Story and photography by Barbara Angelakis
Real Resorts Mayan Festival
THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen
THE ROYAL Cancun
Like hundreds, nae thousands, of the curious, I traveled to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico to witness the purported end of the world… or the passing of one age and the birth of the next… according to the celebrated Mayan Calendar. The ancient Mayan priesthood/hierarchy created a massive stone calendar, that included prophecy and time keeping, and which covered approximately 5,125 years – from 3,114 B.C. to 2012 A.D. This is what the “end of the world furor” was all about.
The December 21, 2012 Winter Solstice, contrary to public hysteria, was not predicted in the calendar to be the actual end of the world, but represented only the end of a calendar cycle. Assuredly had the civilization survived, they would have created the next 5,125 year calendar, and the next, until 5 (holy number to the Mayans) cycles were completed and the earth was back to where it started, after its almost 26,000 year journey through the 12 constellations of the zodiac (called Precession). The Mayans were not the only ancient peoples to have figured out this natural phenomenon. Remarkably, their astonishing knowledge at such an early time and long before this information was known to Europeans, gave rise to the theory that otherworldly aliens gave this knowledge to these primitive peoples. Perhaps we will never know for sure, but it is more likely they figured it out themselves by observing the movement of the stars and keeping fastidious records, after all that is why they built celestial observatories on top of their pyramids.
The ancient Mayans created an amazingly rich culture that included language, writing, mathematics, massive building projects, sacred geometry, astrology, and astronomy, plus they were the first to discover and use the “0”. And while the Mayan people still populate El Mundo Maya – the Mayan world of Belize, Guatemala, North Honduras, El Salvador, and many Mexican states including the Yucatan, like many other ancient civilizations that have passed their apex, they no longer seem to have the knowledge of world prophecy nor can they chart the movement of stars through the heavens as their ancestors did. There are many mysteries surrounding the ancient Mayans, but for me the biggest one is that the calendar dates from 3,114 B.C. and yet the Maya peoples were living mostly in farming settlements in 2,000 B.C. and did not began constructing their massive pyramid structures or celestial observatories until around 600 B.C. How did they calculate the calendar from a date more then 1,000 years before their civilization began? Perhaps Aliens had a hand in it after all... hummm! Although I was hoping to receive an epiphany at exactly 12 midnight on December 20th that would clarify this anomaly, I am afraid I can shed no light and the mystery continues along with all the others that surround this fascinating and mysterious ancient culture.
As a visiting journalist, I was invited to attend a special midnight Mayan celebration on the Isla Mujeres (Island of the Woman) at the Temple of Ixchel (Goddess of the Moon, Lady of the Rainbow, Fertility, and Procreation). The island is a short boat ride from Cancun and the walk along the sea to the Temple was magical. Several hundred people, all clad in white, walked single file along the narrow lit path. Periodically, maidens holding smug pots offered purification with smoke, and male dancers in strikingly colorful costumes would jump into the light. When we reached the tip of the island, a stage and seats awaited us. At midnight, a popular Mexican singer of Mayan descent, Armando Manzanero, began singing his songs in Spanish and aside from a brief interview with spiritualists Dr. James and Desiree Hurtak, the program consisted of his performance. While the Mexican audience appreciated the performance, it certainly was not how I expected to honor the Mayan civilization and the end of their mystical calendar. However once the show was over, a small group including me, were fortunate to be able to get behind the stage and see the Temple of Ixchel, brilliantly lit against the night sky, and watch the mesmerized dancers moving to the beat of their drums. It was a deeply moving sight, which sadly the entire audience did not get to appreciate. I was extremely grateful to witness this spontaneous performance backlit by the Temple of Ixchel, truly an unforgettable moment.
Back to earth – and my gracious hosts during my stay, the Real Resorts, and their two luxury all inclusive gourmet resorts THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen and THE ROYAL Cancun. Both resorts went all out to celebrate the end of the Mayan calendar with decorative set-ups, fabulous costumed performances, music, and foods. In fact, we were invited into the kitchens at THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen to watch the staff, dressed for the occasion in Mayan garb, perform cooking tasks as the ancient Mayans did. I must say they set-up a wonderful display and prepared delectable dishes for us. As it turned out several of the staff were of Mayan descent, which added authenticity to the tasks they performed.
The hotel itself is in a prime location. What makes the location so special is that clearly you are at a beach resort since the hotel extends onto the beach, but only a step away from the entrance is the famous La Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue). The avenue extends in all directions and is jammed with handicraft shops, boutique-clothing stores, jewelry emporiums, bars and an active nightlife, plus a plethora of restaurants to suite any taste.
Once you ascend the circular driveway to the entrance of THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen, you are greeted with a warm welcome and invited into the large open reception area. Here your desires are recorded, such as what time you want your room cleaned, and what time you would like turndown service, if you wish a daily newspaper delivery, or coffee in the morning. In addition, what scent of candles you prefer and your preference for drinks in the mini-bar, even if you want a specialty pillow. After check-in, you are guided to your large roomy suite, handsomely decorated, and with a wonderfully comfortable bed. All amenities including the mini-bar and a side bar that is stocked with liquors of your choice are included. All-inclusive at THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen and THE ROYAL Cancun, includes drinks and food at any time. If you want room service but don’t care to open the door there is the “Magic Box” that can be accessed from both outside and inside the room. Your waiter inserts your order, closes the door, and lights the alert signal that your service has arrived. You extract your order regardless of your dress or lack there of. It also serves to keep the halls free of trays and dirty dishes, a much-appreciated detail. Each suite has a double Jacuzzi, decorated with candles and rose petals, and which in most cases faces the balcony and the beach beyond.
Past the reception at THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen is a grand circular hall where nightly dance performances are held. Keep going and you face a beautiful garden area lining the pool area where music blares and daily games are played for the young at heart, and the many honeymooners and their guests. The broad perfect white sandy beach and turquoise waters beckon beyond. There is a new wing at THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen with its own pool area for the guests who prefer peace and quiet during their visit.
The resort features a selection of restaurants to choose from, all serving gourmet foods to suite any taste. I particularly liked Pelicanos Oceanfront Caribbean Fusion restaurant, which as its name implies, is right off the beach, and serves a most delicious octopus salad.
After the all-night celebration at Isla Mujeres we visited the beautiful Mayan ceremonial Temple at Tulum, the only temple complex built next to the sea. It is situated on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea and the first city of the Mayan World to greet the rising sun, sometimes it is referred to as the ‘City of the Dawn’. It is a lovely site and just an hour’s drive from Cancun.
Our last night was spent at THE ROYAL Cancun where they put on a Culinary Festival performance with drumming and dancing and served a buffet of Mayan specialties. Although I was there only a short time. I found the accommodations at THE ROYAL Cancun as luxe as at THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen.
© January 2013 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.