Cairo and Giza
Fly into Cairo and be whisked away to nearby Giza, home of the Pyramids. The best place to stay is Marriott Mena House, which was originally built in 1869 and hosted the likes of Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Request a room with a view of the Pyramids, which can also be admired as you stroll the grounds. From here, the Pyramids and the Sphinx are just a quick drive away.
Another reason to visit Giza: The $1.1-billion and 5.2 million-square-foot Grand Egyptian Museum—which will be the second largest museum on earth and the largest museum dedicated to a single civilization—is currently under construction. When it opens in November, it will display some 50,000 ancient artifacts, including King Tut’s chariots and objects that have been languishing in storage in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.
Your next stop should be Luxor, which is a quick one-hour flight from Cairo. This is where you’ll discover the most incredible temples and tombs that make the Pyramids seem plain in comparison. Check into the Sofitel Winter Palace, a historic grand dame built in 1886 that still exudes colonial luxury.
The pharaohs of ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom (1539–1075 B.C.) were no fools. Having seen the Pyramids of Giza raided by tomb robbers, they decided to build their tombs underground on the banks of the Nile near Luxor, in the area now known as the Valley of the Kings. There are 62 tombs, though only a handful are open at a time. Contrary to what you might think, King Tut’s tomb is not the most impressive one. If you can, visit the tombs of Ramses IV and Sety I, both of which have hieroglyphics painted in vibrant shades of blue and gold that have been miraculously preserved for thousands of years. Afterwards, enjoy Egyptian specialties in the garden of the Marsam Hotel, where visiting archeologists typically hang out.
The ancient temples here are some of the most impressive in Egypt. Luxor Temple is lovely to visit as the sun is setting, when you can admire the larger-than-life statues and massive columns as the sky turns shades of pink and purple. Karnak Temple is Egypt’s largest remaining temple complex with ten pylons, massive columns carved with hieroglyphics, and obelisks carved out of sandstone. (The obelisk that stands in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo came from this temple.) If you want to shop, stop at Radwan Bazaar, where you can buy jewelry, beautifully embroidered pillowcases and table runners, and wood boxes inlaid with mother of pearl.