Oases in Cairo

This week, the temp ramped it up and the aircon died, so it was time to road-test two places to swim in (or near) Cairo. The first, the Atlas Zamalek Hotel has a rooftop pool that the Lonely Planet says is usually empty. Which of course made us deeply sceptical as once it’s in that guidebook, nothing’s ever the same – to travellers’ annoyance and owners’ delight. However, they were right. We were the only people there on a weekday afternoon. The LE40 ($9) charge lets you swim and order from the café. So we swam in the cool water and ordered salads and burgers, fresh strawberry juice and club sandwiches. The water wasn’t so clean, so I’d say no to opening my eyes underwater. But when it’s this hot…

The hotel wins bonus points as we were two girls in bikinis (yes we had sarongs to cover up when walking around), and the marked absence of perving from the charming middle-aged waiters was downright refreshing.

The second place was the Sakkara Palm Club (in the pic) just up the road from the ancient pyramids of Sakkara. Entrance is either LE65 to swim only or LE95 including a buffet lunch. Cool music from the DJ, large pools with little palm islands and *gasp* a swim-up bar! We spotted some bad, bad girls on the submerged bar stools snogging dodgy looking men. But apart from that, the crowd was a mix of locals larging it up and lots of foreigners in packs. The pool attendants were constantly combing the water to keep it clear, and stopped anyone from the worst excesses, such as taking plates of watermelon on the pool (hey, I agree, no food in the pool. Who wants to swim alongside soggy tomato slices?) but indulged us by bringing an ashtray so our nicotine-dependent friend could smoke in the shallows. Ah Egypt. Lovely, lovely Egypt.

Details: the Atlas Zamalek Hotel, 20 Gameat El Dewal El Arabeya St. Mohandiseen, 02 3346 6569
Sakkara Palm Club, Marioutiya Canal Road Tel: 02 33819 1775

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