Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria: Seaside seclusion on Egyptian shores

The luxury five-star hotel has been around for over a decade. (Supplied)
Updated 07 October 2019

Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria: Seaside seclusion on Egyptian shores

  • We test out the new beachfront suites at Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria at San Stefano

CAIRO: Many a property development commercial has used the cliched statement of offering “city within a city” living, but at the new beachfront accommodation at the Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria at San Stefano, this statement couldn’t ring truer.

The luxury five-star hotel has been around for over a decade, and the building is considered something of an iconic landmark in the Egyptian port city. And when it comes to service and hospitality, it remains unrivalled — just ask any seasoned traveller to Alexandria. Reviews across the broad spectrum of hotel sites online also back this up.

Over the years, the property has acquired a loyal fanbase of local ‘staycationers,’ Egyptians living abroad, and GCC and Western visitors. The sea-view rooms are a big draw, while the private beach is the only one in the city that’s on par with international seaside resorts. Some of the best beaches in Alexandria are on the North Coast, but they are at least an hour’s drive — possibly two — away from the main city, and difficult to get to if you’re not with family or friends who know the area.

Over the years, the property has acquired a loyal fanbase of local ‘staycationers.’ (Supplied)

But who needs the North Coast, really? With its new accommodation offering, we have a feeling that the Four Seasons’ fanbase will only get bigger.

Earlier this year, the hotel launched 16 beach suites in a new extension. In fact, a complete revamp of the private beach area has taken place. Gone is the old seafood restaurant (imaginatively named ‘Fish’), replaced by a new eatery, called (equally creatively) Beach Restaurant and Lounge. An infinity pool has been added — a seawater pool located directly on the beach and overlooking the Mediterranean — with private cabanas. Kids get their own pool as well, plus a new larger play area.

But it’s the rooms that are the main attraction of this overhaul. With its own beachside area for check-in — separate from the main reception in the hotel across the road — we were quickly transported to our suite on a golf cart, and at the very moment we arrived it felt like we were no longer in Alexandria. The incessant traffic noise was replaced by the calming sounds of the sea’s waves. The chaotic streets replaced by views of greenery and well-maintained flowers. Each beach suite has a mini garden, tended by a dedicated team of gardeners.

Earlier this year, the hotel launched 16 beach suites in a new extension. (Supplied)

Available in either one-bedroom or two-bedroom, The beach suites — available with one- or two-bedrooms — feature a living room with sofa bed, widescreen TV, minibar, and Nespresso machine, plus a double bedroom (or two) and two bathrooms. Some nice add-ons are included, such as flip-flops in addition to the usual slippers.

All rooms open directly to the beach, giving you the option to either enjoy the sea, or lounge around in the garden (there are loungers and a table with chairs outside). There’s not much else you’ll need, really. In fact, during our stay we did not bother walking to the main property, despite the fact we could use all of its offerings too, including the spa, gym and additional outdoor pool.

Each beach suite has a mini garden, tended by a dedicated team of gardeners. (Supplied)

We also had the option to visit the main hotel for food. If you reserve a beach suite with breakfast, then you can have your morning meal by the beach at, er, Beach, or at the all-day dining restaurant, Kala. While Kala offers a breakfast buffet — and a very good one at that — we couldn’t resist the fresh air. The only drawback to Beach Restaurant’s breakfast is that it’s a set menu, and they don’t seem to take into account the number of people dining. For example, there were two of us, yet they brought us easily enough food for four. The next day, now knowing what to expect, we indicated what we wanted off the menu and asked them to halve the portions.

In case you aren’t aware, hotels in many countries are not allowed, by law, to donate food, so anything left over — even if you haven’t touched it — goes into the wastebin. Thankfully, the staff were able to pack our leftovers to go, but we think they should advise guests of the amount of food so they can decide for themselves how much to order. Sure, it’s ‘free’ and part of the package, but it’s still food.

Breakfast blunder aside, our stay was relaxing and enjoyable, and definitely one that we’d like to repeat in the future. Go ahead, treat yourself.

‘Hamilton’ makes a successful transition to the big screen

Updated 04 July 2020

‘Hamilton’ makes a successful transition to the big screen

CHENNAI: Cinema sometimes looks to go back to its roots. Some years ago, European auteurs like Lars Von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg and others introduced “Dogme 95” as a new form of moviemaking, which meant using no props, no artificial lighting and no makeup. It did not last long. However, Thomas Kail’s “Hamilton” — released to coincide with the Fourth of July and streaming on Disney Plus — is another experiment that reminded me of the very early days of motion pictures when some directors in India captured a stage play with a static camera and then screened it in remote regions, where it was not feasible to cart the entire cast.

Kail used six cameras to shoot what was originally a theatrical production. Over two nights in 2016, he filmed the play with most of the actors, including Tony Award winners, who were in the stage version. Every attempt has been made to make it look cinematic, with impeccable camerawork and editing. There is a bonus here. The movie enables you to be a front-bencher at Richard Rogers’ stage production. This closeness that allows you to see clearly the expressions of the actors establishes an intimacy between the audience and the cast.

Inspired by Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton, the 160-minute show makes a fabulous musical. The release of the film with its intentionally diverse cast comes at a critical time when race relations in the USA have hit the rock bottom. When Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr) sings that he wants to be in “the room where it happens”, the lyrics are sung by a black man.

Alexander Hamilton (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, also the creator of the piece) is the least well known of the American founding fathers. An immigrant and orphan, he was George Washington’s right-hand man. Credited as being responsible for setting up the country’s banking system, Hamilton was killed in a duel by Burr.

The musical is inspired by Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton. Courtesy of Disney

The story is narrated through hip-hop beats. Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) sings his speech to Congression, and the debates he has with Alexander Hamilton are verbalized through lyrics. Hamilton also has a lot to say about America’s immigrant past. In one scene French aristocrat Marquis de Lafayette tells Alexander, “Immigrants, we get the job done!”

Performances are top notch. Miranda is superb, and evokes an immediate connection between the film and the viewer. King George III is brilliantly portrayed by Jonathan Groff, and Hamilton’s wife, Eliza (Philippa Soo), is an endearing presence who has a calming effect on her often ruffled and troubled husband.

“Hamilton” is a great, if subjective, account of early American political history for those not familiar with that period. It must be said, however, the musical makes a long movie, which might be a trifle tiring for those not used to this format.