Sitting astride the Nile River delta amidst some of the greatest treasures of the ancient world, Cairo has always been the focal point of Egyptian vacations and remains a wonderful destination for Royal Holiday travelers. Its urban landscape can surprise many visitors; unlike the postcards and photographs many people have seen, the Pyramids of Giza sit directly outside the city, only a few short minutes from civilization, rather than miles away in the middle of a desert. That same urban landscape, which encompasses many more architectural artifacts than the pyramids, has been delighting Royal Holiday members for decades.
The club’s members stay at the Sonesta Cairo, a five-star hotel located just north of Al Azhar University and the Cairo International Convention Centre in the city’s center. The rooms themselves, cozy and affordable studios, offer amenities like mini-fridges and full air-conditioning. Royal Holiday members will especially appreciate the Sonesta’s many services, from babysitters and laundry services to gourmet restaurants, a fine Turkish spa, an on-site casino, and an excellent pool and sauna. Just a short drive away from the pyramids, the Sonesta provides Egyptian luxury at its finest.
Cairo, located in the fertile plains surrounding the Nile Delta, enjoys a location that has been a focal point of human settlement for thousands of years; Memphis, which sits in ruins just south of Cairo, was likely founded over 5,000 years ago, and the famed monuments of ancient Egypt were largely built during the Old Kingdom period between 2600 and 2100 BC. The modern city of Cairo, however, was founded long after the fall of the pharaohs; historians generally place its founding in 969 AD, though the oldest building in the city, the fortress of Babylon, can be traced to a Roman fort built in the fourth century AD. Cairo proper began as the capital of the Fatimid caliphate, first called al-Manṣūriyyah and later given its current name, al-Qahira, or “The Victorious.” Cairo’s history since then has been marked by powers from outside Egypt and within, and its position at the crossroads between the West and the Middle East continues to this day.
Royal Holiday members will want to begin their Egyptian adventure with a tour of its famous ancient wonders; centuries of travelers have marveled at the Pyramids of Giza and the nearby Sphinx, and despite the crowds they continue to be an essential part of any visit to Cairo. The city’s incredible Egyptian Museum has been studying the region’s history for more than a century, and its more than 100 halls cover the full range of the country’s ancient history. The city’s thousands of minarets and many gorgeous mosques make it an ideal place to learn more about Islam, with Al-Hussein Mosque often considered the most beautiful. Those Royal Holiday members hungry for more history will want to explore Old Cairo as well, where the Coptic Christians still thrive in the shadow of the ancient Babylon Fort.
Exploring history, however, can be a dusty and dry activity; luckily, Royal Holiday members will find modern Cairo to be a vibrant and exciting city that is very much living in the present. Join the locals in taking in a show or lecture at the Sawy Culture Wheel, or take in a display of Sufi dancers at Wikala El Ghouri. The nearby Khan El Khalili market, an open-air bazaar that has been buzzing with commerce since the 14th century, is also an excellent place to spend an afternoon. But for weary Royal Holiday travelers worn out from the rush from one historic wonder to the next, the best prescription is a tasty dish of shawarma or kushari, and, for adults, a relaxing afternoon smoking shisha and sipping coffee at an authentic Egyptian ahwa.