After a few years of instability, tourism to Egypt is slowly rebounding. In fact, Rob Veden, senior destination manager, Africa & Middle East, Cox & Kings, The Americas, says that “clients have continued booking new trips for 2016 since the [plane] crash. We have had many inquiries since the incident from clients booked, but they wanted to make SURE we were still operating as they are eager to visit.”
But how has tourism to Egypt changed after the tumultuous past few years? Veden notes that “the booking window has shortened, rates are lower, and fewer tourists are creating a more personal and intimate journey. Egypt is an amazing destination, filled with antiquities and historic sights. Volume was so high with so many people at the sights. Now, with reduced numbers, it is a whole new experience. You don’t feel the large crowds.”
I certainly didn’t feel the large crowds when I traveled there in 2015 to take in some of the country’s most iconic sights, but this won’t last, so tell clients now is the time to go. If safety is a concern, tell them the country has bolstered security at tourist destinations and hotels by increasing the number of security cameras. In fact, notes Veden, “tourism is very important to Egypt and security remains high to ensure the safety of guests visiting the main tourist destinations of the upper Nile, from Aswan and Abu Simbel down through Luxor and onto Cairo.”
This sprawling capital in the Nile’s Delta is best known for its Egyptian Museum, and in nearby Giza, the Sphinx and the Pyramids. The long history of Cairo is seen in the Coptic and Jewish areas, as well as the historic Citadel. For unique shopping, explore the ancient ancestor of the shopping mall, the Khan el-Khalili souk, bustling with small shops and alleyways filled with surprises—remember to haggle over prices.
HIGHLIGHT: One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the Sphinx are jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring any time of day. Highly recommended is the nightly sound and light show, which is projected onto Giza’s pyramids.
HOTEL PICK: Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino was built around the historic 1869 Khedive Ismail Palace. My Standard Double Room was comfortable, with complimentary water and WiFi, and a view of the Cairo Tower. For great views of the Pyramids, recommend the Mena House Hotel, where I stayed in a spacious Deluxe Gardenview room in a new addition to the property.
About an hour’s flight via EgyptAir from Cairo is Luxor, an open-air museum on the Nile. The Luxor temple complex and the adjacent Karnak temple are filled with carved half-man, half-animal deities, and graffiti from 19th century visitors. Horse-drawn carriages tour the historic sites—remember to agree on a price before climbing aboard. For a taste of modern Luxor, stroll the nearby town souk for gifts, and taste local foods and sweets.
HIGHLIGHT: Tomb wall paintings and inscriptions are eye-popping and look as if they were painted yesterday. The wooden stairways and railings can be a challenge for some visitors, however, a wheelchair-accessible facsimile tomb was built near Howard Carter’s home, the archaeologist who found Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.
HOTEL PICK: Sofitel Winter Palace Hotel, located walking distance from the Luxor Temple, features high ceilings, broad halls, and views overlooking the Nile. The property also features pools and a garden.
According to Veden, “Over the last two seasons we have seen strong triple and double digit increases in bookings to Egypt.”
One of the tour operator’s “most popular [programs] is the private Ancient Mysteries of Egypt tour.” It kicks off with three days in Cairo exploring the city, and the Pyramids and Sphinx. A short flight to the Upper Nile takes guests to see the majestic temples of Ramses II looming over Lake Nasser. They then take a 3-day Nile cruise with stops in Kom Ombo to see several temples. An option to view the sunrise from a hot air balloon before cruising on to Cairo for a final day of sightseeing is also available.
The 9-day Ancient Mysteries of Egypt tour, at the Elite level, starts at $4,895 pp for a group of four or from $4,995 for two. The Preferred level starts at $3,095 pp for four clients, or $3,340 for two clients.