Published on June 2nd, 2011 | by Greg0
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.