Sababa in Taba: How to catch a tan in winter

Despite a travel warning, Sinai can be relaxing and cheap - unless you lose your money at the casino.

Several days ago, I returned to work at The Jerusalem Post with quite a sun tan. It wasn't long before I began hearing whispers behind my back, claiming that I was using a sunbed. I wasn't. I had just spent a weekend in Sinai, where I found myself, in the middle of winter, relaxing on a hammock on the Red Sea at the newly-renovated Hilton Taba. The water wasn't too cold, and I even managed to beat another guest in a 50-meter dash (did I mention he was 12 years old?). The reactions I received from people who heard I went to Taba were divided into three: the first and smallest group was made up of those who didn't believe me and thought it was my sunbed cover story. The second consisted of people who were full of envy and rather upset that I didn't invite them to come along. The third comprised fear-mongering individuals who thought I was crazy traveling to Egypt during such times, when the Sinai is one of the global danger zones, at least according to the National Security Council's travel advisory. Although the 2004 terror attack at the Hilton Taba is still engraved in my memory, not to mention the fact that things still aren't too peaceful nowadays, the truth is that I never hesitated, not even for a moment. If only you knew how much I was in need of a relaxing vacation, with plenty of sun and beaches. Where else could I find such a spot only a five-hour drive away from Jerusalem? The bottom line is that Hilton Taba met all of my expectations. It really looks like a continuation of Eilat. Since it's just a five-minute walk from the border crossing, you can even decide to go out in Eilat - that is, if you did not lose your money in the hotel casino. It's really simple. By the way, if you're worried about security in the compound, the hotel management has not been taking any chances since the terror attack and, in addition to local law enforcement, employs a private security company. Sure enough, nothing happened during my stay there. The hotel is situated near Nelson's Village and both are part of the same compound, which has a private beach strip, full of hammocks, mattresses and chairs. What can I say - a real holiday. The service was exceptional. Whenever I bumped into hotel staff members, they always smiled and inquired as to my wellbeing. It is evident that interaction with the customer is a central part of the hotel management's policy. After a $15-million renovation, which included upgrading all the rooms to meet the standard of the international Hilton chain, the hotel looks like, well… a million dollars (times 15). Another major advantage of Sinai compared to Eilat or even the Turkish resort town of Antalya is the price, beginning at NIS 550 per night for a double room, including breakfast. The hotel's Web site updates its offers from time and time, offering packages that include extreme sports and other attractions based on specific vacation themes. To sum up, I won't take the responsibility of recommending or not recommending a Sinai vacation. All I can say is that I had a great time, and if you want to catch a tan in the middle of winter, Hilton Taba is what you need. If not, you can always buy a sunbed. The writer was a guest of the Hilton Taba