El Gouna

Apparently, during revolutions, resorts slash their prices! This week,  we went to El Gouna,  an amazing resort on the Red Sea5 hours Southeast of Cairo, by a car that beeps at you if you drive over 120km per hour.  If your car doesn’t do that, it is rumored you can make it in four hours.

Sign prohibiting Burq'inis for health reasons.

Movenpick El Gouna is part of a small resort and golf course that was built in 1998 and 1999 and aims at making the experience for most a true five star experience.   The hotel offers everything you could want in a resort – kids entertainment, multiple pools, nighttime floor shows and access to kite diving, scuba diving, deep sea diving – well you get the picture.  Plus – the opportunity to eat Movenpick ice cream at any time of the day, starting at 8 am.

It’s packed full with European tourists – I’ve mainly heard accents from the UK, Eastern Europe, Germany and France.  Many of these people come ritually, and were not going to let the current political climate in Egypt stop them this year.  So far in the time we’ve been here, I’ve been asked if I was English, Swedish, Belgium and Dutch (all flattering, apparently the worst thing to be asked is if you are German. ) Since so few Americans make it here, people are always a little surprised by my “No, America” response.

The pool-side crowd is an interesting mix of very in-shape people wearing all sorts of bathing suits to the overly tanned (and chain smoking seems to go hand and hand with this, but I don’t want to stereotype), large and larger people wearing too little (yes, the Banana Hammock is alive and well, and living on the Red Sea – it’s a shame the spa there didn’t do any waxing. . . )  I know that as an enlightened woman, I should be happy to see a large woman in an itsy bitsy bikini because she’s that comfortable with her body, and part of me does think – You Go Girl.  But another apparently twelve year old part of me can’t help but stare in fascination at all of that orange skin hanging out over tiny pieces of lycra.

At one point, poolside, I saw a woman swathed from head to toe in loose fabric –tropical colored flowers all over a black background – settling her family in to a series of loungers under an umbrella.  Immediately next to her, my right as I watched, a Western woman turned her back on the crowd, stripped down and changed out of her bathing suit to other clothes.  She then proceeded to have her children do the same thing.  Both sides of the modesty scale, right for my viewing pleasure – I ended up with mental whiplash.

The Movenpick, and other Western-owned resorts across Egypt, have banned the true burq’ini.  I’m not sure what health risk they really pose, as the sign banning them claims.  I am torn, though, about the fact that women who choose hijab or niqab, either by choice or cultural expectation, cannot go comfortably to high end resorts in their own country.

In Egypt, the high clerics are anti-burqas  – but they face their own doubt issues, as they do not rise based on their theological qualifications but are appointed by the government. It is still weird to see such an imposition of a foreign culture at one of the prettiest settings in the country.

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