Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino ☆☆☆☆ (& surroundings)
This being our first trip to Cairo, we were not 100% sure how the whole visa thing worked. We discovered that you need to visit one of the banks just before passport check to purchase your visa (around 20.00 USD per person).
Once we got through passport inspection and onto baggage claim, we found our tour guide waiting. I can’t overemphasize how important it is to have a private tour guide planned for your first trip to Cairo. I will hire a private tour guide again if we return to Cairo at any point in the future. With only 2 days to explore the city and it’s surroundings, having someone organize our schedule was a much needed time saver. We wanted to get as much sight seeing in as possible. They took us to our hotel, helped us with check in (got us an upgraded Nile View room for no extra charge) and scheduled a meeting time the next morning to visit our selected sights.
The main portion of the Marriott was a former palace conversion, so having that renovated, historical charm was rather nice. The room was tidy and relatively spacious. It had not been recently renovated (probably since the early 90’s), so there were some typical signs of wear and tear in the room and bathroom. Overall, it matched my expectations for a 4 star hotel in a major city outside of the US.
The Marriott Bakery at the lobby level is a nice place to get a small, quick breakfast or a dessert. Everything was always fresh and prepared well.
Omar’s Cafe, just down the staircase from the lobby had a nice buffet breakfast. Not a bad selection of breakfast items. We also had dinner at Omar’s. We are vegetarian, so we ordered a plate that included hummus, falafel, babaganush, tabuli, salad and pita bread. All dishes we like. We stayed away from the salad to avoid the possibility of stomach upset, and the babaganush was pretty bad. Their recipe clearly differed from that of our local Mediterranean restaurant back home. All of the other dishes were flavorful and satisfying. The service was a little slow and our server had a tiny bit of an attitude, but word has it that this is fairly common in this part of the Arab world.
Saraya Cafe – Between sight seeing appointments, our tour guide dropped us at our hotel to grab a quick dinner before heading back to the Giza pyramids to see the sound and light show. The server at the Saraya Cafe informed us that the vegetarian dishes on the menu were quite small. With that in mind, we ordered 2 dishes each. After she had taken our order, we waited an hour before the food arrived. The 4 dishes we had ordered were huge!! There was enough food there to feed 5 people, and our tour guide was upstairs waiting for us. After waiting an eternity for the bill, we ran upstairs to change quickly. Once we were on our way, we were extremely lucky to have made it to the sound and light show on time.
Egypt is so different from any other place we’ve visited. Whatever you do, don’t rent a car! Traffic is insane.. and that’s saying a lot coming from a Southern California driver. In fact, drivers in Cairo make the traffic of Rome, Italy look rather placid.
Ladies: Be sure to cover your arms to your elbows, cover your entire chest, and pants or skirt past your knees (at least). Light fabric to keep cool, and clothes/shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. I also always kept a head scarf on hand just in case. You’ll see an abundance of tourists in short shorts, heels and tank tops, but if you wish to focus on your historical exploration, and avoid constant male attention, covering up is the way to go. And believe me, they really do appreciate it. I was thanked on many occasions by locals who noticed my respect for their culture.