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"Travelling with friends, instead of strangers jammed in bus, was absolutely the best of the best!” Carole Morse
A new classic, this family-friendly adventure was featured by Peter Greenberg & Lonely Planet.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the seven ancient wonders of the world and the final resting place for an Egyptian pharaoh. Little more than a stone's throw away is Cairo's historic Mena House Hotel, which has offered a different kind of respite to presidents, authors and empresses.
The hotel is a great home base for people looking to explore the famous pyramids, as well as other famed locales and cities in the Valley of the Kings. Yet, the hotel itself boasts plenty of history to make it a worthwhile destination even for people not staying there.
A hunting history
The Mena Hotel opened in 1886, but the structure originally served as a royal lodge for the Khedive Ismail, an Egyptian viceroy. According to the hotel's website, he and his guests used the house as a resting place when hunting in the desert. Between 1883 and 1886 it changed hands among English couples before being converted into a hotel. The dining room of the hotel once served as the entire lodge, before it was expanded in 1869 in conjunction with the opening of the Suez Canal. By the time the first guest arrived, the largely Arabic influences of the hotel had been embellished with distinctly English elements, including large fireplaces and brass-embossed wood doors. Original amenities included lawn tennis, croquet, shooting, stables and, eventually, a golf course and a swimming pool.
The hotel garnered a number of famous residents throughout the years. Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife spent the winter of 1895-96 at the Mena. Empress Eugénie, widow of Napoleon III, had a chalet built expressly for her. She visited twice over the course of 40 years. According to the hotel's website, the Mena House was chosen as a meeting place for President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and General Chiang Kai-Shek. In 1979, pre-Camp David talks supposedly took place between Presidents Sadat, Carter and Prime Minster Begin at the hotel.
Former glory restored
Today, the hotel maintains much of its historic elegance, offering fine dining and grand views of the nearby pyramids. The golf course and pool are still available to guests, as is a garden spa and fitness center. The best exercise, however, is probably the short walk to the nearby pyramids. After taking in these ancient wonders, guests can plan a trip the nearby historic Islamic district of Cairo.
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