I first reviewed Fort Arabesque (in Makadi Bay, Red Sea, Hurghada) a couple of years ago. I’d been twice then; I’ve been five times now. It’s challenging Prestatyn as my most visited resort! It used to be our February destination, but it’s now our must go to place for November. The appeal is winter sun and for many Europeans, the affordable choices are either The Red Sea or the Canary Islands. So, what keeps calling us back to this area and this hotel?
First, the beach is excellent and the opportunities for snorkelling are simply astounding. The range of fish and coral directly reachable, just by walking twenty yards off the sand, are pretty much unrivalled anywhere in the world. For the less confident swimmer who would not like jumping into the beautiful briny off boats, this accessibility is the big selling point. There are over twenty mini reefs in depths ranging from six to thirty feet. If you swim out beyond that you get into the deeper water of the bay proper, I’ve never done that though there are boat trips out there. I’ve filmed a new video (including underwater footage) for this blog. For me, no description can capture the heavenly feeling of swimming among shoals of beautiful fish, in gorgeous, warm water. The video is the nearest I can get to it.
Please, please take note of the plentiful warnings about protecting the coral and respecting the fish. Some of the coral in the shallowest sections show signs of damage. It makes me angry when I see people feeding the fish or touching the coral. There’s no need.
I don’t know what official ‘rating’ Fort Arabesque has as a hotel. If you look on various review sites it gets around four stars and that’s probably fair. There are standard rooms, sea view rooms and upmarket villas with a range of prices and associated features. The hotel has some faults, it’s not perfect; but for the money it’s brilliant! If you want criticisms then, as usual, there’s always a problem with buffet food in that you may get a tepid dish. However, at a large buffet there’s plenty of choice, so you can avoid that problem at Fort Arabesque. There are also ‘stations’ where dishes are being cooked fresh, right under your nose, so they’re hot. The hotel has two other good restaurants (for a small extra fee) and the Beach Bar does a BBQ night. There can be issues with loud music from the pool area during the day and one of the bars at night. That said, I did have a word at reception and we heard very little after that so, fair play to the hotel.
Fort Arabesque is big; but it doesn’t feel crowded. The grounds are charming, spacious, and it’s a pleasure to go for a stroll as I do several times a day. There’s a little bar at the end of the beach where I go every afternoon around four, just for a couple of beers. It’s quiet, low key… see the picture in the video!
It has six bars and four restaurants, so there’s quite a bit of variation to be had in the evenings. The staff are excellent. When I returned last time, a few of them recognised us and came over to say welcome and shake hands. This isn’t hotel policy or anything, they’re just nice people! Which is probably why the hotel has such a friendly vibe. And on that point, we should all be happy to tip staff for good quality service. The polite, multi-lingual waiters, bar staff, reception desk people, cleaners and porters are worth it in my view.
The reviews on TripAdvisor tell a fair story of the ins and outs of Fort Arabesque. There are critical ones, but the overall balance is rightfully very positive.
There’s nothing in Makadi Bay except, well, Makadi Bay. I’ve walked round it a few times and can confidently claim Fort Arabesque’s beach is the best. I’ve no idea why it’s only 23rd of 38 hotels in the bay according to TripAdvisor. Guests from other hotels can be easily spotted sneaking onto the Fort’s beach! There’s nothing beyond the bay but desert. A day trip to Luxor by private car is a long one, and a bit pricey, but quite brilliant. The drive itself is an eye opener into the landscape and the people. The Valley of the Kings, the Nile, the Karnak Temples are truly iconic and essential, posing material at dinner parties. It’s really worth going with a private operator as you avoid the crowds and have a personal guide to hand.
I don’t see myself as being unduly courageous but when you tell some people, you’re going to Egypt, they gasp and look upon you as if you were going to fight in the Colosseum. The threat of terrorism exists across our world, in the UK as much as it does in Red Sea resorts. There’s no need to give the terrorists more publicity here by recapping their crimes. If it helps, the fact is that security at Hurghada airport is very tight, indeed absurdly so. I was stopped/checked/searched a total of six times on departure and, importantly, from the jetway, I noticed baggage handlers being searched by security staff. Manchester airport has been assisting them on their set up. Most of Egypt is as safe as anywhere else (statistically safer than London and Manchester). Yes, the fear is there, but it’s everywhere, and the choice to give in to it is ours.
Accommodation-wise, until our last visit (November 2021) we had always stayed in the East Wing, and it’s fine. Given the several disappointments of lock downs, we decided to go in the villas this time. They cost twice the price so, are they worth it? Firstly, the rooms are twice the size (ish), the bathrooms are very large, and I’d say the standard of furnishing is better. The outdoor seating and sunbathing space is very pleasant; but we’re beach types. The swim up pool is really great fun, which was a surprise, as we thought that would be fairly pointless. It’s really lovely to have a quick dip when you get home after an evening out and about. There’s more stuff in the fridge, and a decent range of hot drink possibilities. I think the biggest plus was that the villas are much, much quieter than the main areas of the hotel. The easy access to the superior Pavilion restaurant and Club 159 for eating is another bonus. They serve better food than the buffets, though we ate lunch in those every day, and they were good as usual. Of course, you can use these better eateries places for a surcharge.
Is it worth paying twice as much for a villa? For my wife and I, the big appeal is the sea and the beach and having a villa doesn’t alter that much. You are guaranteed a sunbed without having to shoot down at 6.30 am to sling a towel on one, of course. [This is a recent and irritating turn of events in my view]. I’d say that, as long as you can afford it, it is worth going in a villa. The better experience just about, and only just about, makes it worthwhile. The winning factor for me was the quietness. We were on the ground level and still couldn’t hear Club 159 in the evening.
I’ve been five times, so I guess my view on this is obvious. I’ll go again too!
Should I go?
We booked the hotel via Booking.com (I think) but we’ve booked direct in the past; there are quite a few options on that. Our flights were originally from Manchester with Thomas Cook. Of course, they went into receivership. Consequently, we booked more flights with EasyJet via Gatwick. More expense, but we drove down there and avoided the hefty return taxi price to Manchester and back, so it wasn’t a lot different (and the EasyJet flights were cheaper).
More advice? Get up early and be out for 7.30 am, because a) you get the better beds on the beach and, b) the snorkelling is better because water is clearer as there’s fewer people around. The pizza and pasta served up at lunch near the main pool is very good, give it a try. Some rooms are better than others. Obviously, a sea view is one thing and the private villas are nicer. Additionally, some rooms have been renovated and some not. The renovated ones are very nicely kitted out. There’s nothing wrong with the older ones and they might be in a better position. When you are booked in on arrival ask to see more than one room if you can. If you don’t like your room for some reason, go and ask at reception. They will move you if it’s possible for them to do so. Finally, if you’ve got a problem, politely bring it up with the reception desk staff. Don’t just get angry and write a bad review on TripAdvisor. If you tell them the problem, they will try to sort it out. They can’t do that if you don’t tell them. It’s not a complaint; it’s feedback.
One more thing. Again, if you go, please, please treat the coral and fish with respect. xx
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