Stuck in Cairo doesn t mean you can t enjoy sun and water
CAIRO: So your air-conditioner has been on full power 24/7, your only weapon against the scorching heat. Give the poor thing a rest and avoid racking up a high electricity bill. Trek to a nearby swimming pool, drink a fresh fruit shake and forget that it’s 45 degrees in the streets of Cairo. Whether you’re a big spender or a cheapskate, choices range from high-end hotels to straightforward sports clubs.
In downtown Cairo, a convenient location for a swim is the Nile Hilton. Its inviting pool can be used by renting one of the cabanas for LE 282 on weekdays and LE 310 on weekends. Each of the 28 poolside cabanas includes a single bed, a TV, a mini bar and a bathroom.
With a crowd of foreigners and upscale Egyptians sunbathing under white canvass umbrellas and eating club sandwiches (LE 34) or overpriced ice cream (LE 13), the Hilton poolside is a tropical nook tucked behind Cairo’s busiest square. This means that despite the lush greenery, the traffic noise from Tahrir Square can’t be ignored. Not so crowded on weekdays except for mostly hotel guests, attendants give prompt service from the poolside bar. The menu offers a variety of sandwiches and grilled dishes (LE 30 to LE 88).
A slightly less expensive choice is the Marriot Hotel in Zamalek, available for day use at LE 111. Enclosed by tiers of brick platforms and potted plants in the middle of the Marriot’s garish maze-like gardens, the pool lies in a calm, private courtyard. The crowd is eclectic, ranging from Caucasian couples to veiled Arab women and their full-suited children. The rectangular pool runs a length of about 30 meters, one end of which is roofed and is adjacent to the gym and sauna, which can be used with the pool at LE 166. A café offers a large menu, serving up salads, soups, sandwiches, pasta and pizza (LE 20 to LE 45).
If you’re up for a 45-minute taxi ride to Giza, you can enjoy a warm day in the classy Mohamed Ali Club. Reminiscent of colonial days wherein English officers took their afternoon tea and read novels by the Nile, this Giza oasis is romantic and relaxing.
All for LE 40 (LE 25 for children), guests have access to the large two-level pool, a museum that houses art and artifacts from the khedive period and an exhibit featuring a collection of vintage cars. But the club’s main attraction is its location right by the Nile, in view of sailing feluccas and fishermen seeking an afternoon catch. Women can swim freely in string bikinis and lounge by the pool’s cascades without disapproving looks from Arab tourists and conservative locals. Amidst palm trees in a well-manicured lawn, guests can enjoy meals from a menu serving pasta, pizza, barbeques and burgers (LE 15 to LE 35).
If you’re on a tight budget and would rather exercise instead of sunbathe, you have a choice between the Olympic Club in Maadi (LE 20 entrance) or the Markaz El Shibaab in Sayda Zaynab (LE 15). Filled with Egyptian teens out on summer vacation, the 50-meter-sized pool in the Olympic Club on Maadi’s Arab Square is spacious, clean and ideal for laps. That is, if you don’t bump into energetic boys doing goofy gymnastics.
Safety-obsessed parents have nothing to worry about, as three lifeguards watch the pool like hawks and whistle at each sign of abnormal splashing. Bikini-wearers should beware though, as the crowd here is rather conservative. The only people in bikinis are children under 10 years old, and adult women wear full bathing suits and tights. Simple snacks like cookies, chips and sodas are available at a stand. Bad news for late workers: the pool is only open from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. On Friday it s open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 12 to 3:30pm.
Similar to the Olympic Club, the Markaz El Shibaab has a 50-meter pool divided into lanes, also good for laps. But anytime before 4 p.m. is not ideal, as swim team members use the pool for training. Parents hang out by the plastic tables, chatting away as their sons perfect their freestyle form. Tucked in the alleys of Sayeda Zeinab on Zeinhoum Street, the Markaz El Shibaab is a simple, quiet place easily accessible from Downtown. A snack stand also offers simple refreshments. Good news for late workers: The pool is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Other swimming pools in Cairo available for day use are located in: Novotel Cairo Airport on Salah Salem Highway (LE 65 including lunch); Sheraton Cairo Hotel in Dokki (LE 185 for pool use only); Oasis Hotel on the Cairo Alexandria desert road (LE 210 including room use): Sheraton Royal Gardens on Abu Hazem St., El Haram Rd. (LE 300 including room use) and Pyramisa on Giza St. (LE 280 including room use).