In October 2004, many Israelis were shocked when the Taba Hilton was partly destroyed by a suicide bomber. For them, Taba - just on the other side of the Israeli-Egyptian border - was not really Sinai. A dozen Israelis were among the 32 people killed in twin bombings at the Taba Hilton and at Ras a-Satan in Sinai over the Succot holiday. The bombings deterred most Israelis from returning to Sinai, and there is still a travel advisory warning of potential terrorist attacks. But after three-and-a-half years of reconstruction and renovation, the Hilton Taba Resort is now officially open for Israeli tourists again. Six months after the bombing, Nelson's Village, which is part of the complex, reopened, and about a year ago, the hotel itself invited foreign guests to return. Ziad Tantawi, general manager of Hilton Taba Resort, explained that only until everything was perfect and running smoothly would he officially open for Israelis again, offering attractive vacations at reasonable prices. Tantawi, who has been at the hotel for the last three years to oversee the renovations, recommends watching out for special packages for Israelis which include both board, sports and other attractions. The renovation cost $15 million and included the casino, lobby, the bar, reception area, main restaurant, meeting rooms, function hall, and disco. Additionally, all the hotel rooms were renovated and refitted according to five-star Hilton standards, and new security measures were introduced. The dining room has been expanded to seat 850 people on three levels, and extra stations, including a grill, have been added so that waiting time at the self-service stations is minimal. Being a Sinai aficionado and having stayed at the Taba Hilton many times over the past years, it was with a sense of curiosity and apprehension that things would be so different that I recently returned for a long weekend. It still has the same welcoming feel and calmness that make Sinai such a sought-after vacation spot. If you seek total relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, need pampering in five-star luxury, this is the place. Located next to the border crossing, your vacation begins at the border itself. The Hilton has a special desk where the helpful and friendly Egyptian staff will take your passports, have them stamped, take care of your luggage and escort you through the border procedures to the air-conditioned hotel shuttle bus waiting outside. This is where the new security measures kick in, first at a checkpoint on the road to the hotel. The shuttle bus then stops at a station leading up to the hotel, where bags and persons are checked again. At the entrance to the hotel itself, a further body check is conducted. Upon entering the beautifully refurbished lobby, trays of ice-cold juice and a waiter with cold hand towels are at hand to greet the guests. The 316 refurbished rooms are large, and all have a small balcony offering breathtaking views over the sea and perhaps the only place in the world where guests can view the landscape of four countries: Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Even when both the hotel and Nelson's Village are full, there is plenty of space to find your own quiet corner, either around the pool (there is a separate children's pool) or along the 600 meters of private beach. Twelve restaurants, cafes and bars are at the guests' disposal, including the gourmet Casa Taba and Marhaba serving authentic Oriental cuisine. Try not to miss the floor show at Marhaba, featuring a belly dancer and a young Egyptian wearing colorful skirts spinning non-stop for around 30 minutes. If just lying on the beach relaxing and reading is not your thing, there are plenty of other things to do. First of all snorkeling around the reef just a few meters from the beach is a favorite pastime. Sports enthusiasts can choose from a range of tennis and basketball courts, football, beach volley, bike riding, ping pong and for the more adventurous, even camel riding. The marine diving and sports center offers scuba diving and snorkeling (equipment available) as well as cruises to the Salah A-Din Coral Island, where one can either visit the island or snorkel around it. Drives can be arranged through the concierge to a golf course about 15 km away or ATV trips through nearby Wadis complete with a stop at a Beduin tent for sweet tea, as well as one-day visits to Santa Katerina Monastery, Mt. Moses and the colored canyon. Children are taken care of at the children's club where they can enjoy varied activities as well as a water center at Nelson's Village with kayaks, banana rides, water skiing, etc. There is a shopping mall located within the hotel complex with souvenir shops, a marine equipment store, a pharmacy and bank. What makes this such a wonderful place to spend a vacation? Firstly, you will find it difficult to find a friendlier or more helpful and hard-working staff anywhere in the world. Smiling faces surround you from early morning till late at night, and the staff only want to help and satisfy the guests. The scenery is breathtaking, the rooms luxurious, the beaches spotless, the sea turquoise and transparent, the fish and coral a delight. Then there is the price, and at NIS 340 per couple per night including breakfast - and what a breakfast! - it's very hard to match anywhere in Israel. Extra activities, entertainment, food and drinks are also reasonably priced. Visit http://www.hiltonworld resorts.com/ email:[email protected] or [email protected] Tel:2069 3530. The writer was a guest of the Hilton Taba Resort and Nelson's Village.