I knew immediately that I was going to enjoy all that Egypt had to offer. But those first few days in Cairo were not just about the Pyramids.
I visited the beautiful port of Alexandria, famous for its state-of-the-art library that houses no less than 8 million books, and spent a fascinating few hours in the Egyptian Museum where some of the artifacts date back more than 5,000 years. The jewel in the museum's crown is of course the incredibly well preserved tomb of Tutankhamen, and so this is a great starting point to any trip to Egypt as it paints a vivid picture in your mind of what life must have been like under the rule of the Pharoahs.
A very different one to that of modern day Cairo, a seething metropolis of wonderful chaos! I then flew south to Luxor for a 4-night cruise up the Nile to Aswan aboard the Sonesta St George. This traditional river cruiser had really spacious cabins and a fantastic crew who couldn't do enough for you - the perfect means of access therefore to such iconic landmarks as the Valley of the Kings where I felt honored to enter the grandest of the Pharaonic tombs.
Equally impressive was the Temple of Philae which to my amazement has been entirely moved and reconstructed on a different island when the new dam at Aswan was built. Remarkable!
I was very taken by Aswan as well. With elegant feluccas sailing up and down the Nile (and a welcome lack of Cairo's 'horn honking!), the city exudes a certain calmness and I could see why so many locals chose to spend their vacations here. The climate is also much drier than in Luxor, so ideal for visiting the sights. The people in Aswan are Nubians, known for their colourful dress and for their kindness which was only too evident in their faces when they eagerly offered to show me around.
I was very fortunate too to stay at the Sofitel Old Cataract Hotel, one of the city's best loved and most famous landmarks that had just re-opened after a three-year renovation. The result is truly exquisite, an Arabesque fantasy at its most sumptuous.
I ended my journey at the Kempinski Soma Bay, just an hour's drive south of Hurghada on the Red Sea. Soma Bay is home to a handful of large resorts, of which the Kempinski rightfully claims top spot. With cooling breezes and coral reefs just a short swim from the shoreline, it was the perfect conclusion to my Egyptian adventure.
Although the country has had its fair share of well-documented difficulties in recent months, I have to say that I felt incredibly safe and well looked after throughout, and with fewer tourists than usual I had some of the sites virtually to myself!
Read more about our vacations to Egypt