The Westin Cairo is all about wellbeing — but don’t call it a health hotel.
by Dominika Maslikowski
When I check in, the clerk gives me a map of a three and five-mile jogging route through the leafy hotel grounds along with my keys. Four different balls of chocolate greet me when I enter my room, placed carefully on a tray that informs me of their nutritional benefits. I scarf them down quickly with coffee before heading out to the party outside to celebrate the grand opening of this city’s first Westin property — The Westin Cairo Golf Resort & Spa Katameya Dunes. I don’t know much about the brand, and it’s dark when a golf cart whisks me away to the festivities.
When I wake up the next morning, I get a good look at the property as I walk to the breakfast buffet. I immediately regret not packing my running gear. The grounds at The Westin Cairo are sweeping, spacious and green, exuding that laid-back vibe common to the best seaside resorts. I quickly forget that I’m in the city and that the Ring Road is nearby. I smell young jasmine bushes, freshly planted, and spot a hoopoe bird with striking black and white wings on a grassy lawn. The hotel’s 135 guest rooms and suites are colored in a sandy beige and generously spaced, giving the property a natural and airy feel. I imagine taking a three-mile jog through the massive grounds, anchored by a 27-hole championship golf course full of verdant fairways and meandering lagoons. I imagine a few moments of solitude surrounded by trees with yellow blossoms, my lungs clear and refreshed by a brisk run.
But first I eat breakfast at a buffet that’s smaller than those at downtown’s high-rise hotels, but focused on quality. I spot superfoods like salmon and quinoa, as well as an array of freshly squeezed juices and foods prepared with healthy cooking methods. There are also pastries and more decadent options, but I opt for the foods that I normally hunt down at specialty health stores in Cairo.
I’m used to eating at the standard hotel buffets while traveling, where healthier options often mean plain bowls of veggies or yogurt. The fact The Westin Cairo doesn’t treat healthy options as an afterthought is refreshing. Here, salads (for example) are composed with the quality and care that make them a pleasure to eat in their own right, and not just as side dishes.
After breakfast, we’re given a tour of the golf course and the state-of-the-art fitness studio, where I learn that you can rent running shoes and other gear. As we enjoy a round of golf with the hotel’s instructors, I’m already thinking about how to put my impressions together into writing and describe my experience. Certain things begin to come together — the nutritious chocolate balls, the two jogging routes. The superfoods at the breakfast buffet.
Is this a health hotel?! Then why does it feel so good?
Using the loaded H word to describe The Westin Cairo just doesn’t seem right. “Healthy” means different things to different people. It can be an ugly word for some when it’s associated with punishing workouts, bathroom scales and strict diets. It can mean long lists of things to avoid and lifestyles that we’d love to have but can never maintain. An endless game of trying to be “good,” and then “cheating” with a box of cheesy pizza.
There’s no self-deprivation of that kind at The Westin Cairo, and nobody will frown if you load up on pastries and then skip the golf course to lounge at the pool all day. The hotel isn’t a health boot camp. It’s not about the things you should avoid.
But it is about indulging in the good things — be they fresh air, invigorating games of golf or chocolate balls.
General Manager Eben Nel is responsible for launching The Westin brand in Egypt and introducing the Westin philosophy to the public. He says Westin is focused around “six pillars of wellbeing,” which include feel well, and also work, move, eat, sleep and play well. I think “wellbeing” is a much better word to describe it all than “healthy.” After a lunch of smoked salmon overlooking a lagoon, other words come to mind — like indulgent and luxurious.
If it’s possible to associate mouthwatering grilled fish, a room overlooking bushes of white flowers and the invigorating feeling of a morning swim as “healthy,” then that’s what The Westin is. But it’s more about making you feel great than it is about slimming down your waistline, whether you’re bringing family for a weekend or coming with business colleagues for meetings.
“It’s not just a hotel where you come and you sleep, and you eat and you leave. From when you arrive, the experience is created in a tranquil environment where all the pillars focus on the wellbeing of the guest,” Nel says. “We offer a one-stop shop that caters to everybody —from the guy who’s young and wants to relax to the guy who wants to work as well.”
I finish my stay with a treatment at the 3,000-square-meter Heavenly Spa, which boasts 10 therapy rooms in a sleek, minimalist setting. As I lay on the massage table, a therapist rubs away the knots in my back and there’s a bowl of fresh, white flowers underneath me. The room is airy with plenty of light coming in from a window overlooking a small, walled-in garden. My thoughts wandered away — but definitely not to pizza.