We head out to the New Administrative Capital to catch a glimpse of Egypt's future at the first fully-functional resort in the brand new city, AlMasa Capital.
Located 45 kilometers east of Cairo, between the Cairo-Suez and Cairo-Ain Sokhna roads, a fully fledged city is rising from the ground. The New Administrative Capital is an ambitious project; its official goal is to offer Egyptians a better quality of life and relieve congestion from Cairo, our ageing capital that's forecasted to reach 40 million inhabitants by 2050.
If everything goes according to plan, the momentous project will be finalised in 12 years, but part of the New Capital is already alive and kicking thanks to AlMasa Capital Hotel and Resort complex, which has been completed in just under 15 months. Naturally, when we were invited to check it out, we quickly packed our bags and headed East for a glimpse into Egypt's future.
The Convention Center
At first, we were a bit anxious as everything around us was just desert. 'What will the future look like,' we thought? But then, on the horizon, signs of life finally began to appear. Like many compounds in Egypt, one needs to pass by a small security gate to enter the premises. Once inside, a whole new world opened up in front of our eyes. This was no ordinary compound but a huge complex that houses an impressive Club House, an Andalusian-inspired outdoor shopping centre, a traditional Middle Eastern Al Khan Souk, a state-of-the-art theatre, a cinema, and even a lake - yes, a lake! But first stop: the ELMASA Royal Palace hotel. We were directly greeted with warmth by what seemed like the entire staff. The hotel is expansive: 270 rooms, 90 private suites, seven rooms to accommodate people with special needs, ten royal suites, 42 AlMasa suites, 32 Businessmen suites, six Capital suites and 60 hotel apartments. The facilities include a business room, sweeping ballrooms, a few conference rooms, a spa and, a gym, among other standard amenities.
The overall design is grandiose, aiming to blend an architecture of the future with a soul of a royal past; the marble floors, high ceilings, overweight chandeliers, glass windows in the form of arches made us feel like we were in a palace. The rooms we checked in to were spacious and cozy, equipped with everything you'd need in a home away from home: a comfortable bed, LED screen, desk, a small balcony, closet, mini bar and safe. The bathroom, though, was our favourite feature, housing both a powerful shower and a luxurious bathtub.
The Hotel Room
We were then driven around the complex on golf carts, stopping almost every couple of minutes to make a new discovery. Two buildings especially stood out. The first was the Convention Centre, which is set to become the largest one in the region - 42,000 square metres to be exact. This is where important decisions will be made and important guests will be received. Inside, the Summit Hall, designed to host international conferences and summits, shines brightest with its domed ceilings and marble-clad floors. We then walked on marble floors accompanied by grand columns before reaching the impressive Teatro. Capable of hosting up to 1752 spectators,this breathtaking auditorium is ideally suited for musicals, plays and ballet
The Summit Hall
The other building that struck us was a crystal-shaped black building that glows at night. We couldn’t visit it (it isn’t finished yet) but we were automatically drawn by its peculiar design. The diamond will serve as AlMasa Capital’s gastronomical hub; its three-floors of tinted glass promises outstanding culinary experiences; a lavish tea lounge, fusion cuisine and a sophisticated revolving steakhouse. At night, this architectural marvel truly shines bright like a diamond.
The Famous Crystal Ball
Although we would have liked to the opportunity to have the unique experience of eating inside a crystal ball, our tongues were still treated to a delicious lunch not far away courtesy of La Sponda; a fancy Italian restaurant who proposed a refined choice between pepper steak or salmon marinated in lemon butter. To relax after the meal, we were taken to the Trio Clubhouse, which truly is the capital's pamper paradise. A spa and gym much bigger than the one in the hotel, Turkish baths, saunas, a Jacuzzi and even slimming rooms can be found inside. But that’s not it... There is a shooting room for gun practice, a billiard room and even a cigar can be enjoyed in a specially designated lounge to cap off a very long day. A kid’s area filled with toys and cool nostalgia, like bumper cars, rounded off the visit of the establishment.
The Shooting Hall
At night, we were taken to an Arabesque café cushioned in a passage that wouldn’t look out of place in Khan el Khalili. All of a sudden, we were transposed to the old times of Egypt. Gazing at the Islamic architecture and wooden arabesque design, Um Kalthum suddenly made an appearance in the background. For one second, our journey there made us forget that we were in Egypt, but as soon as the imperious voice of the Lady of the Nile serenaded our ears, we were reminded where we were; and what a reassuring feeling it was to know that our future will still hold the soul of our past.