The undisputed #1 property on the Egypt Travel Blog’s and the Egypt Travel Podcast’s list of Best Hotels of Egypt for 2019 in Cairo and Giza is the Sheraton Cairo Hotel and Casino, also known simply as the Cairo Sheraton. This hotel has been closed for quite a few years for extensive renovations and only recently re-opened as Cairo’s nicest, swankiest, poshest, most high-recommended hotel. It’s also one that’s honestly priced at a very very good value too for how nice it has become and for what you’re getting.
Now let me address what might be our readers’ and listeners’ first question about this new #1 recommended hotel in all of Cairo. You’re probably thinking, ok John… you’ve talked before about staying in two different Four Seasons properties in Cairo. Also, there’s a Ritz Carlton there too. And then you’ve raved about Kempinskis in the past before too. So how is a Sheraton now the best new property in Cairo? Well, let me tell you exactly how that’s the case.
I know that many people in North America and Europe see Sheraton as a nice but not usually super swank or posh hotel chain around the world. So just take my word on this – Sheratons in Asia and the Middle East are sometimes just as posh, if not posher, than brands you may think of as the king of posh like Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton. But posh brands in North America and Europe aren’t always managed the same in developing countries as they are where we’re from.
A perfect example is the Nile Ritz Carlton in Cairo. It’s nowhere near Ritz Carlton standards like you would be be used to. So brand name isn’t always a guarantee of quality in Egypt and other developing countries, despite what a brand is supposed to be by definition. Similarly, Four Seasons properties are generally supposed to be nicer than Sheraton properties, according to the common wisdom. But in Egypt, especially because the Cairo Sheraton has undergone a multi-gazillion dollar renovation and also has one of the most prime locations in all of Cairo, this is truly now the most spectacular hotel to stay in as a tourist visiting Egypt and especially when it comes to the value you get for your money.
Seriously, the new Cairo Sheraton is far nicer than any of the posher branded hotels in downtown Cairo, but the price is still what you would expect from a Sheraton. It’s unbelievable. They should be charging more, and the Four Seasons and especially the Ritz Carlton should be charging less. But the Sheraton is affordable and it’s a lot nicer now. Plus it’s walking distance to places like the Cairo Opera house, Zamalek Island, and Tahrir Square, so I just can’t help but consider it to be our #1 recommendation for anyone visiting Cairo in 2019.
Now the Cairo Sheraton property actually consists of two towers, but the north tower is still under renovation this year. So in the next year or so the hotel’s capacity to host guests is going to double with the reopening of the second tower, which will be a really great thing for visitors to Egypt. The rooms here are obviously very nice, but I really want to focus on what I believe is most spectacular about this property – the new restaurants and entertainment venues that have opened up within it.
When most of us think of hotel restaurants, we think of bland generic food serving business travelers who are starving and overworked and desperate for anything with a smidgen of flavor, right? Think half-warm paninis or rubbery pasta dishes. But not in the new Cairo Sheraton! I was a little skeptical of trying yet another set of new hotel restaurants at the Cairo Sheraton when I visited after it reopened, but I remembered that the old Cairo Sheraton did have nice restaurants that I used to go to over a decade and a half ago. I also knew that some of Cairo’s best restaurants elsewhere are in hotels, unlike in many other cities. So I just gave them a shot, and I’m so glad I did.
Ok, let’s start with the Egyptian restaurant in there – El Mawardia. Now an Egyptian restaurant in an Egyptian hotel to me says overpriced street food. And ok, the prices for some of the dishes that you can find on the street are higher, but here’s the thing – the atmosphere is nice, the quality is good, and it’s very relaxing in there, unlike street kiosks and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I have to say, of all the restaurants in the new Sheraton, I was the most skeptical of this one. I probably even rolled my eyes a time or two when it was suggested that I try it. But I did, and I’m very glad I did. I even went back a second time with another set of friends on another trip there and thoroughly enjoyed that dining experience too.
Alright so what was so good there? Two thinks stick out to me – the pumpkin hummus and the koshari. Now koshari is an Egyptian street food and it’s definitely best at a hole-in-the-wall restaurants out in real Cairo. But I ordered koshari at El Mawardia in the Cairo Sheraton precisely because I wanted to compare it to street koshari. I was honestly ready to rip it to shreds in this review, but it was actually very very good. It’s overpriced for koshari, but I literally remarked to my friends who were with me that I wonder if they just went down the street to Koshari el Tahrir and ordered some real koshari from them, put it on a nicer plate, and brought it to my table. I’m still wondering if that’s what they did because it tasted surprisingly authentic.
