Egypt Independent

Weekend Getaways: The Sahel 411



Over the past few years, a network of North Coast compounds from Agamy to Marsa Matruh has sprung up, starting near Alexandria and gradually taking over the coastline.

Sahel has become a favorite destination for the open of the summer season on 1 July. Not that any of the compounds close during the rest of the year, but businesses and restaurants usually rent only for July and August or close their shops off-season.

Getting to Sahel is relatively easy – you can take a car, go by bus, or try to do some combination of train to Alexandria and then take one of the buses that run between Alexandria and the rest of the North Coast. Check the West Delta bus company website for more information. Getting into the compounds usually requires owning a home there or paying a fee from 20-100LE, depending on the compound. Once inside, you can look for hotel space although at this time of year, hotels in the area are unusually expensive and fully booked. Check Marina compound’s Porto Marina and Seagull Hotel or hotels in Marassi or Ghazala, which are further along the road toward Marsa Matruh (and are supposedly better and have cleaner water and beaches).

For rentals, check craigslist.com or expatriates.com/classifieds/egt/vr/. Facebook also posts rentals and word of mouth is often one of the best ways to find a weekend rental along the coast.

One of the worries this year involves road-side assaults, with unconfirmed reports of people having rocks thrown at their cars or being stopped by setups like broken down cars or people asking for help on the side of the road. Today’s Sahel traffic is likely to lessen worries of attacks and online sites like Cairo Gossip are reporting an increase in police checks along the road for security and, of course, speed enforcement. The speed limit on the Cairo-Alex Desert Road is 100km/hr.

Sahel visitors will find supermarkets and compound-based restaurants like Marina’s Sea Gull open throughout most of the year, but the popular Cairo restaurants and clubs plan their openings for July and usually stay through August until school starts in early September. Even with Ramadan starting on 1 August, restaurants will start serving at iftar and have the capacity to stay open and full until 3 am and 4 am.

This summer a number of new restaurants and clubs are trying their luck in Sahel and will be opening this weekend:

Amici
Zamalek’s trendy little bar restaurant next to the President Hotel will head up to Sahel this weekend, opening at the still-under construction compound of Bianchi. Amici is known for its fabulous cocktails and will be bringing out Tommek Malek, an award-winning bartender. Reservations are most easily set up on www.tazkarty.net.

Natsu
A clubhouse at the Marassi compound in Sahel, Natsu will be competing with the Turquaz Beach club set to open on 7 July. Both will have daytime and nighttime entertainment – beach setups during the day and events on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Although information is scarce as of yet, a review comparing the beach party scene should be up by 21 July.

Golios
The now Cairo-based Italian eatery is heading back to Sahel where it first debuted last year. There will be two branches, one at the Marina Platform across the street from the 5th gate of the Marina compound near Alamein. The other will be in La Femme, the women’s-only beach setting up camp at their usual location inside the 5th gate area of the same compound.