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Discovering El Gouna through Hoda Samaya’s Eyes


Club House, Downtown, El Gouna

For years, courtesy of Amr Mansi's El Gouna Open, we’ve been coming to El Gouna, Marina side.

We have looked at every window of the Marina, walked all the little streets, admired the boats, had a great time at Moods, the fantastic restaurant/beach that has been supporting El Gouna Squash Open from the word go, situated at the rear end of the Marina.

Moods is THE PLACE to be when you are following the squash event, it’s seconds from the glasscourt, and they are serving food from very early to very late!

But something different this year. As you know, we had a brand new superb Squash Centre, which is also equipped with a lovely little bar.

And at the bar, a great team of charming girls – efficient and beautiful – led by Hoda Samaya.

JUST ASK FOR THE CLUB HOUSE
Hoda was all day long making sure we - Steve and myself – comfortable and tea-hydrated. When you have 4 matches at a time, for 8 sessions, day after day, you sort of need a little caffeine pick up and TLC! Hoda provided us with both for the whole duration….

When I asked her what she was doing when not running the Squash Centre bar, she smiled and invited us to visit her at her restaurant. “Just tell the TukTuk driver to take you to the “Club House”, everybody knows us”.

MOODS NUMBER ONE

Over the years, we have been spoiled at Moods  really, but this year, we had a running joke with Ziad, one of the head waiters, who noticed that I was NUMBER ONE on the list, Steve Cubs being number 2.

Believe me, Steve heard about it every single time we went to have a meal, and that’s a lot!

HEADING FOR DOWNTOWN

We finally managed to get there on the finals day – the hectic schedule had really kept us busy up to then – and off we went with a tuktuk to DownTown Gouna.

DownTown is on the other side of Gouna, and is in fact the oldest part, and the Club House is actually the oldest restaurant in town.

Doesn’t look old mind, it looks.. stunning, welcoming, family orientated, lovely food, nice pool, nice beach, and busy.. very very popular with an eclectic crowd…

INCREDIBLY CAMERA SHY
 

First thing we tried to do was to logically take a picture of Hoda in front of her restaurant. Oh. My. That didn’t go as planned. At all. Neither Steve nor me ever saw somebody as camera shy as this lovely lady.

Basically, we just didn’t got one really interesting photo! Bless her. Thank Heaven, she had had a photo session early this year, and the photos were great.

But if Hoda doesn’t enjoy photo sessions, she is extremely easy to talk to, and she knows so much about the region, its history. So she started talking, and I started learning.

ABOUT DOWNTOWN

“Originally”, she starts “when it was conceived in 1993/1994, this part of Downtown was meant to be staff housing for the workers of the new hotels of Gouna. But went into a more original design when Orascom – El Gouna Squash Open main sponsor – commissioned architects from the school of Egyptian Architect Hassan Fathy to get involved with the design. All the buildings are with domes and very original, not one building looks like the next one, and this area won an architectural award 1997.”

HOW DID SHE GET INVOLVED

Born in the US from Egyptian Parents, she came back in the 80’s, and went to Cairo British School.

Then she got a Masters a in Cultural Anthropology, and was planning her PHD in Ethnography, as one does.

On a Friday of November 1993, her dad asked her “want to go shopping?” They arrived on that deserted place in El Gouna, and her dad bought a few plots, made the deal on the back of a truck..

Cut to 1998, Hoda got tired of Cairo, resigned from USAid, as disappointed with the Development field.

“I had no plans at all, I thought of not doing anything for a few months. So I went to Gouna, for the weekend and never left. That was 19 years ago…

“Then Italian friends of ours had opened a diving school, and they wanted a manager to take care of the restaurant – they wanted a local they could trust also with the legal side of things. So I started to work part time, I didn’t want to commit; But little by little got more involved, and bought more shares until eventually I took over the restaurant side of the business.”

A few years later, she married a diving instructor fitness guru, mountain trekking, and then separated a few years ago. “I have two lovely kids with him, we have a great relationship, he lives just across the street from my house, and every morning, we just say hello from our balconies!”

Does she suffer from solitude here I ask? “No, El Gouna is a great place to establish a family, even if divorced” she smiles. “You know, this area, Kafr, possesses a a beautiful feel to it. We are a oldest restaurant in town, I am home here, I don’t think I could live anywhere else anymore”…

So there you go. When you come to Gouna next, first stop, Moods. Second Stop, Club House. And I am personally very grateful to Orascom Housing Manager, Ragi Shamaa, who is the one that asked Hoda to run the Squash Centre Bar. Without him, I would have never met her.

And she is one of those people you are richer for knowing them, and that you hope one day, will describe you as a friend.


The DownTown Pub


Oldest El Gouna Shop


Dawar El Omda, Hotel just in front of the Club House

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