As a change from city life, the gal wanted to get into Egypt’s rural space. A big incentive was to see what Olivier Masson is up to now. After years with Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, lastly as Cairo-based RVP overseeing eight luxury hotels, in 2015 he threw it all up, to open what will eventually be the 25-villa Lazib Inn Resort & Spa in Tunis village, on the southern shore of Faiiyum Oasis, 90 km south-west of Cairo. As he and his wife Nanette say, this is five acres of paradise. Even the exterior, almost unnoticed on a central street of Tunis, is fast becoming Egypt’s equivalent of Deia, Mallorca for its pottery and arts, and utterly appealing – when you know it is there.
The Massons bought the five-acre plot, looking down to Qaroon Lake, in 2013. It already had a weekend house on it but the new owners started modernising and expanding. They have been the architects and designers throughout, and have filled every room with an eclectic selection of treasures collected during a couple of decades of worldwide travel. For some, the one duplex villa, with upper level for kids, is perfect. Many villas, including #3 have connecting doors. I loved #3, up 20 adobe-look painted concrete steps, about 70 sq m total inside, with a big sitting-out balcony. My library ranged from a selection of Harley-Davidson art books through to Bill Clinton’s My Life, which made a good prop to raise my bedside reading light.
Eight villas are already fully finished. All have real-log fireplaces, superb WifI, easy-work LavAzza espresso machines, empty refrigerators, and Masson-designed toiletries, plus whirlpool bathtubs. Out in the terraced gardens, looked after by Nanette Masson, are two year-round swimming pools, one adult-only. There is, by the way, a stunning wellness complex, with two treatment rooms, sauna and steam rooms and an alabaster-lined hammam big enough for the whole of Egypt’s national football team. Everywhere, it seems, is part of one massive art gallery. There are five Nepalese prayer flags fluttering in the wind here, and a prayer wheel nearby. One of the unique chandeliers has lamps hanging from an old Swiss oxen yoke.
If you want to work out with buddhas and art books to hand, this is the memorable hotel for you –and the Cybex facility is, of course, open 24/7. A Himalayan-type glass-walled building, housing reception and a boutique for Tunis village ceramics, is also open night long – it shines as a beacon in the middle of the Lazib complex, named for a Moroccan overnight lodge (Olivier Masson and his four elder siblings were brought up near Marrakech, where his father set up a ski lift and taught the late King Hassan to ski). There are, by the way, at least a dozen black and white photos of pre-teen Olivier Masson dotted around villa #3. As I hope I have already implied, this oasis resort is unique…and see my morning sunrise, above. NOW SEE VILLA 3