Ok, now the pumpkin hummus. First of all, the first time I stayed in this hotel it was Halloween and I thought they only had pumpkin hummus as a theme food, which I also thought was pretty creative and clever. But I stayed there again later when it wasn’t Halloween and they still had the pumpkin hummus on the menu. It was quite tasty and unique.
There are more unique and traditional dishes on the menu at El Mawardia, but we need to move on because there’s a lot more than I’d recommend you try here. Even if you’re not staying at the Cairo Sheraton, you should seriously come here just to try not only the restaurants but also the nightlife if you want to experience some of that in Egypt too.
The Italian restaurant in the Cairo Sheraton is called Giannini’s, and this place is seriously fantastic too. I’ve been here a couple of times and I’ve had a number of dishes here and they’ve all been superb. Also worth noting is that I’ve been here before when they knew who I was and I’ve also “secret shopped” it with friends when they didn’t know who I was. The food is always excellent and the service is top notch.
There is another small restaurant in the bar/lounge area just off the lobby and check-in area too, but honestly it’s not my favorite. The options are limited and it’s basically just a bar with a small kitchen. With so many other good food options in the hotel, trust me that you’ll want to save your appetite for those. But if you want a drink in a chill atmosphere before bed or while waiting on someone to arrive or check in, this cafe is ok.
There are two other places in the new Cairo Sheraton that I know do have great food and even better entertainment because I’ve personally had so much fun there already. The first is right off the lobby and it’s a really neat bar and lounge called Studio 70. It starts off pretty chill when it opens in the late afternoon, but it really gets going with the music later in the night. Studio 70 is supposed to be 1970s themed, but the decor honesty looks more modern than I think they intended. However, I like it that way, so I hope they keep it just as it is because it’s very chic. The music can be a little too loud at night sometimes, but I went when it was very new so hopefully they’ve gotten the memo about that by now.
Speaking of nightlife, the best bars, clubs, and other entertainment venues in Egypt are usually inside of the huge hotels, not out in the city. The reason for that I think (and this is only my theory) is because places outside of major hotels would have to pay a lot of extra money for security costs for the venue, whereas the hotels already have top notch security. So opening nice lounges and night clubs within hotel real estate cuts security costs drastically for club owners and party promoters because the space is already secure.
In a lot of other countries, hotel bars and clubs are filled with, well mainly hotel guests. But not in Egypt. Like I said, the best entertainment venues in the city are in the biggest and nicest hotels, so the party class of Egypt will pack these places and let their hair down – literally – while partying it up well into the night.
My absolute favorite place now for a fun night out in Cairo is also a new place in the Cairo Sheraton called Rawi. It’s a combination of a huge bar, a club, a lounge, and a performance venue with really amazing and exotic (to us) shows and entertainment. The night I discovered this place with a few friends, there were three amazing belly dancing shows and the place was packed full of trendy young Egyptians. In fact, I think we might have been the only foreigners in there. The music was a mix of popular American and Arab music, and the Arab songs were so good that I whipped out my phone quite a bit to Shazam the song and create a playlist of Arabic music that I liked.
If you want to check out Rawi though, do for sure make a reservation. I had never even heard of this place even after having stayed at the Cairo Sheraton on a previous trip, but on my most recent trip back a friend of mine had a reservation there and I tagged along with her and her guy and I was really blown away by how much fun it was.
There is one more thing about the new Cairo Sheraton that I absolutely must mention before I wrap up and that’s their club lounge. If you have a high enough status with Marriott, which owns all Sheratons now, that can give you access to club lounges when you stay at their network properties and you definitely want to take advantage of that if you stay here.
If you don’t already have access, consider splurging a little on the extra cost to book a room on the club floor so that you get access to the club lounge with your room. It’s totally worth it because they have free breakfast and dinner daily, free beer and wine for happy hour daily, check-in and check-out can be done in there and you don’t have to wait, and the panoramic views from the floor to ceiling glass windows on the top floor of the building where it’s located are literally the most spectacular views in all of Cairo.
Watching the sunset from up there is just magical, especially while sipping a glass of wine and enjoying the complimentary dinner buffet. If you take advantage of the Cairo Sheraton’s club lounge, I promise you’re going to email me after your trip and tell me how right I was about it being so amazing – that and the rest of this top-ranked property on the Egypt Travel Blog’s and the Egypt Travel Podcast’s list of Best Hotels of Egypt for 2019.
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