Egypt, the mother of mystery and an immortal icon of the old gods, is still wearing the exotic and mesmerizing robes of antiquity. But today, it’s accessorized by a new, fresh energy generated by a contemporary revolution still in its infancy that’s taken nothing away from its appeal as a once-in-a-lifetime vacation experience, where visitors can still be comfortable and enchanted by a historical and cultural experience incomparable with anything else in the world, safe and secure—today, no less than yesterday—in a culture that honors hospitality above all.
But circumstances throughout its region and media coverage of the revolution itself, have left too many North American travelers wary and insecure about security, hesitant and unsure about whether they would be welcome in the “new” Egypt. Be assured, nothing could be further from the truth. The “old” Egypt still lives on—with its incredible treasures of antiquity and fascinating history, its unique culture that has grounded itself in tradition and enhanced its modern appeal with vacation delights that range from mesmerizing historical and cultural attractions found nowhere else, to desert safaris, deep-sea ﬁshing and incomparable diving adventures, biking, shopping and religious tourism.
And for the high-end traveler who seeks vacation “experiences,” coupled with comfort, luxury and value above all else, Egypt today is a Nirvana of exclusivity—ﬁve-star hotels, private transportation, private guides, and special entree into attractions and museums, it’s all here waiting for them and with value pricing they’ve never seen before and will probably never see again.
cairo On our recent visit to the Land of the Pharaohs—a third time experience, we might add—we were more overwhelmed by our welcome than we had ever been in the past. Our initial Cairo stay was in the venerable Sheraton Cairo, one of the “grande dames” of the 20-odd ﬁve-star properties spread throughout this bustling 24-hour city of more than 24 million people. On our stay, it was readying itself for a 7-month closure during which time it will get a multi-million dollar facelift to rejuvenate what is already an elegant lady. Even now, with its employees facing months of unemployment, the service level and the friendliness of its staff is astounding, the accommodations and dining options superb and its city-center location, with many of its rooms overlooking a tributary of the Nile, a great place for consideration of future bookings.
During our time in Cairo, we headed out to the Pyramids of Giza, where the Great Sphinx has guarded the tombs of the ancient pharaohs for over three thousand years. It was our first taste of how appealing a post-revolution visit to Egypt can be. The simple fact is, now—and who knows how long this will last, certainly not long—all of the country’s major attractions are made all the more attractive with fewer crowds. Where just two years ago dozens and dozens of tour buses disgorged thousands of visitors every day, today it’s a trickle, leaving visitors a wonderful respite to take in the majesty of these three incredible monuments to Egypt’s ancient history. Yes, the hawkers are still their with a litany of entertaining sales pitches—”Where you from? Just take a look, they’re almost free.” The camel jockeys, too, are still offering you a “free” opportunity— that will eventually cost you dear—to get your picture taken on their camels. Tourists, too, are still bounding about on camel and horseback playing Lawrence of Arabia on the desert sands amidst the backdrop of these dramatic and never-to-be forgotten icons of Egypt’s magnificent ancient past, there’s just a lot less of them.
And here, too, we visited still another of Egypt’s icons—the famous Mena House Oberoi— where, like the great pyramids themselves, under whose shadow it lays, is a classic, timeless five-star property whose traditional elegance and style is a byword for luxury. It’s as much a museum as it is a hotel with priceless antiques spread throughout its grounds, rooms and suites rich with brocade and lush furnishings, and a service that’s world famous. A walk through its modern and elegant spa facilities is evidence and proof positive that the past can coexist with the present, offering every kind of spa service imaginable with all the latest treatments. But for the ultimate experience, book one of the pyramid rooms or suites overlooking these magnificent tombs, where a nighttime view from the patio is magical with the Great Pyramid of Giza, a centerpiece of antiquity that seems to appear even larger, all aglow in its massive magnificence. This experience is nothing less than breathtaking and surely one of the world’s seven wonders of vacation experiences.