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Published on June 2nd, 2011 | by Greg


Cairo And Istanbul: Now Is The Time!

About a month ago, we went on a jour­ney. You may have no­ticed- our vol­ume of post­ing went down, and we fo­cused a bit more on trav­el prod­ucts. We didn’t sim­ply trav­el around the Unit­ed States though, but went fur­ther afield. In fact, two of our staff flew half way across the world, and spent some time in Mo­roc­co, Egypt, Dubai, Jor­dan, and Turkey. And while most places wel­comed tourists with open arms, two in par­tic­u­lar stood out.

The nicest ho­tel in Africa has got to be the Mena House Oberoi in Cairo. Not on­ly does it have a fan­tas­tic view of the Pyra­mids, but it is the clos­est ho­tel to them. It was orig­i­nal­ly a hunt­ing lodge used by Khe­dive Is­mail, the King of Egypt. The Sphinx is lit­er­al­ly on the oth­er side of the on-site golf course, one of the on­ly ones in Cairo. And the pool is love­ly- heat­ed, large, and with plen­ty of wa­ter fea­tures and foun­tains around it, not to men­tion the wide sun­bathing area. The ho­tel has played host to many fa­mous peo­ple, from Win­ston Churchill to Pres­i­dents Roo­sevelt, Nixon, and Carter and even Char­lie Chap­lin. It al­so played host to the piv­otal peace ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Egypt and Is­rael!

We loved our stay there- a few nights was all-too-brief to see even the grounds them­selves and the sur­round­ing area. Egypt was friend­ly, and al­most des­per­ate for tourists, many of whom seem to be stay­ing away from the re­gion be­cause of the gov­ern­men­tal changes. It’s good to be cau­tious- but not a sin­gle tourist was se­ri­ous­ly harmed in the protests, and we saw lit­tle to no sign of any­thing to be wary of. Se­ri­ous­ly, now is the time to vis­it- prices were great, peo­ple were friend­ly, and we were able to climb all over the Pyra­mids with few oth­er tourists in the way of our pic­tures. And we can’t rec­om­mend the Oberoi Mena House high­ly enough- it’s one of the very best ho­tels in the world, with great and help­ful staff, large and clean rooms with love­ly bal­conies, and ev­ery ameni­ty you could imag­ine. Rates start at around 215 eu­ros a night, but we def­i­nite­ly sug­gest pay­ing a bit more for the bal­cony room.

If you find your­self in Is­tan­bul, it can be a bit hard to find evening en­ter­tain­ment. Sure, you can tour the mar­kets- and some of them stay open late. But if you’re tired of shop­ping, and want to ex­plore some­thing fun and a lit­tle cheesy, we’d sug­gest Sul­tana’s Din­ner and 1001 Nights Show. They can pick you up from your ho­tel, and drive you back as well- and in be­tween you get din­ner and (de­pend­ing on your choic­es) un­lim­it­ed drinks. But that isn’t even the best part- af­ter all, what is a din­ner show with­out a show?

This isn’t Cirque du Soleil. But it is clever, fun, and easy to like re­gard­less of your ori­gin, na­tion­al­i­ty, or pro­fi­cien­cy in Turk­ish. Some­what odd­ly, it’s hard to find bel­ly danc­ing in the heart of the for­mer Ot­toman Em­pire, but the dancers at Sul­tana’s are quite good. Some acts are pure whim­sy, and oth­ers are sexy, and there is both a theme and a plot to much of the fes­tiv­i­ties. As you munch on mezze, feast on ke­babs, and nib­ble your sal­ad in a five course meal, you can’t help but laugh at the “Aşuk Maşuk”, a dance where two men use their bel­lies as their faces, and act out a sto­ry of love. At the end, thanks to some au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion, a Sul­tan is crowned- in our case, it in­volved our ed­i­tor com­pet­ing against the crowd in a va­ri­ety of chal­lenges, all for the right to wear the robe and sil­ly hat for a bit. Af­ter the show, comes danc­ing- fun re­gard­less of tal­ent, since it’s like­ly that you’ll find peo­ple from so many places at the show. We met folks from Is­rael, In­dia, Rus­sia, France, Ger­many, and a few oth­er places- each pay­ing the fair­ly rea­son­able 40 or 70 eu­ro, de­pend­ing on your op­tions. To­tal­ly worth it- even for fam­i­lies, and es­pe­cial­ly for a ro­man­tic evening.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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