For decades, Egypt was a classic destination for American travelers. The Arab Spring naturally hurt tourism, but it's picked back up again. At the end of last year, we visited the classic sites of the Nile Valley — in Cairo, Luxor and Aswan — to assess the situation for ourselves. We found increased security, a wonderful hotel and a wealth of Ancient Egyptian treasures that never fail to astonish.
Luxor (ancient Thebes) is a city of 500,000 inhabitants on the east bank of the Nile. The Temple of Luxor and the adjacent Karnak Temple Complex are two of the most impressive sites of the ancient world. On the west bank, The Valley of the Kings contains 63 tombs, including those of Ramses III, Ramses VI and Tutankhamen. That of Nefertari, the wife of Ramses II, in the nearby Valley of the Queens, is often described as the “Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt.”
During our stay, we visited most of the principal sites in Giza, including the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. On the Giza Plateau, we clambered up the passageway inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu and found our way to the King’s Chamber with its 4,500-year-old sarcophagus.
Aswan has no recommendable boutique hotels, so we opted to stay at the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan, the old Palace Wing of which was built in 1899, perched above the Nile with a view across to Elephantine Island and the crumbling remains of a temple. The hotel proved to be an oasis of calm.