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Ya Mama! Four Seasons for the Whole Family

What happens when you let go of all your usual support and venture out of town with two toddlers in tow? Amy Mowafi's back with another tale of modern motherhood, this time at the gorgeous Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh.

It was an agonising decision to make. There were sleepless nights involved, and all sorts of petty arguments between me and Mr Y littered the road to redemption. I was accused of being spoilt and selfish and an incompetent mother. And then he threw his too-often-used but always powerful trump card at me, “You can manage a team of nearly 100 people but you can’t mange two toddlers.”  I had no choice but to woman-up and take on the greatest challenge of my mummy-career thus far, travelling with three year-old Maya and one year-old Momo, WITHOUT the nanny. 

On the surface I understand this seems superficial, but let me tell you, the struggle is real. When it was just Maya, I was totally fine cavorting all across Europe (well just London mainly, but there was this one time in Vienna) with no one to help carry the weight but my insistence. I would march through airport terminals, sporting my shades, Maya snuggled against my tummy, secretly convinced that everyone was watching us thinking we made the most adorable pairing and saying to themselves, “my, what a competent mother she is.”

But to do that with TWO of them?! I couldn’t even fathom how. “I used to do it with four of you,” my mother smugly pointed out, because until I have four kids she is not entirely convinced I have a legitimate claim to motherhood.  And indeed she did, she would jet across time-zones at least once every couple of months, the four of us hanging onto her designer coat tails, tumbling along in the wake of her stilettoes.  Of course the bit she always forgets to mention, is that there were usually at least two nannies (not one, but two, sometimes THREE if the journey called for it). But that was the early 90s and alas, Middle Eastern excess is not quite what it once was.  I only have Mervat, my Egyptian nanny who is missing one front tooth and insists on dying her hair a kind of burnt Sienna. But on account of the fact that my kids love her  (I suspect more than me) I can’t live without her.  Except I had to live without her last Eid because she had been promised the week off and I had been promising every one that after a Ramadan fuelled by 20-hour (seriously) work days I would make sure to spend some serious quality time with the kids. Just me, my husband, and the kids. No phone, no laptop, no Mervat and no grandma to step in to save the day. Also no reservations available anywhere on account of my procrastination. 

But then, there was a miracle, and it came in the form of Sherry Adel, the PR Director at the Four Seasons. I was invited to spend the holidays at the Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh. And who needs a nanny when you have the entire team of one of the most luxury resorts in Egypt at your beck and call? But I shall get to that in a moment.

First I had to buy snacks. I don’t know what made me do this, it was a just a gut instinct fuelled by vague memories of my mother pulling out chocolate biscuits from her bottomless bag on planes and, much to my chagrin, emptying out the really expensive and yummy looking snacks in the hotel mini-bar to replace with cheese and bread and little boxes of cereal which had apparently been stowed away in some secret pockets of our luggage. So a last minute-dash to the koshk at the bottom of our road and we were stocked up with cheese-flavoured TUC biscuits and Temmy’s chocolate-flakes. Not quite the goodies my mother could source from her local Tescos, but I still felt terribly proud of my maternal foresight.  My kids would not starve on the one hour flight to Sharm and when we got there, I would be able to avoid an extortionate room service bill drummed up by constantly peckish toddlers.

I needn’t have worried. In fact I needn’t have worried about a lot of things. Because at the Four Seasons Sharm El Shiekh family comes first and in the most extraordinary of ways. Back in the day - before I had two toddlers in my bed, and a company I can barely keep control of - in my previous incarnation as a lifestyle magazine editor, I had written plenty of hotels reviews, visiting some of the world’s most luxurious properties. From private islands accessible only by helicopter in the Seychelles to sumptuous retreats in the Serengeti. But never have I been as impressed (or admittedly surprised) by the service, and attention to detail as I was at this hotel right on my doorstep and right in my homeland.

For starters, we never even opened the TUC biscuits. From the moment we arrived, the little ones were showered with treats, an entire fleet of staff with seemingly nothing else to do but pop out from behind flower-strewn walls armed with complementary goodies – from chocolate covered banana sticks in the pool (literally, in the pool, with the waiter reaching in at great peril to himself to serve Maya who had already become firmly ingratiated into the at-your-service FS way of life and was acting like a little diva), to freshly baked doughnuts on the beach and a myriad of marshmallows in between. One afternoon, as we sat at the pool-side restaurant for lunch, Momo reached for the salt-shaker and popped half of it in his mouth. The chef, who happened to be passing by, mistook this for hunger as opposed to the normal behaviour of a one-year old who is not yet entirely sure what is food and what is tableware. Seconds later, before we had even looked at the menu, a small plate of complementary chicken sticks appeared in front of him, served up by the Chef himself. “Just to keep tied over till you order,” he said. I wanted to cry at the loveliness of it all. 

