While ancient history has always been the driving force of
tourism in Egypt, more present-day interests are being recognized
as touchstones in this North African getaway. A diverse range of
pastimes both in and out of the Nile river, the lifeblood of Egypt
have remained an oversight to many travelers, but when complemented
with antiquity, you get more than you bargained for. It’s the blend
of ancient history, culture and modern activities that makes Egypt
truly a worthwhile and unforgettable destination.
Cuisine in Cairo
Egypt’s capital and most tumultuous city has a population of 18
million. If New York City is the city that never sleeps, Cairo is
the city that never stops. Shops and restaurants are virtually open
24 hours, and the streets are overrun with crowds and vehicles,
both four-wheeled and four-legged. With the city’s feverish energy,
sometimes a little downtime can bring back clarity.
Cairo is divided into three areas: heliopolis (near the
airport), downtown (on the Nile) and Giza (by the pyramids), all of
which have quite extreme atmospheres.
Downtown is the most bustling and chaotic, but a two-hour cruise
on the Nile is a convenient escape. Floating restaurants aboard
small cruise ships on the Nile run approximately two hours for
dinner and entertainment. While some of the ships are quite tacky
with festive lights and hokey decor, Nile Maxim is elegant, with
contemporary furnishings and hand-painted ceiling murals.
Mediterranean cuisine is served while traditional acts (from belly
dancing to Arabic singing) are provided. If the entertainment is
too clamorous, head out to the deck for some calm viewing.
Reservations are recommended.
Across town, Giza is a retreat in itself with a gentler pace and
the tranquility of the pyramids and Sphinx. Should clients want to
explore the interior of the Great Pyramid, they need to come early,
as only 300 visitors are allowed inside its chambers. The Great
Pyramid is Egypt’s prize site and, at night, a light and sound show
makes it more mesmerizing. The most commanding views of the
Pyramids are at the Mena House Oberoi hotel, Egypt’s oldest and
most luxurious hotel, closest to the Pyramids. Indulge in a light
Mediterranean fare and try the traditional kakadeh, sweetened
hibiscus tea, claimed to be the best here. This prestigious
landmark is also home to one of the most spectacular (and few)
18-hole golf courses in Cairo, set on the backdrop of one of the
ancient wonders of the world.
With panoramic views and lush landscaped gardens and fountains
sprawling 74 acres of Al-Azhar Park in Old Cairo, it’s hard to
believe it used to be a landfill. Enjoy the restaurants serving
Mediterranean cuisine in this quiet sanctuary.
The Red Sea is ranked as one of the best diving spots in the
world; even Jacques Cousteau glorified it as a “corridor of marvels
the happiest hours of my diving experience.”
With great diving come great resorts, and Sharm El-Shiekh in
Sinai is the great getaway. 252 hotels, all ranging from three to
five stars, mostly line the coastal resort, all of which are
prohibited from being more than two stories high, thus enhancing
the landscape. The Sinai mountain range is a breathtaking backdrop
to this peninsular paradise.
The sea is famous for its crystal clear waters with visibility
up to 150 feet and a wealth of marine life, including 10 percent of
species found nowhere else on earth. All hotels have their own
diving center with diving gear for rent. If you want to experience
the sea on a superficial level, snorkeling is just as popular and
most travelers combine this with a boat ride.
Day boats are located at Travito Marina, where you can rent
snorkeling gear before taking a half- or full-day trip in the Red
Sea. Lunch is served aboard the boat, which stops at popular
diving/snorkeling stops along the coast. A vast variety of coral,
fish, jellyfish, and even stingrays wait below the surface.
Not a water fan? Windsailing, camel riding, desert safaris,
casinos and shopping are all at your fingertips.
Nile River Cruise
A Nile River cruise isn’t just a practical way to experience the
Nile and the important cities surrounding it, it’s also a plunge
into 1,000 years of history to understand why it’s the life of
Egypt. The absorbing calm of small villages, green shores, roaming
animals and distant desert takes you back to biblical times.
Significant port stops (Luxor, Edfu and Aswan) are chockfull of
ancient sites and monuments that are essential to most
More than 200 ships ply the Nile, but sailing is a spectacular
experience aboard the Mirage Nile, a five-star ship with 62 large
cabins and an all-inclusive option. The Mirage Nile’s open sundeck
is spacious, with prime viewing available from every vantage point.
So, there’s no need to fight for deck chairs.
Shopping in Aswan
Slather on some sunscreen as it gets up to 150 degrees (June to
mid-August) in Aswan, but that won’t stop clients from appreciating
highlights like the Temple Phila, the High Dam and Lake Nasser (the
largest man-made lake in the world).
In addition to ancient history, Aswan is quite popular for its
Sandallia Papyrus has more than 1,300 hand-painted papyrus
samples in its bi-level shop and offers demonstrations on the
origins of papermaking dating back to ancient Egypt.
It’s said that essential oils first originated in Aswan, and
Al-Khan Perfume Palace showcases 52 scents, several that are unique
to Egypt. The oils are untainted and emanate some of the purest
The vendors in Aswan’s bazaar are less aggressive than
elsewhere, and here you can find everything from spices to scarves
and fewer souvenir trinkets as it’s more of a strip for locals
rather than tourists.
Mena House Oberoi
Mirage Nile Cruise
South Sinai Travel Group
Al-Khan Perfume Palace