As with most things divine, delicious or extravagant, many Cairo pools have a catch. The extravagant fun-house beach pool at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in far-off Mirage City is no exception; in order to escape Cairo’s urban sprawl and enjoy the cool swimming pool and some uninterrupted sunshine, you must invest in either a cabana (915LE) or a hotel room (700LE) for the day for the day, from 11AM to 7PM.

J.W. Marriott certainly holds the monopoly on artificial beaches in Cairo; the beach, as it’s referred to, is complete with a sandy shore and a wave pool. Surrounded by cliff-like rock fixtures and a sloping, sand-covered landscape, an artificial current generates gentle waves that gently break on the manufactured shore.

Once you’ve situated yourself in your beach-side cabana or hotel room, you must find your way through the maze of ramps and walkways that lead to the elusive beach; don’t be shy to ask for directions from the friendly staff. As midsummer heat waves rise off the walkways, the crowded Ring Road outside the hotel compound provides a constant reminder of the city with its distant road – pretend it’s the ocean calling; and your day at the shore becomes all the more authentic.

Large blue towels are provided at the pool’s entrance, and the beach is lined with large reclining beach chairs and striped umbrellas.

The J.W. pool is certainly a family place; most weekend afternoons find parents and their offspring enjoying the PG-sized waves. Paddle boards and large yellow inner tubes are also provided. Beside the wave pool beach, an elevated area features a full jungle gym in a few feet of water, with oversized shower heads generating a constant downpour. The platform slopes into a large pool that lets swimmers slide down on inner tubes for a brief thrill, into the pool below.

Suffice it to say that the J.W. Marriott provides a full day of family-oriented fun in the sun. Most importantly, it gives us a way to cheat those too-short-weekends when we can’t actually get out of Cairo– the sheltered atmosphere makes the pool pretty close to the real thing, or at least generates a few appreciative chuckles at its all-out attempts to bring the beach to us.

Waiters regularly make the rounds with the pool restaurant menu, which features a rather standard collection of sandwiches (in the 50LE to 60LE range), appetisers such as spring rolls, chicken nuggets and salads (40LE to50LE), as well as a Mövenpick ice cream cart. Prices are on the high side for standard diner food, so expect to rack up a bill of several hundred LE if you're ordering for the whole family.

Patrons are privy to the impeccable service that the Marriott is so renowned for. While enjoying a quiet lounge on our beach chairs, the soothing chorus of Ring Road traffic and artificial waves lulling us into a mid-afternoon slumber; a waiter brought us icy, pine-scented washcloths to help ward off the heat. Sweet luxury, indeed.