After devouring Andrew Humphrey’s Grand Hotels Of Egypt: In The Golden Age Of Travel and consulting my Agatha Christie research, I quickly decided that a stay at Mena House would be the perfect way for us to begin our Egyptian adventure.
Situated at the base of the Giza Pyramid Complex, Mena House is one of the oldest hotels still standing in the Cairo/Giza area. Originally built as a hunting lodge in 1869 for the Egyptian Khedive Isma’il Pasha, it was sold to Frederick and Jessie Head in 1883 for their use as a private residence. It was then expanded and sold again to an english couple, Ethel and Hugh F. Locke King, who immediately began construction on expanding the building yet again for use as a hotel which opened to the public in 1886 as The Mena House.
What We Loved
You really can’t beat the view at this hotel. I mean come on, who doesn’t want to sip on a Gin Fizz at the base of the pyramids?
The Food & Outdoor Patio Dining
In general, food in Egypt is cheap due to the current exchange rates. While we were visiting in November of 2018 it was about 18 LE to $1, which is just insane. And even dining at a 5-star, luxury hotel resort like this one was incredibly cheap. Lunch for the two of us on the patio complete with alcohol one afternoon was only about 600 LE (roughly $33) of which, 300 LE alone was for my gin fizz. So while food is incredibly cheap, keep in mind that you’ll most likely be paying fancy NYC cocktail prices for your drinks during your entire visit to Egypt.
One of the highlights of our stay though, was that the hotel included an incredibly abundant hot breakfast buffet complete with many local delicacies in addition to a full traditional continental spread. We adored getting up each morning, filling our plates with local delicacies and then sitting on the patio bathing in the sunlight while looking up at the pyramids. It was so perfect and somewhat surreal, like being on a movie set instead of in real life.
Almost anyone who was anyone stayed here while traveling through Egypt from Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Charlton Heston and Charlie Chaplin.
Staying at locations rooted in history and steeped in colorful stories is something I’m obsessed with. I love reading all I can about a place in advance of my trip and then getting to stand in that very spot I read about and playing through each of those moments in my mind, imagining what it would have been like when that person I read about was standing right where I am now. Mena House is a perfect example of this since almost anyone who was anyone stayed here while traveling through Egypt from my girl Agatha Christie, to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Charlton Heston and Charlie Chaplin (just to name a few). It’s almost impossible to walk around the hotel grounds without feeling a connection to the sheer amount of history in the place.
What We Didn’t Love
It’s Quite Remote
While it worked for our needs during our stay, we didn’t love how remote the hotel seemed. Plan for it to take anywhere from 30mins-1hr to get anywhere in Cairo from the hotel and require you to hire a car each time. (We simply used the Uber app on our phone for this with great success during our stay.)
It’s Been Heavily Remodeled
For history buffs like me, I’m always a bit disappointed when I arrive at a historic destination to find it’s been so remodeled over the years that it’s almost unrecognizable. And while the grounds were beautiful, I didn’t feel like there were many historic details left to explore, except for a handful of touches and some old furniture dispersed here and there around the hotel.
So if you’re expecting to find yourself immersed in historical architecture from the golden age of travel in Egypt, or really anything like the historic photos you’ve seen of the hotel, you’ll most likely be a bit disappointed.
We had a hard time finding places to lounge
This seems like such a minor complaint, but in comparison to several of the other hotels we stayed at during our trip, this hotel seemed to lack common area spaces suitable for lazily lounging about. Or perhaps they were there and we just couldn’t find them? (The complex was small yet confusing to me). In any case, it mostly felt like a lot of lawn and ponds and we would have loved a few more locations where we could sit outside and relax on a comfy veranda gazing up at the view of the beautiful pyramids after exploring all day.
No Airport Pick-Up Or Drop-Off Services
One of my biggest complaints was that this resort didn’t offer any type of airport pick-up service. For a 5-star resort, this seems like a complimentary service that should have been included in our stay, or at least been available to us for purchase. Luckily Uber is incredibly cheap in Egypt and we were able to catch a ride to the hotel from the Cairo airport for only about $5.
It’s Also Not Quite Remote Enough
Ok I know this seems like a bit of a contradiction to my other post, but in general I feel like I either want a hotel to be situated in a location that gives me easy access to things during my stay OR I want to feel like I’m in a remote private retreat getting away from it all. And while the Mena house is not really convenient to much of anything besides from the Giza Pyramid complex, it’s also not located in a remote desert oasis these days. Where once it was the only structure for miles around, the hotel complex has now been firmly swallowed up by modern day Giza. The hotel does it’s best to mitigate this feeling, but they can only do so much.