Where can you find a luxury villa facing mile upon mile of shining sand and crystal clear turquoise water with guaranteed sunshine just a five-hour flight from the UK for much less than £1 million?
The answer is the Red Sea Riviera of Egypt. The shores of the Gulf of Suez near Hurghada - once a small fishing village and now the second-largest Egyptian city on this coast - were once almost boundless desert but are now dotted with resorts.
Three of these, El Gouna, Sahl Hasheesh and Soma Bay, stand out among the haphazard development begun some 25 years ago by the Egyptian government.
Picture a fairytale Arabian Nights landscape dotted with huge swathes of tropical plants Landscaping, blue lagoons, PGA golf courses and marinas, plus a huge choice of villas, apartments, hotels, sports facilities, opulent spas, chic cafes, shops and restaurants. Security is highly visible and stringently enforced.
North of Hurghada, El Gouna (meaning The Lagoon) was envisioned by Egyptian oil billionaire Samih Sawiris, chief executive of developer Orascom, and masterplanned by renowned Italian architect Alfredo Freda. The resort offers a curious synthesis of ancient and modern styles of architecture, from Moorish to bizarrely Italianate or coolly contemporary.
The predominant style of house is Nubian or Moorish, with vast domes and arched doorways leading to dusky interiors bejewelled with lanterns and colourful mosaics. Prices start at around $150,000 (£114,000) through Prime Living El Gouna.
El Gouna has six miles of Red Sea frontage and its 20 man-made islands are linked by canals, which has led to the area being dubbed Egypt's Venice. It is now a thriving international community with schools, a hospital and private airport.
Typical of the British buyers at El Gouna are John and Ann Broomfield, who wanted a holiday home where they could escape the UK winters, and stay for longer after reaching retirement. "The idea of buying in Egypt took a bit of getting used to but its closeness to the UK and the low cost of living convinced us it was the right decision," says John.
In 2004, the Broomfields bought at Soma Bay, with lateral glazed offering sea direct access, costs three-bedroom flat with a roof terrace off plan. They are in the process of upsizing to a new villa. "The international community at El Gouna has enabled us to make plenty of new friends and means we did not end up living in an exclusively British quarter," John adds. "With tremendous diving, golf courses and weather, we are never at a loss for something to do."
EasyJet flies directly but infrequently to Hurghada from London Gatwick; there are more flight options via Cairo, which is a one-hour flight away. And while the UK Government has yet to lift its ban on British flights to Sharm el-Sheikh's airport, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office says this warning applies only to air travel - it has no advice against travelling to Cairo, Alexandria, the tourist areas along the Nile or the Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada.
Sahl Hasheesh, 25 miles south-west of El Gouna, offers much the same mix of Mediterranean, Arabesque and contemporary homes for sale with villas available for $200,000 to $600,000. The Azzura scheme, one of eight neighbourhoods at the development, offers apartments from around $115,000, while at the Red Coral, entry prices tumble to just $75,000.
Further south down the shoreline is Soma Bay, the new kid on the coastal block, which has set itself up as an upmarket, kitsch-free destination where your credit card could take a hefty bashing.
Well-heeled Egyptians underpin the market for holiday homes at Soma Bay, but you will find plenty of other nationalities too. The site attracts corporate executives, semi-retired couples and sports fanatics with a hunger for healthy food and pristine waters; when it comes to scuba diving, Soma Bay is the superior resort.
Hotels range from a five-star Kempinski to the Breakers Diving Surfing Lodge and familyfriendly Robinson Club, but all have access to the same Gary Player golf academy and championship course.
Villas at Soma Bay are built to order and demand has shifted from the Nubian and Mediterranean style to low glass and concrete rectangles with vast open terraces that answer to the fashion for lateral living and inside-out spaces. Prices can be substantially higher than at the other two resorts but in Europe you'd be talking telephone numbers for a waterfront pad of this nature.
Original Post: Telegraph
Author: Andrea Marechal Watson