Today, our ‘My Favourite Hotel’ review is from the pyramids of Egypt!
We are currently running this reader-written feature to provide some positivity and inspiration to Head for Points. You can find all of the ‘My Favourite Hotel’ reviews so far by clicking here. This was scheduled to be a series of about 25 hotels, but a good response from readers means that we have commissioned another batch and are continuing the series.
Today’s hotel is the Marriott Mena House near Cairo where you can wake up looking at the pyramids. It is reader Clotilde’s favourite hotel and here is her review:
Around 1880 Egypt become a destination for long winter holidays for European travellers. Many preferred staying close to the pyramids given the more favourable climate than Cairo. In 1883 a young English couple saw an opportunity in this and bought an old royal lodge located just in front of the pyramids and built a magnificent oriental palace next to it which they opened in 1886 and called Mena House. Thus, began the history of this enchanting hotel which to this day takes you back in time, maintaining a subtle ancient charm.
Where is Marriott Mena House?
Marriott Mena House is located in Giza about 45 minutes by car from Cairo. The position is absolutely, unquestionably enviable. Ideally you’d want to arrive in the evening without looking around before entering this oasis of peace. Then in the morning you open your curtains and see the pyramids in front of you – it is amazing.
Certainly you could suggest that the hotel’s location is not practical as it requires long journeys to go back into Cairo, but in my opinion it all depends on the length of your stay. We chose to stay at Mena House for three nights, arriving late in the evening on the first day and spending the first full day visiting the pyramids. The second day we dedicated entirely to Cairo. On the last day we took a guided food tour in Cairo, which also allowed us to store our luggage safely before heading to the airport.
If you do not want to continuously barter with taxi drivers, it’s worth mentioning that it’s very easy to move around using Uber at a fair price.
Arrival and check-in
Getting to the Mena House from the airport takes just under an hour. The distance itself is modest but the traffic seems congested at any time of the day.
After the clashes in 2011 and subsequent terrorist attacks, Egypt saw a significant decline in tourism and despite having carefully researched the current political situation, I was still a little nervous. I must say that it was very reassuring, even if a little unnerving, to arrive at the entrance of the hotel and find several armed men and even a very handsome guard dog. The guards monitored every car and taxi that came in, searching for possible explosives, weapons, etc, but after the initial surprise I definitely felt safe!
Check in was very fast, probably because only two other guests arrived late at night, and we were whisked away to our building on one of the golf carts. The complex wasn’t necessarily large, but the golf carts were certainly welcome under the scorching midday sun.
The complex has been enlarged and renovated several times over the years, especially the new wing where most of the rooms are located.
This new building appears quite spartan, but I must say that it integrates very well into its environment. The old building was under renovation during my stay, but I had the opportunity to visit one of the newly refurbished rooms:
The new rooms have modern amenities but keep their charm with handcrafted furniture, carvings, textiles and magnificent antiques that speak well of luxury without being ostentatious.
The rooms in the new wing are all very similar except for the views: you either get the pyramids or the garden / pool. We stayed in a simple deluxe pyramid view room. The room itself was sufficiently large, but I wouldn’t say stylish. We asked for two cots for our two-and-a-half-year-old children which they managed to arrange without compromising the relaxation area with sofa and table.
The large window opened onto a balcony overlooking the gardens towards the old wing with the pyramids clearly visible behind it. The bathroom was large and functional although certainly not a designer model.
The Mena House was the first hotel in Egypt to introduce a swimming pool back in 1886. Fortunately it is no longer the original one, but is now a modern space to relax. It is located behind the new area, so it doesn’t impact the nice feeling you get when you arrive in the main front gardens. In October, even though the hotel was almost full, I saw very few people using the swimming pool, keeping it a quiet and relaxing place for a stop after the exhausting visit to the pyramids. There was also a swimming pool for children, perfect up to 3-4 years but a little small for older children
The spa and small gym were in the area between the old building and the new wing. Having not tried the gym I can only say that it seemed to offer the minimum of equipment. The spa, on the other hand, was the only negative note of the complex. It was small and when I visited, it was not perfectly clean. To be fair the website no longer mentions the spa, so it may be under renovation.
Eating and drinking
The main restaurant offered a mix of international and oriental favourites. We tried it for breakfast, which was extensive and varied. It included everything from traditional continental options to Egyptian dishes and desserts. The restaurant was open all day with an extended buffet.
The other hotel restaurant was Indian. We dined here once a la carte. In both restaurants the food was very good, but especially when we dined a la carte the service was very slow and disorganized, the focus seemed to be on the buffet.
Fortunately, sitting at the outside tables while admiring the pyramids made up for the shortcomings.
One morning we asked for room service for breakfast which was tasty and efficient. It was a great option to save some time while organizing the children.
You can also get a drink by the pool or at the lovely lobby bar if you want to get a rest from the heat.
I believe I was at Mena House just before it went up to Category 4 (20,000 to 30,000 points per night, depending on season) in the Marriott Bonvoy redemption chart, which meant it only cost me 15,000 points per night. Normally the cost of one night in a room with a view of the pyramids is around $200. My reservation was for a garden view room, but as a Bonvoy Gold member I was offered one with a pyramid view.
Mena House was our first stop during a 12-day trip in Egypt. Not everything was perfect, but the people were super welcoming, and the ambience was a refreshing contrast to the chaos and dust of Cairo, a perfect respite from our daily adventures! If we go back to Egypt I will stay there again for sure.
Here is the hotel’s website if you want to find out more.
Clotilde has her own travel blog which focuses on travel with kids. You can find her blog ‘A Princess Travelling With Twins’ here.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards (May 2021)
There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.
Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card? It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold and MeliaRewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.
You can also earn American Express Membership Rewards points with American Express Gold (20,000 bonus points), the American Express Rewards Credit Card (5,000 bonus points) and – for small business owners – American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus points) and Business Platinum (40,000 bonus points).
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)