You’re not going to find posh tier-one luxury hotels in most other parts of Egypt, with a few notable exceptions. But you will recognize some major international brands in some of Egypt’s other major tourist cities and you’ll even find some nice boutiquey properties that you didn’t even know to look for.
Luxor is the second most popular city in Egypt for its historical tourism, and here you will actually find some decent hotels and resorts to stay in while you’re here for a night or two. I can’t imagine staying in Luxor more than two nights without getting bored after you see the major sights, so any place you find here will likely only be for a very short stay anyway.
My favorite place to stay in Luxor is not actually the nicest hotel in Luxor, but it’s one of my favorites in Egypt nonetheless – the Sofitel Winter Palace Hotel. Despite its name it was never an actual palace; rather, it was built as a hotel in the late 1800s. But given that it was built in the colonial era for colonial elites, it has a royal look and feel to it that takes you back to the colonial era when you’re in it. It’s not for those looking for modern resort luxuries, but it’s quaint and I like it for its historic ambiance.
A little outside of the central downtown Luxor area and abutting the Nile itself are a number of decent resorts that have international management and branding. The Hilton, the Jolie, the Mercure, the Steigenberger, and the Sonesta are all nice. At these you’ll have decent restaurants with international food offerings, pools, and a bar at a minimum. These are more popular with package holiday tourists and don’t have much personality or charm, so I tend to opt for quaint in Luxor and default to resort-style properties on the coasts.
I was curious about what sites like Trip Advisor would say about Luxor’s hotel scene and in checking it out I came across a perfect example of why it’s hard to trust even allegedly trustworthy review sites like that. Their Top 10 list for Luxor includes several properties that I would put in a tier 5 or 6 category of properties, not anywhere near a “Top 10.”
As an aside, here’s a good hint for judging hotels in Egypt – if it’s named after a Pharaoh or a monument, it’s probably “jank-tastic.” In other words, it’s probably of a lower quality. In Cairo or Luxor, if it’s named after King Tut or Nefertiti or Cleopatra, let that be a red flag for you. Or if its named after the Pyramids or Karnak or the Sphinx, again, red flag. I saw 3 of these on Trip Advisor’s alleged Top 10 list for Luxor, which makes me question Trip Advisor as a resource more than I already did.
The same goes for Aswan a little further down the Nile. The Sofitel and the Movenpick are going to be nice for Aswan. This city gets fewer tourists actually staying overnight here than Luxor, so there are fewer offerings here and the differential between decent and sketch is quite large. For most of the other properties here and in other small-sized cities and towns around Egypt, you’re going to start having to adjust your scale of nice to be ‘nice for city x’ or ‘decent for city y.’
Ok, now Alexandria, back up north on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. Along the coast is where you really want to stay in Alexandria because that’s where most of the sites and restaurants and life are in the city. It’s a coastal city, so that makes perfect sense.
If you’ve got the money to spend or spare, you’ll be pleased to hear that there IS a new Four Seasons property recently built in Alexandria, which I have to put in the tier-one category of course. I’ll be honest and confess I haven’t actually stayed in it yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Years ago when I lived in Egypt I used to make weekend trips to Alexandria and stay overnight in hotels there, but the last 8 or 10 times I’ve been to Alexandria I’ve just done it as a day trip from Cairo and headed back in the same evening.
But if the Four Seasons is out of your price range or, hopefully, you splurged and ran up your hotel budget on the Four Seasons or the Kempinski back in Cairo, then you’ll be pleased to hear that several of the other major hotels in Alexandria are perfectly nice and are priced much cheaper than their sister properties in Cairo. The Sheraton Montazah near the Montazah Palace and the Hilton Corniche are both usually under a hundred bucks a night.
There’s another Hilton Property called Green Plaza out by the airport, which actually isn’t that far from the coastal city area compared to airport hotels in cities like Cairo. But it is inland and it’s more expensive, so I’d recommend opting for a hotel on the sea if you’re there for touring and sightseeing. But if you have a really early flight out of Alexandria and want to be near the airport for that reason, then the Hilton by the airport would be a great option in that circumstance.
Again, avoid anything named after a Pharaoh or similar here too, like the Cleopatra Hotel or Alexander the Great Hotel. Cleopatra did actually reign over Egypt from here, but I don’t think she’d stay in her own namesake hotel today if she came back. In fact, she’d probably raze it to the ground, build a monument, and go stay at the Four Seasons.
Sharm El Sheikh, the resort city on the southeastern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, is the last major city in Egypt in which you’ll find multiple nice Western-style hotels and resorts. Since tourism is pretty depressed in Egypt right now, you’ll also find some really good deals at these resorts too. All the major western international brands have properties here, including Four Seasons, Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, Renaissance, Radison Blu, and so on.
Sharm tends to be a lot more of an enclosed resort-style destination, so don’t expect to be abel to just walk out of your hotel’s front door and stroll through town, although taxis between different parts of Sharm are pretty cheap. Sharm is known for nightlife and sea sports and it’s a fun place to stay a few days or even a little more.
Also popular in that area are some of the seaside towns further up the eastern Sinai coast like Dahab and Neweiba. Those are two towns where, if you go, I’d recommend finding a small local hotels and going with the local vibe and flow rather than looking for Western comforts.
Same for out in the Oases too. Most tourists don’t make it to these places unless you’re spending time traveling throughout Egypt for more than a week or two or unless you’re living or working there a while. But if you find yourself heading to either one of these smaller beach towns or an oasis, my advice on these is to go local on accommodations.
The part of Egypt’s Red Sea coast that’s not on the Sinai Peninsula has some great resorts too. The Sheraton Miramar property in El Gouna has always been my go-to Red Sea resort. I’ve taken hundreds of guest there and used to stay there a lot too on my own and with friends. I love the little town of El Gouna and prefer it to the more touristy and crowded areas further down like Hurghada.
Lots – and I mean LOTS – of European tourists – like really touristy tourists – flood Hurghada and I’ve just never been a fan personally. But maybe I’ve missed something. I don’t know. I’m open to trying it out again but I’ve just never liked any of the resorts at Hurghada unless they’ve built something new or really raised the bar there that I’ve been unaware of.
Much further down the coast, though, Marsa Alam is an out-of-the-way area that some people go to and which has a number of nice resorts too. It’s kinda far though and it’s more of a destination for people who live in Egypt or have been there multiple times and want somewhere new to try. I’m not aware of many first-time or even second or third time tourists to Egypt planting themselves down in Marsa Alam, but it is certainly very pleasant down there and you’re away from the hustle and bustle of the world and able to just chill on the beach. If that’s what you’re after, you’ll certainly find it in Marsa Alam.
One thing to keep in mind in any place, Egypt included, is that things change. Maybe they don’t change as frequently as they do in other places, such as from year to year, sometimes you do start to notice change in Egypt’s tourism landscape every five or ten years or so. So with that said, occasionally hotel properties do revamp themselves, renovate, come under new management, new branding, etc.
Over the past 15 years in Cairo I’ve the Nile Hilton get renovated and replaced by the Nile Ritz Carlton. I’ve see the Gezira Sheraton also get renovated and replaced by the Gezira Sofitel. I’ve seen a second Four Seasons (Nile Plaza) get built from the group up, two Kempinski property’s appear, and the historic Shepard Hotel get gutted, and who knows what may appear in its place.
Every time I go to Egypt I try to check out more and more places and go back to re-discover older places that may have changed for the better. As my impressions and opinions change and evolve, I’ll be sure to keep readers updated.