As the rising city temperatures have us all yearning for a weekend by the sea, Ain Sokhna is the closest and most relaxing beach resort to head to.
While the coast is an easy 50-minute drive from Katameya, it is important to remember that public transportation is not available. Beach goers with their own wheels can pile in with friends. For the rest of the weekend-hopefuls, there are a few companies that provide fairly affordable car rental services, such as Smart Car Limousine service. Just be careful to get the daily rental rates rather than mileage only– the commute will leave you with a regrettably hefty bill. When exiting and entering the city gates, a 5LE fee is required; a reminder to keep some small denomination change on hand.
Once a sleepy coastline area with nothing but swimming and lounging to occupy your time, Sokhna has recently followed in the trend of vacation marketing by becoming more dynamic, and offering more hotels, more dining options and even water sports such as jet skiing and snorkelling. Water sports are overpriced; Jet Ski and banana boat rentals run for an average of 500LE an hour. It can be tricky finding exactly where to rent; our best advice is to try the beaches of Little Venice and Stella, and ask the attendants standing around the nearest cluster of jet skis about rental and rates (you won’t miss them).
Not traditionally a party town, there has been a recent Capital nightlife import with the opening of Tamarai in Sokhna. Open every second weekend of the month, the venue offers its signature glitz with a bit of beach-party glamour for those looking for more than a quiet bite and a relaxed seaside evening.
For many Sokhna veterans, Cute Café in La Siesta resort has been a long time favourite. Wedged between two mountains on a hill right next to Porto Sokhna, this outdoor eatery is a novelty with its Bedouin atmosphere and delectable grilled entrées. Prices are mid-range (50LE to 100LE per person) and the selection of grilled lamb, beef and chicken is fairly standard. Beware the lethal mosquitoes that emerge at dusk; as the ground-level seating and low tables leave patrons nowhere to hide once the insects attack.
In general, dining options are somewhat limited apart from Wadi Dome’s seafood restaurant Bouillabaisse and Porto Sokhna’s Chili's, Johnny Carino's, Studio Misr and a few others in tow. Note that the food quality in most of these chains suffers slightly at their Sokhna locales, and prices are hiked up ever so slightly– you'll feel the difference when your bill arrives.
If you're in search of shisha, there is Farah Café, also located inside Porto Sokhna. The menu is oriental and the setting is family-friendly, featuring white-curtained swinging tables where you can recline as you watch the stars in the smog-free horizon.
While most resorts are exclusive to residents and guests only, Stella di Mare has three hotels: Grand Hotel Ain Sokhna, Golf Hotel Ain Sokhna, and Sea Club Hotel Ain Sokhna all offer luxurious room and board for a price. Basic double room rates run for just under 2000LE at Grand Hotel.
Located inside Little Venice Resort, Jaz Hotel is a recently opened hotel and the first and only boutique hotel in Ain Sokhna. Its 90 rooms are all meticulously decorated, with a spa set to open soon and a prominent golf course. Double room prices begin at 1300LE.
The Mövenpick Hotel (contact the Cairo office by calling 2024182282) and the Ramada Hotel (call 0623290510, -509, -500) are located in the most beautiful part of Ain Sokhna, on a small almost closed-in bay where the sky-blue waters are almost always tranquil and dolphin-sighting is a regular activity. Ramada Hotel offers day use for 250LE, which includes a meal and a room to change and shower in. A single room starts at 600LE per night. While the Mövenpick doesn’t offer day-use, their infinity pool at sunset is an undeniably beautiful experience that makes the near 2500LE per room almost worthwhile.
Las of all, Porto Sokhna offers 47 rooms and two suites. Prices tend to be high; as they are subject to change, so call the reservation hotline at 19115. Its major shortcoming is the fact that you have to cross the road to reach the tiny stretch of a beach, which pales in comparison to the beaches offered at Movenpick, Jaz and the Ramada.
When leaving Sokhna, be sure to fill up on fuel at the nearest station before the toll gates; after which you’ll find nothing all the way until you reach the outskirts of Cairo. Happy Road Trip!