The new Egypt!... Cairo short break
Cox & Kings recently sent freelance journalist Judith Baker to Cairo. Here she highlights why now is such a good time to visit.
When I informed colleagues I was heading for a luxury weekend in Cairo I got a mixed response. With TV footage of riots surrounding the January revolution in the Egyptian capital still fresh in their minds, they clearly thought I was mad.
A few days later I greet Hossam, who is escorting me from the airport to my hotel, from where I shall explore the city that heaves with history.
“Welcome to the new Egypt!” he grins as we drive through the mad, chaotic dusty streets of downtown Cairo. En route we pass Tahrir square, the scene of recent unrest and still a meeting place for a few recalcitrant groups. But the scariest thing I witness is the traffic. Hossam’s optimism is reflected everywhere over the next few days. The people of Cairo are throwing their arms open to visitors and make a huge effort to show how safe and welcome tourists are here.
After the cacophony of downtown Cairo, we arrive at the sanctuary of the Kempinski Nile Hotel in the oasis of the Garden City. Here we can admire the Nile from our balcony, wipe the grime from our brow in the spa and cool down in the Sheesha lounge, experimenting with the smoky bubbles in a fruity range of flavours.
The next day we join a small but determined crowd of European tourists who have also spurned the advice of friends and colleagues to visit Saqqara, Memphis and the only remaining Ancient Wonder of the World, the pyramids of Giza.
Here as in other parts of Egypt, visitors can enjoy the iconic sights of the country’s rich heritage at a leisurely place. “This is a good time to visit the country”, says our guide Hussein. Tourists, although beginning to return, are still relatively few and the crowds and queues that might have spoilt our day at Giza or Memphis just aren’t there. But people are still travelling to see the awe inspiring Pyramids as they have done for centuries. Governments may topple and presidents fall, but the Sphinx looks serenely on throughout and Cairo’s timeless treasures at the Egyptian museum remain unmoved by unrest.
We continue our Egyptian adventure with a tour of the medieval mosques of Islamic Cairo, and, back in the city’s winding narrow cobbled streets, we are followed and urged, but not harassed, to buy souvenirs from traders in the atmospheric bazaar at Khan al-Khalil. Seeking refuge in Fishaway’s, Cairo’s oldest café, we sip mint tea and reflect that in Cairo we have encountered nothing more alarming than a sudden sand storm, the screech of the traffic and being woken by the call to prayer from the neighbouring mosque. This is a good time to visit Egypt.
View Relax & Explore's luxury short break to Cairo.