Any bananas later found squashed on the sides of the pool were purely coincidental.

On the second morning of Eid, and our first morning at the resort, Ahmed, the duty manager, stopped us as we passed through the reception. “Wait right there,” he insisted, and ran off behind the concierge desk before reappearing with a wooden truck on wheels brimming with brand new kids toys. The kids were allowed to pick whatever they liked. Maya pulled out a Frozen doll, Momo was not allowed to choose his own gift according to Maya, who picked a second Frozen doll on his behalf. “He’s just a baby he doesn’t understand,” she said. Except he did understand. He inherently understood that he had found baby-paradise and started running around the reception high on excitement and marshmallows. No one got annoyed by the all mighty noise he was making. Instead every one smiled and chuckled and thought it adorable.

That evening, on a gorgeous grassy knoll, high on a cliff, overlooking the shimmering Red Sea below, all the kids at the resort, all of whom were known by name by all the staff (as if perhaps they had meetings every morning specifically to test their knowledge, “Mohamed! Name the boys in room 203!”) were treated to a high-octane Eid party complete with an African dance show, camel rides, face-painting, free-flowing popcorn, candy floss, fruit sticks and cookies which they could customise themselves.  The next evening the same garden set the scene for an open-air cinema showing of Frozen. Needless to say, snacks came as standard – including snowman shaped cakes and snow-flaked shaped cookies.  Maya was beside herself with happiness, as she snuggled up to me on our picnic blanket on the grass and fell asleep to Elsa’s voice in the late evening sea-breeze. Meanwhile Momo busied himself eating cookie crumbs off her T-shirt.  It was pure perfection.

 

At the Four Seasons some wear flowing designer kaftans, others wear strawberry juice.

That’s not to say there weren’t tantrums and tears. And that was just me. But the setting and the service helped to moderate the mayhem. Our daily breakfast dramas did not subside just because we were in this little pocket of paradise. Plates were still thrown across the room. Except the hotel was ready with colourful plastic plates and cutlery so no harm done. Cereal was still smashed in faces, and eggs were still spit out onto the floor. But pancakes with happy faces drawn on them were immediately brought to the table by way of distraction, and Ashraf was always on had to clear up the all mighty mess we made with a smile on his face and soothing words to allay my embarrassment.

Sharm is of course more of a winter resort, with temperatures soaring into the 40s in the summer, so there were a few hours in the day when we had to avoid the beach and pool. Those were sometimes the most fun. One morning all the little girls on the resort were invited to get a complementary mani-pedi at the hotel’s award-winning Spa. Maya, lying back on the her leather chaise-long, Frozen-themed flip-flops hanging off her chubby little toes, asked for pink nail polish. After it had dried, she concluded that pink did not match her outfit, and instead she wanted blue nail polish. Four shades of blue were sourced and she picked the polish the most closely matched with her top. Just as we were leaving she decided she didn’t want any nail polish at all. Hearing the heated argument that ensued between Maya and I as we sat on our golf cart outside the Spa, one of the Spa team came out to us, and calmly resolved the conflict with a bottle of nail polish remover. 

 

This little piggy went to the Spa.

On another morning I found myself alone in the bathrooms by the beach (marble-clad and piled high with lovely scented towels) with Momo’s Pampers stuffed full of poop and Maya hopping about screaming, “I need pepeeeeeee! It’s coming out!” Too much poop and pee all at once and not enough hands to change and wipe and lift onto toilets. But low and behold, right beneath the sink was one of those plastic little steps that toddlers climb onto to reach the sink or use the toilet by themselves. I closed my eyes and said a prayer of thanks to the hospitality genius, whomever he was and wherever he was, who had thought about that seemingly tiny, but so significant, detail.  “Maya look, just like at home,” I said pointing at the step with my foot while getting slapped in the face by Momo and also really wanting to pee myself. Maya happily took the step and set about using the toiled by herself.  I later noticed that every single public bathroom on the whole resort had one of these.  

So yes, the resort itself was stunning, the views amazing, the private villa-style suites spacious and super plush, the bathtubs huge, the pool picture-perfect, the food and drink exemplary. But whatever, I can get most of those things at any international five star resort.  But give me a plastic step to help my baby girl poop on her own and you have won my loyalty forever.

With the experience having been so delightful, Mr Y is now insisting we do it all over again, without the nanny, next Eid. Perhaps, he is suggesting, we could even venture alone with the kids outside of Egypt? Ya Mama!

Follow Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh on Instagram @fssharmelsheikh or Facebook.

Room Rates Start from $460 Per Night

For reservations or more information call on 069 3603555

For more #YaMama follow @AmyMowafi on Instagram


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