Your Own Private Cairo
A stay at Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza is the perfect base for experiencing the many cultural treasures of Egyptian civilisation.
It all started with Omar. His was the smiling face that greeted me as I walked off the plane. I knew from past experience that if there’s one airport in the world where you want to be greeted, it’s in Cairo. Omar sped me through customs and into a car before I fully took in the chaos around me.
And the car was making its way to Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza, so I sank into the leather seat and opened some chilled water. Let the adventure begin.
The drive into Cairo was a feast for the senses. To my eye, exotic, busy, boisterous, eye-poppingly varied: donkey carts and stretch limos, ancient minarets and shiny skyscrapers, veils and miniskirts (though not at the same time, as far as I saw).
Then we pulled into Four Seasons, and here my memory is on fast-forward, because a lot happens quickly in the Four Seasons world. A warm welcome, the monumental lobby, vivid art, big flowers. A buzz that seemed convivial and personal at the same time.
Then, the cool calm of my room. I was drawn to the balcony, because there it was—the Nile. The view was nothing short of riveting. It’s more than a river; it’s the heart of an entire civilisation—those were my soaring thoughts when my room service lunch arrived. Arabic meze, of course; I revised my thinking because in fact food is the heart of the entire civilisation.
There I sat, the Nile stretching out below me, immersed in my own private world.
Museums, Mosques and Movie Stars
I only had two days in Cairo so things had to go like clockwork. I took full advantage of the Concierge; Adel had a deep knowledge of the city, and I let him put my itinerary together.
Day 1 started with the fascinating Gayer Anderson museum, two connected 15th-century residences that house the eclectic collections of a British army officer who lived in Egypt at the turn of the last century. Then a private tour of two side-by-side mosques, including the Sultan Hassan mosque, regarded by some as the most outstanding Islamic monument in the world. I shivered when the muezzin took me into a vaulted room and performed the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer just for me.
Back at the Hotel, a quick swim in the luxe rooftop pool, and then I met friends for drinks in The Bar. It’s cosy and colonial in a retro kind of way, decorated with cool black-and-white photos of old Egyptian movie stars.
Pyramids and the Royal Treatment
On my second day, I ventured further afield. Adel had arranged for a driver to take me to the “step” pyramid at Saqqara, and “red” and the “bent” pyramids at Dashur, where we were completely alone. These are much older than the well-known pyramids at Giza, architectural precursors to the triangular-shaped structures that we think of as pyramids. Best of all, off the beaten track and not a tourist in sight.
Four Seasons has a beautiful large Spa and that evening I had scheduled a Pharaonic treatment. (It just seemed so right considering my day in the desert). My therapist Mohammed said it was an experience once reserved for Egyptian royalty. He used poultices of chamomile and mint dipped in jasmine and rose oils and both gentle and fairly vigorous massage.
Afterwards, in the Spa lounge, I reclined and looked out at the city lights and the boats plying the Nile. My two days were quickly coming to a close.
Then I remembered that friends were waiting for me in the Italian restaurant. And that the bazaar was open late that night. So the trip wasn’t over at all.
Two Properties in Cairo
Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza, where I stayed, is in the Garden City district, close to the Egyptian Museum and the diplomatic district. Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence is in Giza, across the street from the Zoological Garden (sometimes you can hear the lions roar) and part of The First Residence shopping complex.