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Dokki, Cairo, Egypt.
Safir Hotel: Swimming Pool Day-Use in Dokki
Summer in Cairo already seems to be in full swing with temperatures rising above 35 degrees on a regular basis, so if you are stuck in the city (or just have a lot of spare time) it's a good idea to indulge in some swimming pool refreshment.
While the area of Dokki is generally not the first place you’d go looking for a swimming pool, the one in Safir hotel, located on Mesaha Square, is one of best in town.
The swimming pool itself is quite big and measures up to 2.10m at the deepest point, which is quite deep for a Cairo pool. The best part however is its surroundings; regular sun beds are available but more noteworthy are the cosy booths that come with a low table surrounded by pillows - the setup is in a typical Dahab beach style. Combine that with the fact the hotel also serves shisha and you have yourself a complete day at the pool.
The food at Safir is very affordable. Mezzas are 15LE per dish and you can choose from all the local favourites such as tehina, baba ghanough, tomeya and taboula. Dishes like pizza and pasta are priced between 30LE and 50LE; while steaks, grilled fish and the sorts come closer to about 100LE. The food doesn’t get served at the sun beds so if you order the staff will have a proper table prepared for you. Alcohol is also available at the hotel, a can of Heineken will set you back 30LE.
So is it the perfect pool in Cairo? You would almost think so. Unfortunately there is an issue. During the summertime the hotel becomes packed with guests to the extent where it may become uncomfortable. It seemed like male guests shamelessly stand at their balconies the entire day, staring down at the pool area - not to mention the blatant harrasment we received while sitting by the pool itself. Safir obviously can’t be held responsible for this but unfortunately for them, it's a huge issue that would make us think long and hard before returning. But apart from this slight problem, it would seem that this is the perfect pool setting.
The day use at the Safir is only 100LE per person. You can safely lock up your belongings in a locker in the changing room and you are free to use the gym there as well. After your day by the pool, you can also use the sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi.
So, it’s hot and sunny outside, but you’re stuck in Cairo; listen very closely, because this is not necessarily a bad thing (gasp!). What could we possibly mean? Well, the truth is, the city is full of fresh and jolly options to spend the day by a pool – in this case, we're talking specifically about the Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah in Zamalek.
The hotel, in our opinion, is often overlooked as one of the nicer ones around town. Located on an almost secluded nook on the island of Zamalek, walking onto the premises instantly offers a feeling of relaxation and ease. Gliding past the spacious and polished reception, we made our way to the spa for a much needed day of lounging by the pool.
At 300LE* for weekdays, and 400LE* for weekends, visitors are afforded access to the spa and a place by the pool for as long as they please. Unfortunately, this price does not include any food or drink, so yes, in a sense, this is a splurge – but one that’s worth it.
The pool itself is not that large, but its location and positioning within the hotel are more than ideal. With a choice of regular sun-beds – though these come cushioned with a head rest – one can also choose to sit in more private, shared quarters; what we shall refer to as a ‘sun-couch’. Placed directly along the Nile, the serenity of the view, matched with the openness of it, are divine; a section of the pool overflows, looking directly onto the water, making for a perfect spot to doze in.
Unlike many other hotels, the pool at the Sofitel stayed sunlit late into the day, which when you’ve only got one day, is important.
The service was very pleasant and staff were quick to meet our requests. We sampled a few things on their menu, starting with a ‘banana blast’ smoothie (54LE) – banana, raspberry, strawberry and orange juice – which proved to be a good choice; fresh, cold and, of course, nice and healthy.
After a few hours of lounging and occasionally dipping, we moved onto having some lunch. The choices of a pizza margherita (58LE) and whole wheat pasta with gorgonzola sauce (56LE) were also satisfying, though we failed to understand how the former stood at a higher price. We also ordered a bottle of Omar Khayyam white wine (170LE), which came on ice and was a great addition to our day of relaxing in the lovely sun.
The pool was pleasantly full, without being overwhelmingly packed, and the crowd of people varied between young couples, some tourists and a single family with a couple of children. The atmosphere was comfortable; no stares or awkward glances given – worth noting in this city.
There is no doubt the Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah will provide you with a satisfying, wholesome day out by the pool, but just be prepared to spend a little.
*These were the prices at the time of the review and are subject to change.