Al Moudira

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 12:00am

Where? On the west bank of the Nile, near the Valley of the Kings, in Luxor, Egypt.

City boutique or rural retreat? Definitely the latter. A destination resort set within a sprawling private compound, Al Moudira looks across fields populated by farm workers, camels and donkeys, to the mountains of the desert beyond.

Sounds romantic? Absolutely. Enclosed by ochre-coloured walls that turn rosy in the setting sun, this luxurious oasis features a vast Roman-style pool, shady nooks scattered with sofas and kelims and fragrant gardens filled with mandarin, orange, mango and guava trees.

Who goes there? Notable guests have included ambassadors, painters, photographers, writers, politicians and even the odd Hollywood celeb.

So it's new, then? Yes, but you'd never know it. Designed to resemble a traditional Arabian palace with cupolas, arches, columns and arabesques, each of the 54 rooms sports a different Arab theme and is big enough for royalty. Oh, and every bathroom is a private hammam.

Tell us more: The drool-inducing decor combines old-style opulence (frescoes, Moorish tiles, copper and glass lanterns, four-poster beds and writing desks inlaid with mother-of-pearl) with a fresh contemporary feel (spare design, a rich, saturated palette and gem-bright cushions piled on the floor).

What's for supper? Cocktails are available in the Twenties bar, and Mediterranean dishes, cooked with a Levantine twist, are served in the Agatha Christie-grand dining room, which has a brick-domed roof, burnt umber walls and Ottoman-style chandeliers.

Anything else we should know? Lazy guests, be warned: Al Moudira is so utterly seductive that leaving is nigh impossible. Even the pull of the Pyramids has failed to entice some punters from the pool.

Deluxe room 140 euros (HK$1,347); Junior suite 250 euros per night. West Bank, Luxor, tel: [20] 123 251 307,