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Watch out for the bunkers!
11:36am Wednesday 5th May 2010 in Wiltshire Golf Magazine
Can’t afford a golfing break and a family holiday?
Why not combine the two? PAULA FENTIMAN visits an upmarket resort in the middle of the Egyptian desert.
From the clubhouse of the new Championship-standard Madinat Makadi golf course, I looked across a stunning landscape of green fairways and lakes linked by connecting waterfalls to the exotic beaches of the Red Sea beyond.
Built on barren stretches of the desert outside Hurghada just 11 years ago, the Egyptians planned the ultimate relaxation resort of Madinat Makadi with such precision that some visitors never go outside its boundaries for the length of their stay.
Spice Girl Mel B chose this location for a lavish party to celebrate the renewal of her wedding vows last year.
Possibly she liked the luxurious hotel suites the size of a flat, complete with a pool on the balcony, or perhaps the magnificent landscaped gardens which surround each hotel and provide the perfect backdrop for a portfolio of celebrity pictures.
Or maybe she, like countless other celebrities, is partial to a round or two and went for the golf.
There are luxury spas, brilliant kids' clubs, fascinating souks and vibrant nightlife, making it the ideal break for the golfer who wants to take the family in tow, but one of its greatest attractions is a purely natural one – the hypnotic power of breezes coming in across the Red Sea on even the hottest days of summer.
While you will often swelter in airless Cairo or Luxor, you are usually gently fanned in these parts. And you will settle happily for an outside table in one of the many restaurants that offer tasty samples of traditional mezze and a fantastic choice of lamb dishes.
On pristine beaches, neat lines of sun-loungers make this quiet, man-made resort the ideal place to curl up with a book. Sporty types who tire of the fairways can switch to snorkelling and diving among the coral.
Last November, the impressive five-star Jaz Makadi Golf Hotel was added to this scene of perfection, nestled in the heart of the course with pool, restaurant, bar and spa.
For all its luxury, the Red Sea coast is essentially a 21st-century creation, and most visitors balance it with glimpses of the ancient world depicted in history lessons. Many visitors prefer ancient history for starters, and the Red Sea afterwards.
Flying into Hurghada, we went in the opposite direction.
A three-hour coach drive took us across the desert and then between steepling mountain ranges on either side.
Among the tombs and temples of Luxor, I wanted to see why people have been fascinated by the likes of Cleopatra and Tutankhamun for more than 3,000 years. Built on the site of the ancient city of Thebes, the city contains enough treasures at the vast Karnak and Luxor temple complexes to quench a cultural thirst.
As the locals mention at every opportunity, the sun shines all the time and rain falls only about one day a year. We found temperatures of 21-24C cool by local standards, just about right for exploring the sights and sounds of the city.
As well as enjoying the love stories of rulers such as Ramses II and Queen Nefertari, my curiosity for the macabre meant I was also naturally keen to explore the Egyptians’ fascination with death.
They buried their Pharaohs in hidden tunnels, caves and tombs in the Valleys of the Kings and Queens on the west bank of the Nile.
It’s a treasure-trove of mummies – including the most famous of all, Tutankhamun – and is a constantly evolving site as the hunt for missing graves continues.
The stand-out moment for me was seeing the face of Tutankhamun lying in the place he was buried more than 3,000 years ago.
While not the largest or most impressive burial chamber on offer, it was worth every penny to walk through the unassuming entrance and down the flight of stairs to see – in a glass case — the mummified body of a king in power in the 1300s BC who died before reaching the age of 20.
All this culture is set on the banks of the majestic Nile where queues of cruise liners dominate the Luxor stretch of river.
Our base, the Iberotel Luxor, was perfectly positioned to enjoy the spectacle. We could walk straight out of the grounds and on to a felucca (a traditional wooden sail boat) for a trip along the river.