Photographs by: Sean Watters
As an impressionable child, I enjoyed the teachings of my Sunday school teacher who had the ability to bring my Bible to life; particularly with the incredible story of Moses floating among the reeds in the Nile. It was a story that touched my heart and left an indelible mark as to what a mother will do to protect her child, little did I know that one day I too would float along the Nile.
I received a call from Myrdith, publisher of World Bride Magazine, who was extremely excited to invite me to join her and the WBM creative team in Egypt. The AmCham Egypt Travel & Tourism Committee had invited members of the World Bride Magazine team for a week to learn about Egypt today; its people, its commerce and reflect on its powerful and mysterious past as they anticipate the future.
I immediately began to romanticize about planning an exotic destination wedding in this magnificent country not realizing that this fleeting thought would eventually develop into an entire plan for a most luxurious wedding!
Sunday arrived and off we went, the first stop – JFK airport to EgyptAir whose employees were stellar from the young man at the check in counter to the onboard airline staff, each and every person was helpful and courteous.
Our first stop in Egypt was Cairo, the capital, and after a very fast and exhilarating drive we arrived at the Semiramis InterContinental Hotel in the Nile Valley. This beautiful hotel towers over the Nile River, where my well-appointed room boasted two balconies with views of the Nile from one side and modern high rises and Cairo’s business sector from the other. The password for the day must have been service, service, and service – there wasn’t a person we met that wasn’t poised to assist; from the staff serving a delicious complimentary breakfast to the front of the house staff that was ready, willing and able to anticipate and address our needs.
Our daily schedule was filled with a whirlwind of activity; each location provided us yet another extraordinary opportunity to learn more about this country and all the interesting secrets buried deeply within it.
I was awe struck by the number of visible monuments that held the secrets from the beginning of time and how each museum, pyramid and tomb provided written history that has been preserved and passed onto generations. The guides knew every nook and cranny from the Nile to the Red Sea, to the driest desert and up into the hills, each location presented their portion of the Egyptian story that kept me intrigued and wanting more.
Our first opportunity to meet all of our host was while we dined at Four Seasons Hotel Cairo’s Aura Restaurant, at The First Residence. This was a picture perfect evening and was both relaxing and thought provoking. Our dinner was on the terrace with an incredible pool and cabanas- an amazing space; clearly every detail and appointment had been given a lot of thought. This exquisite roof top provided many extraordinary vistas, and wonderful ideas as a site for a rehearsal dinner for your family and friends
Our visit to the Giza Plateau was profound. I have read and watched movies depicting this region of the world. But to actually stand at the base of these Pyramids left me bewildered. The sheer brilliance or rather genius of these people is inspiring. I don’t know what I was actually expecting? How could these ruins still remain? Moreover how were they built? So long ago an exceptionally driven people focused on what the dreams of their leaders and built these amazing monuments for themselves and about themselves. Their remains are a testament to how a civilization has the ability to create legacies that are strong enough to endure centuries of hardship, love, war and peace. There is something about these hallowed grounds that leaves an indelible mark somewhere deep in my spirit.
I loved visiting the Grand Egyptian Museum, while it was bitter sweet, we knew that the next iteration would be magnificent. The museum is massive and contains artifacts from centuries ago – so much so that it feels like I am walking back in time. We spent the afternoon learning about this amazing building that comfortably joined the past to the present and learned that these 200,000 artifacts were to be moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum that will open in 2018 with more than 300,000 artifacts. This visit coupled with the visit to the Restoration site at the foot hills of the Grand Museum provided a private rare glimpse into a bit of history that had finally been uncovered. In 2018 the current Egypt Museum will become the Egyptian Art Museum which will house the masters of this great nation.
We made our way to El Moez Street where merchants peddle their wares and we noted a wonderful cross section of the people and their traditions, scattered along each block. This wonderful street provides each visitor the opportunity to take a little bit of Egypt’s history back to your home.
As we drove up this very new road and observed the lights and signage we knew that we would savor the serenity of one of the most upscale modern properties was the Uptown Cairo Golf Community; a delightful gated communities and of course, golf courses become amazing backyards. We dined in the Golf Clubhouse and there we learned more about the property that strategically rests at the foot of a large hill, the Mokkatam, and overlooks the lights and action of Cairo. These properties are unique in their design with a mixture of Egyptian and Spanish architecture offering villas, town houses, duplexes and assortment of lofts that create this mixed living community, many of the units fitted with pools, while others share breathtaking desert vistas. The Uptown Cairo has a true Mediterranean vibe and would be the perfect setting to host the most lavish wedding and reception.
