As amazing as all those Egyptian temples, gods, kings, queens, pharaohs, and hieroglyphics were, my brain was about to explode from all the information it had received and tried to process over the prior week. (Didn’t our guides know our brains retired a few years ago when we left the computer programming world?!) It was time for some relaxation.
For our second week in Egypt, I had chosen a resort on the Red Sea at which we would do nothing but chill. Specifically, I had chosen the Radisson Blu Resort in El Quseir, and for good reason. Not only was it a hotel we could book on points, it was priced in the lowest Club Carlson redemption tier at just 9,000 points per night. (FYI – All the chain hotels in Egypt are priced super low right now since American tourism has not bounced back as of yet.)
The kicker, though, was that I booked this hotel last June, just before Club Carlson did away with their credit card benefit that gave you a free night for every award booking you made. So I booked a night in my name (Bonus! Free night!), a night in Elliott’s name (Bonus! Free night!), a night in my name (Bonus! Free night!), well… you get the idea. We had eight nights four the price of four.
To get to our hotel, our driver drove us about four hours from Luxor – really far north, and then really far south along the Red Sea. Ironically, El Quseir is almost due east from Luxor. It was a fun drive though – we even passed additional temples on our way, and Elliott made me promise we can visit them on our next trip to Egypt. We drove through lots of desert, but it wasn’t nearly as empty as we expected. Bedouins set up tents and dig for treasure, our driver told us, and they often find enough to make it worth their while, despite the government’s laws against such practices.
Arriving at our resort was like finding a beautiful oasis in the desert – or was it exactly that? From the double-arched entranceway to the palm trees and brightly colored flowers, from the high domes to the seats with soft pillows to the beaded “curtains” in front of the windows in the lobby, from the lagoons and pools and ocean views to the pastel-colored buildings outside, there was nothing short of fabulous to look at.
At check-in we were presented with more happy news. Due to our status, we would be upgraded to a sea-view room. And an even better surprise: Due to a website glitch, we were to be given half-board during our stay, which meant daily free breakfast and dinner instead of just the free breakfast we were expecting.
An employee showed us to our room and we were thrilled as we walked.
The upgraded room was almost as thrilling; it had large tile floors, arched entrance ways between rooms, and a huge bathroom with a big walk-in shower. In addition to the typical bed and nightstands, we had a nice sized desk, cabinet with a fridge and coffee table. We had a big pretty wardrobe and even a little sitting area outside the bathroom with a bench and full-length mirror. I could tell we’d be very happy here for the next eight nights. (At some point that afternoon, I figured out that our cost for the Club Carlson points we’d spent on this resort was $180. At $180 for eight nights in a gorgeous resort, including breakfast and dinner every day, this would be one of our best points redemptions ever!!)
Elliott was prepared to join me out by the pool or beach as soon as we were unpacked, but we were both so drained from the previous week that we didn’t even feel like dealing with the effort of slathering our bodies in sunscreen! The air cool conditioning in our room felt so good after the extreme heat of Aswan and Luxor that we just sat and relaxed for a few hours inside. We went outside that evening and walked along the pools, lagoon and several beaches. We could see the huge coral reef coming right up to the water’s edge at many points, and were glad to see there was also a long pier at the end of which one could jump off to swim. It had cooled off much more than I expected as soon as the sun set, and we couldn’t wade far due to the coral, but we still got in the shallow water and got wet just for fun.
The next day we were rejuvenated and ready for anything. There was a dive shop on the beach where you could rent gear, in expensive Euros as opposed to cheap Egyptian Pounds. We had investigated it the prior evening and were very cranky we had forgotten to bring our own gear from home. So we went out to the end of the pier, thinking we’d go for a swim and “check things out” before deciding what to rent and for how long. There was an employee stationed there, and he offered us a snorkel and mask. We gladly accepted, grateful and not knowing exactly what was going on. A little while after seeing us so excitedly use that set, he pulled out another set and gave it to us.
What an amazing afternoon! Snorkeling is one of our favorite activities, and this site was no disappointment. Unfortunately we didn’t have our underwater camera since we hadn’t planned to snorkel, but I’ll never forget what we saw. In addition to a great variety of colorful fish and reef structures, we were treated to a couple special sights. I first found a brown octopus with dark spots. This was the first time I’d ever seen an octopus for more than a split second, and of this size. It kept slowly coming out of its hiding spot, and then when I’d get closer it would slowly go back in. I made sure Elliott saw it too, despite the fact that we were in very shallow water over the reef and the employee was motioning us to go deeper again.
Next we found a beautiful ray on the ocean floor that had royal blue dots on its back. It was completely relaxed, so we just hung out and watched for a while. And later on we saw royal blue lionfish! Yup, no joke, they exist in blue – check it on the internet if you don’t believe me. What a day to not have that camera….
Our eight days was not exciting, but oh so good for our minds, souls and bodies. Instead of pigging out at the oh-so-tempting buffets every day, we both tried to take the opportunity to engage in eating some of the healthier foods that were prepared for us. We went to the hotel gym every day as well, and tried new and *tough* work-outs together from pages of our Shape and Men’s Health magazines. Every afternoon we’d swim in the pool and/or do yoga on one of the beaches. And then of course there was the snorkeling.
And then of course there was the snorkeling.
All of this healthy eating and exercise was interspersed around sleeping in, reading, writing, stitching, poolside naps, and general relaxing. Not to mention a larger-than-life-size chess match.
Let’s just say we had indulged enough the several weeks before this one, and so this healthy yet relaxing vacation was exactly what our bodies needed.
We didn’t leave the resort except to go for a walk “into town” one morning after breakfast. El Quseir is a small, quiet place, but we still felt we should get off resort property and see some of it. The heat had subsided a little and there were some breezes blowing about; we figured we wouldn’t have a better opportunity. We walked along the one main road until we came to what looked like the center of this small desert town, and then we explored some of the side roads. There wasn’t too much going on, so we simply took it all in – the produce stands, the people and their dress, the buildings and the language.
And the thing that stood out most to me, was simply the endless desert, butting up against that beautiful blue water in the Red Sea!