By Egypt specialist Emma
Egyptologists debate whether ancient Egyptian rulers were worshipped as gods, or if they simply acted as divine mediators. (It’s hard to be categorical when you’re speaking of a multi-millennia-long culture.) What’s not up for discussion is the extraordinary opulence they enjoyed, from solid-gold pectorals to the very best beer for breakfast.
However, you might have a somewhat different idea of modern luxury. Here, I’ve outlined the most indulgent ways to enjoy Egypt’s classic sights — Cairo, Giza and the other pyramids, and a Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan.
Privacy: the ultimate luxury
Egypt has been a popular destination since at least Herodotus, who came to marvel at the pyramids, just like the rest of us. Today, tens of millions of visitors flock here every year, all to admire the same handful of ancient sights. In such a busy place, I think that the ultimate luxury is privacy.
Most cruise ships offer small-group guided tours along the Nile. For a luxe visit, I suggest cruising on one of the two Oberoi ships (more on those later), which limit the size of their groups. Or, if you prefer, I can arrange for you to have a private guide at every stop along the way. You’ll also have private guides in Cairo, whether you’re visiting the Egyptian Museum or simply exploring the city’s churches and synagogues. And, everywhere you go, you’ll have a private car and driver.
Private guides and drivers are just the start, though. For example, I can arrange for one of our partner’s representatives to greet you from your plane and smooth your way through the airport.
You can also opt for a more exclusive way to see sights like the Sphinx and the pyramids. With your private guide, you’ll arrive early in the morning, before the monuments open to the general public — this is a particularly nice option at the Sphinx, where you’ll be able to bypass the observations stands and get close enough to see the marks that the sands of time have worn into the stone.
Finally, for the ne plus ultra of Egyptian indulgence, you could have a private candle-lit dinner inside the Temple at Luxor. The temple is at its most evocative when it’s lit up at night, but it’s also thronged with visitors. A chance to relish Ramses’ greatest achievement in privacy, its walls lit by flickering candle flame, is something very few people ever get to enjoy.
Luxury hotels in Cairo
Where you stay when you’re in Cairo depends, as ever, on your personal preference. If you’re looking for impeccable service and contemporary sophistication, I suggest the Four Seasons at the First Residence. You’ll enjoy sprawling rooms, exquisite dining at the five eateries, and rooms with a view of the Nile and, in the distance, the familiar vignette of the pyramids.
For those who prefer a stay with some history, as well as the best views in all of Egypt, I suggest Marriot Mena House. Built in 1869 as a hunting lodge, this was the hotel in Cairo for more than a century. If you choose to stay here, you’ll be sleeping in the same rooms as luminaries like Prince Albert Victor, Arthur Conan Doyle, Winston Churchill, and Agatha Christie, to name just a few.
They’ve all come for the lovely rooms, yes, and the great service, too, but mostly they’ve come for the views — the hotel is nestled up at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza and you’ll have unimpeded vistas out your window. You can wake every morning to watch the dawn break on the 4,500-year-old monument, the warm morning light adding a golden glow to the timeless stones.
Luxury cruising on the Nile
Since the pharaohs of old, the best way to travel in Egypt has been on the Nile. Many different sorts of ship ply the river’s waters, and which you choose can set the tenor for your trip. All our ships are the best of the best, with excellent guides, so I’m confident you’ll have a good trip no matter which you choose. But, for a truly lavish experience, I suggest a seven-day cruise on the Oberoi Zahra or the Oberoi Philae.
The Zahra is a sleekly modern ship, with just a handful of spacious suites and rooms, a spa, swimming pool, and live performances every evening, from belly dancing to traditional music. Its sister ship, the Philae, is even smaller, and designed to resemble one of the paddle boats that sailed up and down the river at the turn of the last century. The interior, however, is fully modern, with contemporary decor and the same comforts you’ll find on the Zahra.
If you’re more interested in quiet and solitude than evening entertainment or hobnobbing in the lounge, you might consider a cruise on a vintage dahabiyya. Powered by the wind rather than motors, I love these traditional ships for their gentle pace of travel, which gives you a chance to really soak up the landscapes scrolling past.
They’ve been in use for centuries and the décor often reflects the Victorian era, with rattan furniture outside and dark wood panels inside. A good option is the Hadeel, which maintains its historical character without sacrificing any modern amenities. Additionally, dahabiyyas are small — the Hadeel has just eight two-person cabins, for example — so you’ll enjoy an intimate trip. You can also opt for a fully private cruise, taking over the whole ship.
Luxury hotels in Aswan
I’ve always thought that sleepy Aswan is the best place to end a busy Egypt visit. It’s compact and easy to navigate and you can easily spend a day (or two, or three) meandering along the small streets, visiting the Nubian Museum, and simply relaxing. And really, for a luxury trip, there’s only one place to stay while you’re here: The Old Cataract.
Technically called the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan, it was built in the 1800s and remains one of the most storied hotels in all of Egypt. Views from its rooms rival those from Mena House, with balconies that open onto a scene that seems timeless: white-sailed feluccas on the placid waters of the Nile, palm-fringed Elephantine Island, and the expansive horizons of the Sahara beyond.
This is where Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile, on her balcony overlooking the river. You can even request to stay in the same suite, now named after the author (though requests are only sometimes granted). But, if the literary legacy doesn’t compel you, I suggest staying in the new wing of the hotel instead. The rooms are a bit larger and the view includes the beautiful old wing as well as the river and desert.
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Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They’re just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.View All Tours in Egypt