Like in fairy tales?
El Gouna means “The Lagoon” in English and is located about 22 kilometers north of Hurghada directly on the Red Sea. A place like in a fairy tale from 1001 Nights: 365 days of sun a year, the sea never below 20 degrees. There are also hotels, houses and villas made of clay and natural stone, some in traditional Nubian style and some in modern Arab architecture, palm trees, gardens, beaches and pool landscapes. All of this traversed by bridges and canals that were specially dredged.
Palm trees and Christmas trees
It is quiet here, almost totenstill, the hotels are currently only about 40-50 per cent loaded, and very clean. Whoever wants to go to El Gouna, must pass through the security controls, also in front of every hotel light barriers. The mobile masts are hidden in palm trees. And in the hotel lobbies now, in the middle of December, there are Christmas trees.
The founder of El Gouna, the Egyptian entrepreneur Samih Sawiris, is himself a Christian, but it is said to be more than a reminder to foreign tourists in an Islamic country. There is also a coptic church in El Gouna next to the mosque.
Sawiris: From the angler to the city developer
Sawiris only wanted to fish here in 1989, but the Egyptian law required him to "develop". So he started building. In the beginning it was just a hotel, a staff area and a supermarket. Today there are 18 hotels, and Sawiris' Orascom Development Holding has reportedly sold more than 2,500 villas and apartments to private individuals to date. The square meter prices are now from $ 1000 upwards.
Finally, the necessary infrastructure was added to the hotels: restaurants and shops, a private telephone network, a boat and boat shuttle service, international schools, a hospital with a decompression chamber for divers and a small airport. So far, however, only a third of the total 36.8 million square meters of desert area is cultivated and leaves room for more.
Pioneer for ecological tourism?
However, El Gouna sees itself not only as a luxury holiday resort, but as a pioneer of ecological tourism in Egypt: Fresh water is purified from the seawater, the waste water is clarified and then used for irrigating the plants.
Because you do not have enough water for it, even sewage from Hurghada is bought. Different amphorae are available for the separation of waste. But the pride of the city is the recycling system, which is also a pleasure to show the interested tourists:
Here, the waste is sorted by hand and processed as plastic waste to hangers and granules for the road surface. El Gouna makes an environmental officer. And in the future, the city wants to become CO2-neutral.
“People identify with El Gouna”
Approximately 20.000 lives today permanently in El Gouna, as PR boss Dorothee Picht tells. She has been there since 15 years - first she had a diving school, later she was hired by Orascom. There was little trace of the revolution. And anyway, whoever was here, did not want to leave:
“The people here identify with El Gouna. On average, people earn better here than anywhere else, ”says Picht, who gives our instructions to the Egyptian boaters in English and not in the Arabic language during our little trip. However, she does not want to generalize the statement with the earnings: "It ultimately depends on the hotel chain." Basically, as she emphasizes, Egyptians would not be paid less than Europeans. "The qualification is decisive!"
Education according to European pattern
However, this is all too often a question of the point of view: In El Gouna there is a German Hotelfachschule, which ends with an IHK degree. The teaching language is German. If you can not speak German, you must first attend an intensive language course. However, the visit to the hotel school is subject to charges. There is a nursing school where the English curriculum is taught.
And the Technical University of Berlin is setting up a satellite campus in Egypt as a scientific branch. The Masters courses “Energy Engineering”, “Urban Development” and “Water Engineering” are offered here, which cost 5000 euros per semester. After all: Both the TU Berlin and the Sawiris Foundation offer scholarships.
Living in Cairo
At the latest, however, when one compares El Gouna with the reality in Cairo, PR lady Dorothee Picht could believe that there are many advantages to living and working in the “European colony” on the Red Sea. The Egyptian capital has a population of 21 million and a thick haze hanging above it - and 4,5 million cars.
On the outskirts there are the so-called Mirage Citys, isolated places where the rich can live in peace. Near by, peasants have devastated their own farmland to sell it as a building land. They then moved into the semi-finished houses themselves. And in open sewers, meterhoch is the garbage which people simply unload here. In the meantime, the channels have been spilled and overgrown.
The educational problem in Egypt
Tour guide Tamer Rahmy explains that while there is a garbage disposal, many people are not so well trained and therefore do not understand what the garbage collection does. “So they think they can just throw the garbage on the street. We believe, but if a new government that organizes garbage disposal comes, everything will get better. ”
In fact, the lack of training is a problem in Egypt: One in five Egyptians can neither read nor write, because, for example, parents take their children early from school early to help them on the field.
But even if the children complete the free state schools and universities, that is no guarantee for a good job, because many university graduates do not find a job. Private universities offer better prospects, but they cost a few thousand euros in the semester.
The Revolution witnessed
"Some of the protesters from Tahrir Square are among the very well-educated people who now want to change something in the country," said Rahmy, who lives very close to Egypt's most famous square. He has therefore noticed the revolution up close - and also its effects:
“I used to work free of charge for at least two weeks a month in high season, but this year I only worked one week every two months.” Nevertheless, like many others, Rahmy does not want to turn back the wheel of time: “Many Egyptians are currently confused because they do not know what to do next. On the other hand, there is this feeling of freedom. ”
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