For 20 years I have had the great fortune of staying at the Mena House during my visits to Cairo and the Pyramids. I remember the first time I arrived when the bus entered the gates of the garden and we were transported into the lobby of the palace. Nothing could have prepared me for the magic and majesty of that first moment. I felt like I was transported to another time in history where kings and queens had the Pyramids as their personal landscape and I, an American tourist was being treated as if I were one of them.
The beauty and elegance of the Mena House is undisputed as one wanders the halls of the palace under marble archways lit by brass lamps that cast patterns and shadows on the walls. Photographs of earlier times grace the walls reminding us of its history and what this area looked like before Cairo grew around it and the Nile no longer came up to its door.
All of this beauty is breathtaking and inviting. However, what makes the Mena House so very special are its people. From the moment one receives the first heart felt “welcome home” from the staff, one feels that they have truly arrived HOME.
While Egyptians by nature are loving and kind, there is something special about those who have for 20 years and more taken my luggage, cleaned my room and served me at meals. The gracious welcome is warm, heartfelt and disarming.
The desire to make each guest feel as if they were the king or queen returning home is something that is what makes the Mena House more than just the architectural landmark it is.
After 20 years of bringing groups to Egypt and the Mena House, I am still touched by the genuine generosity and appreciation of the staff as their warm smiles, laughing eyes, and enveloping handshakes welcome me home.
One might think that I am getting this treatment because of my long standing relationship with the hotel, but I asked my friend Mira who has come a number of years to share a story of hers.
The Mena House was my home in Giza for almost ten years. Besides being the best piece of real estate on the plateau and a beautiful hotel, it is the people who work there who made it feel like I was coming home to family. I will never forget the trip where I was in a lovely room on the 12th floor and was not feeling well and the women who came to clean my room rushed in came to my bed, felt my head all the while speaking in Arabic. I didn’t understand a word, but the when the yansoon tea arrived by her request, I realized I had an Egyptian mother. I could share so many stories like this. At the Mena House it is always Welcome Home, a shining light on the Giza Plateau.
While other hotels boast of being at the Pyramids, it is only their proximity that makes it true. The Mena House is a haven from the cacophony of Cairo and provides a sancturary where one can sit in the gardens or on one’s balcony in reverie, in silence appreciating the mystery these extraordinary monuments bring to mind. The quiet space to contemplate these the Pyramids of Giza is essential as it allows us to feel their presence, enjoy their dramatic structures without the interruptions by vendors and tour guides trying to make a few pounds. Here you are a king and queen with the intimate access to the Pyramids while sipping tea and being taken to another world.
There is no other hotel like it in the world and I am grateful that it is still affordable for people like me who want to share it with others who might never have the opportunity to be in the presence of such luxury and spiritual mystery.