Before travelling to Egypt, people asked me what I was most looking forward to... the pyramids, the Nile cruise boats, the hustle and bustle of Cairo or enjoying a Sakkara beer whilst watching the sunset over the Nile. The truth is, the number one thing I was looking forward to was the Egyptian people. They are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever met. And this trip didn’t disappoint.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Egypt almost a dozen times, pre, during and post the Revolution. What’s different now is that the people seem free, optimistic and excited about the future, especially when it comes to tourism.
Unfortunately for me, this trip didn’t include any sightseeing as the reason for my trip was to see how Egypt was for guests visiting today. I had also planned to visit and inspect over 40 hotels and cruise boats. It is important for Bench to find out all the updates to see what’s changed (what hasn’t changed) as well as what new opportunities there now are for visitors. So, over 7 days I travelled around downtown Cairo as well as to the Pyramids area in Giza. In addition, I took a flight down to Luxor to see hotel and cruise boats that were in the dock before finally travelling by road to Aswan.
Travelling around Cairo, it was unbelievable to see the amount of development since I was last there 7 years ago. In downtown Cairo, there are a number of stunning hotels offering Nile views including the Nile Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons Nile Plaza and the Kempinski Nile close by. Also the Sofitel El Gezirah and the lovely Four Seasons at The First Residence which now also has its own Nile boat Restaurant, the Four Season First Nile Boat, offering a selection of gourmet restaurants.
Close by in Giza there is the famous Marriott Mena House offering outstanding pyramid views and close by is the Steigenberger Pyramids which also offers views of the brand new Grand Egyptian Museum. The new museum is expected to be open in October 2020. Immense in size (Egyptians don’t build things by half), the museum will host priceless antiquities including Tutankhamen’s famous mask.
Since the Revolution, Luxor has seen little change, however, more recently things have started to happen including the upgrade of the corniche and work is to restart on the avenue of sphinxes which links the Luxor and Karnak temples. As for the accommodation, there are the staple properties of the Sonesta St George hotel and the Steigenberger Luxor hotel, both offering stunning views of the Nile. For a little more luxury there is the beautiful Old Winter Palace, a regal hotel with stunning gardens. However, the biggest change I saw was the incredible upgrade to the Hilton Luxor Resort, now one of the best all-round hotels in Luxor, and value for money.
My trip was also timed to be in Luxor on a Sunday and Monday as these are the days in which the majority of the key Nile Cruise boats (that we recommend) are in town.
Without a doubt, the best cruise boats by far are the luxurious Oberoi Zahra and Oberoi Philae boats. If you’re after the best experience in luxurious comfort and don’t mind spending the money, then this is for you. I would add that this would be money well spent though.
After the Oberoi boats, there’s the newly renovated Sanctuary Nile Adventurer. You may also wish to consider the Movenpick Royal Lotus and Royal Lily, both lovely.
Other boats to consider are the Sonesta Star Goddess, the Sonesta St George and the Sonesta Moon Goddess. And, for the more budget-conscious, the Sonesta Nile Goddess.
There are hundreds of boats on the Nile but we work with less than a dozen as I wouldn’t want our guests to step on board the majority of them. Similar to a safari, a cruise shouldn’t be something you skimp on. Ultimately, the more the spend the better your whole experience will be. And we want you to have a great experience! Don’t forget, staying on a Nile cruise boat includes all your meals, accommodation, sightseeing and guide. Take that into consideration when thinking about the costs involved.
Note, all cruises operate between Luxor and Aswan (or vice versa) and offer a variety of cruise durations from 3, 4, 6 and 7-night itineraries.
Finally, after driving from Luxor I arrived in Aswan. Aswan for many is where they disembark their cruise boat and head to the airport to return to Cairo. However, Aswan has so much more to offer as well as a couple of great accommodation options... trust me, there literally are only two places you should stay. The first is the Movenpick Aswan Resort. You need to take a small motorboat across the Elephantine Island where the hotel is located. This hotel is a great place to relax by the pool in the middle of the Nile. Furthermore, they have a restaurant on the 13th floor of their tower which offers 360 degrees of Aswan. The second property, if the budget allows, is the historic Old Cataract hotel. This property is steeped in history and you are immersed in its elegance. Aswan is a great place to relax for a couple of nights before heading home.
All in all, this trip was incredible. Tourists are travelling to Egypt in numbers, I couldn’t have felt safer and the people were so welcoming, oh, and I did get to enjoy that Sakkara beer whilst watching the sunset over the Nile.
If you have a trip to Egypt on your bucket list then now is the time to go!