“Would you like a view of this pyramid, or a view of this one?" This was the first time I ever heard a staff member of any resort in the world ask such a question. At the Mena House Oberoi, the question is a valid and equally baffling one. Here’s my account of staying at this magnificent property, Cairo’s most impressive historical property that rests right at the foot of the Great Pyramids of Giza.
No other place: When there’s just one spot on Earth where one can find just a certain something, I know I’ve found a spot to satiate my soul and delight me to no end. Egypt is the one place to find the world’s most impressive array of pyramids, and the Mena House Oberoi is the only resort on the planet that makes the pyramids its bold backdrop, even from its golf course. Bold is an understatement. From the gold dipped lobby to the armchair of my spacious balcony, the Great Pyramids of Giza appear painted in front me from every view, so luminously framed by the cloud speckled sky and the lush gardens of the resort. It was only after my guest and I touched the walls of the pyramids and entered one of the tombs just outside of the resort’s gates that I heard myself say, “oh, so these ARE real.” A few of the staff members of the resort admitted that most guests never get over the magnitude of pyramids, often caught beaming up at the timeless prisms from the tea garden or lavish dining rooms. I was one such guest.
Splashing and sampling: The Mena House Oberoi truly doesn’t need anything more than the Great Pyramids to make it an exceptional resort. Still, the resort offers an ample array of enticing delights that can make a stay in Cairo happy even if confined to the property’s 40 acres of expansive grounds. I enjoyed twice-daily swims in the resort’s modern pool, surrounded by tiered lounge chairs and a coffee bar. With five international restaurants, the Mena House Oberoi makes dining a daily discovery. My favorite was Al Rubayyat, the resort’s Indian restaurant. I was curious why the staff insisted we try their Indian offering. I’m now a convinced patron: the food was outstanding. I believe it to be the best Indian restaurant experience I’ve had to date— and I’ve been to India. The spices were intense, not intimidating, and the presentation was perfectly portioned, not overdone. Seating times are firm, so inquire with the hotel for reservations, as it is “Egypt’s best Indian restaurant.” I loved the tea service, served indoors or out in the late afternoon. Sipping Earl Grey tea and munching on raspberry jam scones under the shadow of the looming pyramids, I smiled thinking, “Now this is surely my most impressive tea time yet!”
Historical delight: It only seems fitting that adjacent to pyramids thousands of years old the Mena House Oberoi would have its own place in Egypt’s vast history. Indeed, when I took a tour of the property, guided by a staff member with 25 years of service at the Mena House, its story unfolds as unbelievably as the pyramids themselves. The Mena House was once the hunting lodge of the royal Khedive Ismail in 1869, who wanted his mistresses to “awake with the pyramids upon sunrise.” The House switched ownership throughout the next century, becoming a prime destination for dignitaries, the political elite, and Hollywood’s hottest. Photos throughout the hotel capture candid moments of Churchill and Roosevelt plotting international affairs and Frank Sinatra and Julio Iglesias serenading in the lobby. Beyond photos, the Mena House is still adorned with the stunning carved Mashrabiya woodwork, chandeliers, ornate tapestries, and pieces a century or more old. Each contains a story or two. The décor makes even a stroll down a hallway of the Mena House an escape to epic moments distilled in time. There’s something about a deeply historical property that transcends an otherwise ordinary stay into a timeless experience. For guests seeking a more modern experience, the Mena House’s newly completed 432 Garden rooms are sure to please. You’ll still get the question about which pyramid to view, too.