Timeless Egypt has always offered a bountiful array of cultural treasures to visitors with its seemingly endless collection of ancient Egyptian attractions and artifacts. But this is the first time in the 14 years of Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Awards that the country has been selected as the Sexiest Romance/Honeymoon Destination in the Middle East—a rectified oversight that would undoubtedly make the infamous beauty Cleopatra proud.
And why not? Egypt is arguably highly qualified as a romantic destination as any couple who has ever stood on the deck of a Nile River cruise ship under a full moon on a balmy summer night, or shared a sky full of stars in the middle of an Egyptian desert would enthusiastically agree.
“This is good news,” enthused Sayed Khalifa, director of the Egyptian Tourist Authority, North America and Latin America. “There have been many years of development of classifying our product by adding luxurious resorts equipped with health and spa facilities for honeymooners. So this is good that Egypt could be ranked so high in this category.”
Indeed, he adds, ”I think if you just look at our attractions, Aswan, for example, is very romantic. Or having a dinner inside one of the Pharaoh’s temples like Luxor or Karnak is very romantic also. Or even if you’re dressed like one of the pharaohs for your wedding procession or ritual, that’s something that happens once in a lifetime that’s unforgettable.”
Khalifa reminisced about one couple he knew who had contacted him about coming to Egypt for their honeymoon. But by the time they were ready to go, their spirit of adventure had caught up with their spirit of romance and they wound up with one of the most unforgettable wedding experiences a couple could ever have.
“You know, people like to do something very special, unusual or something to remember—something unforgettable when it comes to honeymoons and in Egypt, there are many opportunities to do something unforgettable when it comes to honeymooners,” he says. But in this case, that was an understatement.
“They decided to have their wedding and procedures done underwater in the eastern harbor of Alexandria. There are archaeological sites there with all these ancient relics and pieces underwater in a sunken city in Alexandria harbor,” he explains. “So they decided to bring a priest and dive underwater with all these fantastic monuments and they had their photographs taken underwater dressed like a bride and groom. You know, it’s something you’re never going to forget, so this is good news that we’re getting this award for the honeymoon destination,” he adds.
Certainly, there’s no lack of honeymoon product awaiting clients in Egypt. Aside from all the incredible attractions such as Luxor, Karnak, the Valley of the Kings—even exotic Cairo itself—there’s so much more. There are desert Bedouin camps, Nile River cruises on luxurious ships and trendy beach resorts on the Red Sea.
In fact, there’s no lack of hotel and resort accommodations to select from, thanks to the Egyptian Tourist Authority’s carefully thought-out tourism plan. “You know, in our plan, we add to our hotel capacity 50,000 rooms each year in order to be able to accommodate one extra million in arrivals. Since we’ve been doing this, we’ve gone from under 100,000 rooms to over 250,000 rooms with another 150,000 under construction in different parts of Egypt,” Khalifa points out. “So with this development, we need to be able to accommodate those extra one million tourists per year and we’ve been successful doing this.”
Last year, Khalifa says, Egypt welcomed 12.8 million tourists from around the world and this year, he adds, “…we’ll be close to 14 million, so we’re actually adding more than one million visitors. And so it goes. We’re very proud of the fact that we’ve never seen a decrease in the number of American tourists to Egypt. Even in 2009, the crisis year, we had an increase—not a very big increase, something like 0.8 percent—but after all, it was an increase, not a very big one, as I said, but that’s okay because everyone else was suffering a decrease in traffic. This year, between January and October, we have an 11 percent increase over the same time last year. So I believe we’re on the right track, slowly but surely we’re going to increase our market share here.”