The Old Cataract Hotel, Aswan. Built in 1899 by Thomas Cook, the man who invented tourism in Egypt, the Cataract was the place to stay when the genteel arrived in Aswan on the new rail line. The setting, overlooking the boulder-strewn whitewater narrows that gives the hotel its name, couldn’t be more dramatic.
The Era of Grand Touring The ancient history of Egypt fascinated the world in the years after the great temples were rediscovered and Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone in the 1820s. This interest spawned Egypt’s first tourist development—new museums, hotels, and restaurants, some of which have become tourist attractions in their own right.
Mena House Hotel, Giza. Originally the Khedive Ismail’s hunting lodge in the shadow of the Great Pyramid, this mansion was built in 1869 and became a hotel early in the following century. Guests have included Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Cecil B. DeMille, Randolph Hearst, and William Faulkner.
The Old Winter Palace Hotel, Luxor. Completed in 1886 as a place for the Royal family to spend the cooler months, the Winter Palace adds an understated elegance to Luxor waterfront.
Valley of the Kings, Luxor. Burial ground of Egypt’s ancient rulers, the tombs of the Middle and New Kingdom pharaohs are vividly decorated, and one—that of Tutankhamun—held a vast cache of treasures interred alongside the dead king for use in the afterlife.
Grand Trianon Café, Alexandria. The Grand Trianon has been a place to meet for afternoon tea since it opened in the 1920s. From the literary glitterati of that era to the academics of the present day, the period interior has been a party to many conversations.
The Nile, the Nile Valley. The ancient Greek researcher and traveler Herodotus—the man who invented the notion of writing history—put it succinctly when he said, “Egypt is a gift of the Nile.” This most mighty of rivers brings fertility and beauty to the land and was a conduit for trade and information from the dawn of civilization.
The Temple Complex of Ramesses II, Abu Simbel. The colossal statues of the pharaoh dominating the facade represent a high point in New Kingdom art and architecture. The relocation of the temple in the 1970s to save it from the rising waters of Lake Nasser was a triumph of engineering, and of international cooperation.
Deir al-Bahri, Luxor. She didn’t manage to get a tomb plot in the Valley of the Kings, but the facade of Deir el-Bahri, the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, is one of the most graceful and elegant buildings in Egypt.
The Best of Egypt Itinerary Cairo 3 days. After spending your first two days exploring ancient Cairo, it’s time to immerse yourself in the post-Pharaonic era. On Day 3 explore the Islamic city and the attractions leading off Shara al-Mu’iz; the streets and alleys all still brim with life. Browse in Khan al-Khalili or the Tent Maker’s bazaar for souvenirs, and stop for some tea or even lunch at El Fishawy or the Naguib Mahfouz Cafeé. Later, take a taxi to the Citadel to explore the mosques