Sidi Abdel Rahman is one of my fondest childhood summer memories. The beautiful beachside resort on the North Coast of Egypt was my family’s favourite destination, back in the days when you didn’t have to own a villa on the North Coast to be able to swim on the North Coast, and there were large expanses of undeveloped land where you could drive down to the shore for a swim. Ah the good-old days.
Located between Marina and the Diplomatic Beach, and formerly known as Al Alamein Hotel because of its proximity to the World War II battlefield nearby, the hotel has seen more changes in ownership than Mubarak has seen hair dye. And though I remember the hotel itself as a dusty, rather derelict and rundown building, it never really mattered because it more than compensated with its pristine white beach and a turquoise blue sea. Hands down, Sidi Abdel Rahman has the best swimming spot on the North Coast, apart from Sidi Heneesh and Ras El Hekma.
If you’ve been to Sidi Abdel Rahman as a kid, you’ll probably fondly remember the sand dunes on the left side, where we’d spend afternoons rolling, tumbling and boarding down, and the playground, which once had a roller skating rink and sturdy swings that we’d push ourselves way up into the air.
And then there are the villas with the barbeques on the lawns, and the plastic tubs in front of the terrace that you’d dip your feet into before stepping onto the mud-coloured tiles. Behind the hotel, a large garden full of sky-high palm trees and sweet-perfumed flowers make a perfect backdrop for the picturesque desert sunset. Yes, this hotel is full of nostalgic memories for me, embodying the perfect Egyptian holiday in its simplicity and impeccable natural landscape.
Sadly, like every other stretch of sand on the North Coast, Sidi Abdel Rahman has changed drastically and is currently part of a massive construction project called Marassi, which is transforming the barren land into buildings, villas and manmade lagoons. I’m old-fashioned about this stuff, I’d prefer to keep the hotel as is, but word is that the building will be pulled down soon to be made into several massive hotel chains, including the Ritz Carlton.
Marassi has admittedly done a great job in renovating the hotel; the rooms are now quite plush compared to their former derelict selves, with wicker seats on the balcony, comfortable bedding and clean bathrooms with glazed window paneling.
Still, the hotel’s prices are not for the faint-hearted: last summer, a ground floor double room cost around 2350LE per night. This summer, the price is up to 2800LE. That’s arguably the same amount you’d pay for a month’s flat rent in Maadi. Ridiculous, if you ask me, but then again; all hotels along the North Coast have stupendously high prices in the range of thousands per night. The theory is that the North Coast is closer to Cairo and Alexandria, making it an easier and more popular destination, so the Ministry of Tourism decided to exploit the situation and up the prices.
Hopefully, one year, the prices will match the market situation; i.e. we can’t afford to turn away tourists, we need as many people as we can get; so let’s be cheaper. That is, unless Emaar has already started destroying the hotel and replacing it with extravagant chains that we will never ever be able to afford.
But I digress. I love Sidi Abdel Rahman’s bay; I know the rocky end and the best shallow spots to swim in when the sea is choppy (on the left to next to the dunes). I love the tiny beach next to the two presidential villas, which once housed Abdel Nasser and Sadat with their families. And the presidential villas, as I remember them, were gloriously nostalgic remnants of 1950s architecture: two floors with seven rooms and an elevated terrace facing the waves, the kind of villa that needs its own butler and chandeliers to complete its image. By the way, you can totally rent it out for 10,000LE a night. Ha. Ha.
It’s a shame that Sidi Abdel Rahman will eventually be lost to a possibly overdeveloped urbanized resort, and its sea will eventually become polluted by jet skis, motor boats and loud nightclubs. But the child in me remains hopeful that maybe we’ll get a few more lovely years before reality sets in and we can no longer roll down the sand dunes. In the meantime, I look forward every summer to getting my swimsuit full of sand as I act like my four-year-old self on the dunes.
To book at the hotel, call 046 4680140 or visit the hotel’s website.