterior with clean crisp lines, medium light wood doors and closets, and darker wood furnishings. But contemporary doesn't mean cold—things feel cozy—and it’s an aesthetic repeated in standard rooms and suites. The accommodations were so roomy that I mistakenly thought several of their so-called normal rooms were suites on a tour.
While the new section of the hotel is chic and contemporary, I must admit that I have a slight soft spot for those on the old side. It lacks some of the more modern features in the new one, but it has more traditional Arabian decorative elements like traditional carpets, wooden mosaic trim to conceal the curtain track, and an Arabic arch headboard.
That’s all lovely, but the big draw to Sharm is what you can do while there. The Four Seasons arranged for me to go scuba diving for the first time in my life in the Red Sea. Given that the Red Sea is considered one of the best places in the world to dive, it was a memorable experience. I’ll admit that I was nervous at first, but my teacher Arm was always leading me through the entire experience and made it so simple and delightful.
If scuba diving isn't your thing, they also have snorkeling equipment, and with over 250 distinct coral reefs in the region, it’s something you should try during your vacation. But I wouldn’t blame you either if you just wanted to lounge, as the hotel has just over half a mile of private beach.
The ability to have whatever pops into your head is perhaps the ultimate luxury. When it comes to food, the Four Seasons Sharm el Sheikh comes close to giving you that. There are nine different restaurants to be exact including, among others, Japanese, Italian, Lebanese, Mexican, Peruvian, and Middle Eastern. It was a bit of torture for somebody as indecisive as I am. While it would be hard to summon a complaint about the food at any of them (which isn’t always the case in Egypt), the biggest and best surprise was Luna, the Latin American restaurant. I’ve often found Mexican cuisine outside of the Americas to be lackluster, a watered-down version of one of my favorite ways to sate my hunger. But the Mexican chef Jorge Ariko really was able to bring the flavors across the globe and take me on a journey all the way from Mexico to Peru and back to the Red Sea. If you go, don’t miss the roasted octopus which was so simple but still so flavorful and rich. If you’re more of an ambiance diner, Yatai, the Pan-Asian restaurant is where you’ll find yourself returning to as it’s set in a romantic location with a fountain and lantern lighting. hi bar or around the grill with a chef accompanying you during your meal.
Egypt is not the easiest of trips—its weather can be unforgiving, the crowds can be overwhelming, and the history can verge on overload. There are worse things one could do to mitigate that than grab some R&R at a beautiful resort on the sea.