While we have been moving fast this trip has create a host of ideas for mixing a destination wedding with the modern and historic Egypt. I love the City of Luxor, there is a sweet peace there… the West Bank of the Nile provides a special peacefulness that allows my brain to breathe. Everything was breathtaking. The West Bank at Luxor is one of the world’s most critically important Egyptian sites, and is often referred to as the Valley of the Kings. I was amazed and could hardly believe that much of the entire world’s history has been retained and protected in so many temples I loved listening to this incredible history, while rolling by landmarks along the shore.
The Dahabeya Boat with its broad sails with hand carved finishes sails on the Nile – which flows from South to North. This “river” boat is really a home; filled with incredible staterooms, whirlpool spas and incredible vistas from any seat on the three levels, I could spend a week floating amid the lushness of the banks of the Nile and enjoying the beauty of the region.It is indeed the perfect place with. After we had dined sufficiently, we docked at a pier at the edge of a breathtaking property, the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa, our lodging for the evening. The compound and the rooms were luxurious, appointed with every conceivable amenity. I was grateful to open my drape and see the sun setting on the West Nile.
The next part of our trip confirmed that the Egyptian people creativity and vision are extraordinary, the sheer height and size of these temples and statues gave way to my curiosity and the mysteries each of these artifacts held… it was hard to fathom an entire city devoted to the statues of past leaders and rivals that made their way to history books across land and sea. I will always remember the Luxor Temple to the artistry of the Sound and Light show at the Karnak Temple – this was a mysterious outing at night listening to a voice play out important times in history. If you are adventurous, this is must be on your list. You will love it. I am convinced that the theatrics of this venue is probably reminiscent of theatre in early Egypt. It was an extraordinary sensory experience I will always remember.
I love dining outdoors! There is something wonderful about the fresh air, trees and gardens colliding with the aromas from the grill that seems to heighten my palate. Our dinner at the Sofitel Winter Palace Hotel, Garden – was magnificent. Tables laden with the delicacies from the region exploded with flavor, while the musings of our host reminded us that were indeed in Egypt, made me want to clamor for more.
I totally fell in love the Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh in the Red Sea Riviera Region. First of all, I couldn’t get over the fact that this was where God parted the Red Sea and as I stood on the beach, I shed tears as I remembered that the God I serve is a loving God, and while I enjoyed those few moments of reflection, I did join our friends to swim and play in the Red Sea with the reflections of this newly designed coastline filled with resorts and villas. A paradise tucked away in a world of its own. The hotel’s lobby reminded me of another fabulous Four Season’s location and I immediately felt at home. The open windows on the back of the building gave way to the Red Sea and its luxurious coast line, representing 21st Century progress that developers are relishing in this region. It is absolutely drop dead gorgeous and with little effort provides a modern experience juxtaposed to the history that the regions celebrates.
Right after the sunsets in Egypt’s desert the hills become pitch black and as the stars dot the skies, it is perfect for a starlight Bedouin Dinner in the middle of the desert. We dined on delicacies rich with flavor, love and kindness and entertainment fit for a queen or king. It was reminiscent of historical Arabic movies brought to life. The seating was of fine linens and the tables were set with an assortment of fresh breads and hummus. While we were really in the spirit of our environment, we truly enjoyed the camaraderie of our travel mates.
I have never sailed on a Felucca boat on the Nile River, let alone have a gourmet meal catered by Four Seasons Nile Plaza Hotel. The Felucca created an intimate opportunity for us to chat while the impeccably dressed staff served us this delectable meal. This tour of the Nile in the urban setting of Cairo had a stark difference than being on the Dahabeya Boat on the West Nile in Luxor. I absolutely loved the juxtaposition of space, time and the people.
Our last night was spent on the terrace of the Mena House Hotel. This historical hotel has acres of lush green gardens and is situated in the shadows of the Great Pyramids of Giza in Cairo. A charming historical property with a garden that is lush with exotic florals, trees, and greens.
There’s a wonderful story in this experience, one of love and peace for a nation, and a commitment from its leadership to be a better place for her citizens.
As an anecdote, I began this article with religious interest being worn on my sleeves. I craved the sacred information and sites from my Bible. And yet, I left a beautiful country filled with the most amazing people who aren’t unlike most of the citizens in this world.
In my heart I will hold a very special place for Egypt, one that I will hold dear forever. I do hope you and your family have the opportunity to visit, host a destination wedding or enjoy your honeymoon. For it is there that the wonders of the world where kings and queens created an opulent life filled with brilliance and intrigue that modern day Egyptians continue to share with the world.