The flight from Cairo to Sharm El Sheik takes an hour. I check into the Ritz Carlton, and then dress for the Bedouin Feast being held in my honor. We are transported into the desert by bus; dozens of lanterns light the night; a starlight sky welcomes our arrival; whole lambs are roasting on spits; several round tables have been set near a small raised stage; belly dancers and dancing horses entertain us ; a twenty five foot long buffet is laden with middle eastern delicacies; a server piles my selections on a plate; When dinner and the show are over, I move to an area in front of a roaring bon fire; the sand is covered with Egyptian rugs and pillows; I am handed an apple pipe to smoke; there is no other moment or place in time, just the black expanse of endless desert
The next morning, I enter the spa at the Ritz Carlton in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt through glass doors that face the Red Sea. Arab women are on the treadmills, their heads wrapped in scarves, their faces veiled in black with only slits for their eyes, not your usual gym attire and quite an unexpected sight. Islam, a masseur at the spa greets me with the warmest expression “my sun is happy to see you”. He tells me: “I take power from people with power, and give my power when I feel it is needed”. We book some treatments; then sit down to chat. Islam shares some intriguing health remedies and anti-aging secrets: “in ancient times, Nubians who lived in Aswan along the Nile, rubbed coffee grinds into their temples and forehead; the caffeine relieved headaches and sinus infections”. The spa has reinvented this healing treatment, using coffee grinds to exfoliate the skin, eliminate dead cells, stimulate the growth of healthy new cells, and help eliminate cellulite.
I follow Spa Director Hamiad Zakara into a treatment room, and watch him mix freshly ground ginger and nutmeg; he has created a unique reflexology treatment that releases blocked energy. Hamiad pushes the concoction into the soles of my feet, massaging them in a circle to heat my organs and activate my pressure points. I feel a surge of energy as he kneads the bottom of my feet with strong probing hands. I move onto a massage table to have my body exfoliated with a thick paste made from coffee grinds and water; I am then wrapped in plastic and a thermal blanket. In less than 10 minutes the caffeine begins to seep into my pores, stimulating my nervous system into an exhilarated state almost like an electrical current,
Later that afternoon I make my way to the beach where a cement bath tub, recessed in the sand, facing the Red Sea, is waiting to receive my body.
A therapist wraps me in a white linen sheet and helps me climb in. Heated sand is then piled up to my neck, and I am left to detoxify during which time I drift in and out of reality; I feel my head being massaged from behind with warm oil. I am given broth to sip; then climb out and cross the sand to an Arabian tent, strewn with Persian carpets; the hands of an Egyptian God massage my naked body with sacred blue lotus oil. I stare out at the water, believing Ramses IV will emerge from the sea to claim me as his queen