It is just about 4:30 am and we board our flight from Jomo Kenyatta Intl Airport in Nairobi. Having not slept all night, I immediately black out not long after we are airborne. About five hours later, I wake to an early morning in Cairo where we are picked up by our tour manager from Memphis Tours. In a van much too large for just T and I, we make our way westward across Cairo. While still groggy and bleary eyed from a night of restless sleep, I make out distant outlines of countless mosques that float out of the misty horizon as if from a dream. We very nearly reach the foot of the Pyramid of Cheops when we turn off the road and through the ornate wooden gates of the Mena House Oberoi Hotel.
As it turns out, Mena House is something of a historic landmark as it was first built in 1869 as a hunting lodge for the Egyptian King Isma'il Pasha. According to Wikipedia, Pasha sold the lodge in 1883 which was then sold again two years later to an English couple who converted it to a hotel. It was named "the Mena House" after the founding father of the first Egyptian dynasty, King Menes.
Since then, Mena House has hosted a number of high profile guests including countless members of royalty, presidents, prime ministers, celebrities, and writers. Among my favorites are Winston Churchill, Omar Sharif, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Charlie Chaplin!
The hotel clearly embraces it's history as it takes almost every opportunity to display historic pictures of Egypt and the hotel. Images of tourists throughout the last century posing in front of the pyramids and the sphinx are showcased in every room, every hallway, and even in its restaurant menus! The pictures above were taken from complimentary postcards left in our room.
Today the hotel sits on a rather sprawling campus. We were actually "delivered" to our room via golf cart as it was located in a completely separate building complex from the reception. Having to traverse this distance each time we needed to eat (the restaurants were located by reception) or leave the hotel was a bit annoying especially since the weather was quite cold (highs in the 50's to low 60's F). But the well kept grounds and the larger than life pyramids offered views that made the trek much more bearable.
Having arrived in the early morning, we thought we might want to do some exploring of Cairo on our own during the day. But my convictions started to waver as I found our room to be quite spacious and comfortable especially as I continued to feel the toll that the previous night of travel was having. The farthest we got was to Felfela, an Egyptian take out place around the corner that had the best felafel I've ever had. After lunch, I was ready for a nap ... after which, it was time for dinner which we ate in the rather opulently decorated hotel restaurant, all the while wondering where our day went.