Once a notorious, inexpensive package holiday and mega-resort destination, the ‘Red Sea Riviera’ that includes Hurghada on the mainland and extends all the way up to Sharm El Sheikh on the tip of the Sinai peninsula, has come a long way since inception. Located on the mainland and within the greater Hurghada territory, The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh is, definitively, where you want to luxuriate when you’re headed to Egypt for a beach holiday.
Luxury travellers looking for genuine pampering, guaranteed sunshine, superb warm-water diving opportunities, various levels of PADI classes, golf, a spa and some very regal food and service will find their nirvana right here.
With 102 suites and villas, The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh is set in 45 acres of vast, tranquil gardens with a private beach that is never far away. The architecture is very much Arabic in style, with white-washed domes, columns and arches dominating the main building and pool area. As the focal point of the hotel, the pool is surrounded by the Pergola Restaurant. On the lower level is a spa and gym, while the boutique, library and lobby are located on the upper level.
Off the library is a vast terrace area with comfy seating where you can take in the spectacular sea views. This is essentially the resort at large, with a further two restaurants and bar located in the vicinity.
As with most Oberoi properties, they offer the ‘Touching Senses’ programme here, daily events to help you make the most of your experience at the hotel: ranging from star gazing, moonlight theatre shows and cooking demonstrations, to name but a few.
Note that if you’re looking for state of the art, modern, contemporary accommodation, than The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh may not be for you. But what this hotel lacks in modern touches it makes up for in seamless, personal service, spacious and authentic suites, wonderful dining experiences and an overall feeling that you are the property’s most important guest – yes, Cleopatra in my case. Bring it on…
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I was collected from the airport in the hotel’s shiny, black Mercedes and arrived at the doorstep exactly 25 minutes later. Happy to be in situ, I was instantly struck by the beautiful smell of jasmine (the hotel’s signature aroma) wafting through the lobby, adding to the immediate sense of zen. Check-in was seamless, supervised by the front desk manager, as I enjoyed the cold towels and delicious hibiscus and mint welcome drink.
The lobby, like the rest of the hotel, is a mix of Moorish/Arabian architecture; archways surround the central flower arrangements, and Egyptian rugs and artefacts are all around to add the authentic feel.
Before being escorted to my suite via golf buggy, the assistant manager welcomed me and wished me an enjoyable stay – I had a feeling I would.
Rooms and suites
My Superior Deluxe Suite was very spacious at 85 sq m (915 sq ft), and I walked straight into the comfortable lounge area. Arabian style arches led to my huge, and exceptionally comfortable, king size bed. Later on, I discovered that the linen was the best Egyptian cotton there is (of course), and the 12-inch mattress topper added to the extreme luxury, amounting to a blissful night’s rest. There was a separate walk-in wardrobe off the bedroom which had ample hanging and drawer space.
The space was very well appointed, and the décor was a lovely mix of creams, greys and muted yellows. As a touch of Egypt, there were local throws and rugs scattered throughout the suite and Arabic style chandeliers and lamps, a nice touch. My suite, decadently, had its own private walled garden/courtyard area with two comfy sun loungers, an umbrella and a shaded dining table – perfect for a lazy lunch.
The Wi-Fi in the room (and the whole hotel) was complimentary and very quick. Technology was not the most up-to-date, however, there was an IPod docking station, a USB port and a DVD/CD player; as I said, nothing revolutionary so come prepared.
The entry-level Deluxe Suite is exactly the same specification as the Superior Suite, but the location differs in that the Superior Suites are situated on the beachfront (but without direct access – out the front door and across a pathway is the beach). The Deluxe Suites are set back on the second row and have a garden view. The Grand Suites are a larger again, and have a 6-meter private swimming pool. These suites can connect to a Deluxe Suite so make the perfect option for families.
The marble bathroom was open-plan and very spacious with a separate rain shower and a sunken bath as the focal point. One entire wall was a window, enabling me to look out onto my verdant private courtyard whilst bathing, something enjoyable which felt very luxurious. I almost ordered a glass of champagne to sip in the tub, but decided to wait till I got to the bar in the evening.
The vanity unit was the whole length of the wall, and a large mirror hung above it, with just one sink and plenty of space either side for all my personal bits and pieces. The lighting was excellent, and there was a make-up/shaving mirror in just the right spot. The hairdryer was powerful (a big plus when travelling in such a hot country), and the lovely fluffy white towels were plentiful.
In this case happy not to sample locally-made toiletries, I loved the Italian brand, Acqua di Portofino (60ml) amenities which were provided and replenished daily.
The dining scene at The Oberoi was extremely good. There was an abundance of choice for breakfast at The Restaurant, served poolside on the terrace with splendid views of the garden and the sea below. The chef got busy preparing my eggs, while he also whipped up orders for others including pancakes, waffles and crepes. My eggs Benedict, an indulgence when I travel, were cooked to perfection, which I enjoyed with fresh fruits and juice, as well as mixed berry jam and warm croissants which I savoured with some good, strong Arabic coffee.
Service was excellent, efficient but unrushed – I could have happily spent all morning right here relaxing poolside, returning periodically to dip into the buffet offerings. Satiated, however, I left and headed for the beach, eager to see what the Red Sea had to offer in terms of entertainment for the day.
But I returned in the evening to dine here too, where the à la carte offerings change daily. In the evening, as the restaurant has no roof, you can look above and see the stars as you dine, a quirky but lovely touch. I went for the deep-fried calamari and tenderloin stroganoff, and the portions were plentiful and delicious. I dared to try a local wine, a rosé from the Gianaclis vineyard named after Omar Khayyam, the great Persian poet, which was fresh and nice. Wondering why they couldn’t have named their wine after a famous Egyptian (there are so many, after all), I left content after a lovely evening’s meal.
Before dinner, I had stopped in at The Bar for a glass of bubbly, a perfect spot for a pre-dinner drink, where the bartender was very attentive and even offered me some magazines to skim through as I was on my own. He took my food order in the bar and then I was escorted to my table in the main dining room when my starter was ready – a smooth transition.
The following evening, an à la carte BBQ event was hosted which took place at the Pergola Restaurant (normally open for lunch only) next to the main swimming pool. A beautiful spot for dinner, the pool had been subtly lit with lanterns adding to the romance. It was a lavish affair, with numerous cooking stations – the mandatory grilled chicken, fish and steak was accompanied by a pasta station, a curry station, traditional Egyptian cuisine and a huge salad bar. Everything I sampled (most things) was perfectly cooked, fresh and extremely tasty which perfectly matched the ambience as diners were entertained by local Egyptian belly dancers.
The Zaafran Restaurant is open for dinner three times a week, but, unfortunately, wasn’t during my stay. A very stylish space with views over the courtyard, the menu offers a varied selection of fine Indian food, Oberoi style, accompanied by local or Oriental oud music.
Spa and wellness
The Oberoi Spa has four treatment rooms including one couples room and a steam room. For a relatively small spa, it offers a big choice of Ayurvedic, Asian and Egyptian inspired treatments and massages. I had a wonderful Balinese massage; my therapist was excellent and ironed out a few old injuries, aches and pains. The spa is not the most zen or luxurious I have ever visited, but the staff were extremely attentive and my massage could not be faulted. Local oils and products are used in the spa.
Hairdressing services are also available, and there is a small, but very well-equipped gym located within the area overlooking the main swimming pool, a welcome view when you are pounding the treadmill. The Life Fitness machines are up-to-date and varied, and you can visit the gym 24 hours a day.
Pilates and yoga are arranged during the week as part of the Touching Senses programme, and there is one tennis court too.
Pool and beach
The private beach at The Oberoi Sahl Hasheesh is 850 metres long, so finding the perfect spot was not difficult. I had the choice of my own parasol and windbreak, and the beach boy positioned my sun lounger directly in the sun – it was snowing back home, so I wanted to make the most of the wonderful 29 degrees and welcoming sea breezes. The beach service was attentive, and a tray of cold towels, bottles of water and, in case I had forgotten mine, sun lotion were provided as I settled in for the day. Water was replenished regularly, and deliveries of fruit and goodies appeared next to me every so often.
The hotel’s house reef can be accessed via the pier, or you can paddle out from the shore. It’s pretty rocky, so reef shoes are provided in your correct size. It would have been a crime not to snorkel or dive whilst here, so I made sure I took advantage of the complimentary snorkelling gear and explored the underwater life for an hour which was all it’s touted as being – memorable moments to savour. The PADI certified dive centre here can arrange dives for the experienced and beginners alike, so there’s something for all levels to enjoy.
Back on land, the stunning infinity pool is another aquatic option with great views out to sea. It’s impressive, with sections of differing depths and two whirlpools. I loved the fact it was heated during the winter months, and I spent a lot of my time here enjoying the super comfy, yellow and white striped sun loungers. Plenty of parasols were available for those wanting to escape the strong Egyptian rays, and pool service was super and slick.
Children of all ages are made extremely welcome at the hotel, where a dedicated kids’ club offers various activities including an outside play area, cartoons, mini bowling, face painting, cooking classes, paper art and Playstations. The club is open from 10am – 5pm daily, and available for children aged 5 – 12 years old.
Kids’ menus are available in the restaurants and accommodation-wise, you are spoilt for choice: the Superior and Deluxe Suites will accommodate two adults and two children comfortably (under 12s). For more space, the Royal Suites (one bedroom) can interconnect with a Deluxe Suite for larger families wanting more privacy and their own pool.
Note that there is no actual kid’s pool within the main pool area, but there are certainly more shallow areas where children can swim and play safely.
There were hardly any children staying when I visited, except for one tiny infant, and the staff were utterly charming, offering to help whilst the parents ate, keeping baby entertained and happy all along.
Staff and service
The staff, male and female, were immaculately turned out in their beige chinos and cream shirts, and the pool boys in their pristine white shorts and t-shirts looked every bit the part. Style aside, service was warm, intuitive and personal, offering a feeling of calm that flowed through the hotel.
As a woman travelling on my own, I was made to feel exceptionally comfortable and at ease everywhere I went – from the beach and pool to the bar and restaurant, day and night.
A large contingent of British guests were staying at the hotel in the month of March, along with Swiss, German and Arabs, some escaping the Western climes, others here on honeymoon and diving pursuits.
I was collected by buggy (along with my luggage) and driven back to reception to check out. En route, the beach, gardeners and housekeeping staff all stopped to ensure I was given a friendly wave goodbye. My actual check-out was seamless and completed in minutes; my luggage loaded into my Mercedes transfer, and I was bid a fond farewell while I secretly crossed my fingers in a silent wish to be back soon.
How to get here
25 minutes by road from Hurghada International Airport
102 suites and villas