Luxor is often described as an open-air museum because of its abundant ancient Egyptian ruins, but its popularity lies largely in its proximity to the Valley of the Kings.
With the majority of tourists visiting the city for temples and pharaonic tombs, including that of Tutankhamun, the area has a mix of accommodation for weary explorers. Hilton offers something different, with a property that occupies a more secluded position just outside the main town. The National paid a visit.
After an inevitable but brief fare negotiation with a taxi driver outside Luxor’s airport, we are across town in New Karnak within 20 minutes. At the end of a tree-lined drive, hotel staff offload our bags.
In contrast to Cairo’s constant chorus of car horns, there’s an immediate sense of calm about this place, beginning with a pleasant, airy lobby. Welcome drinks appear as we complete a hassle-free evening check-in and we are followed by our luggage to the room a few minutes later.
To the front of the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa is New Karnak and the main road leading to the substantial ruins at Karnak Temple, which hosts nightly sound and light shows.
The major geographical selling point is the mighty Nile, however, and the hotel maximises on its stunning location overlooking the green and mountainous West Bank. The main swimming pool, spa infinity pool, Oasis pool bar, Sunset bar and terrace, al fresco Olives restaurant and Diwan shisha cafe all yield fabulous views.
To get even closer to the water, the Hilton offers private sailing trips on a traditional falucca, with four catering options (from $45 per person) and an Egyptian-themed Nile-edge Starlight Dinner ($30 each) with a clay pot buffet and live entertainment.
The safety measures
The hotel’s Covid-19 measures are evident; staff wear face masks and screens shield front reception and concierge desks, although many guests appear ambivalent about mask rules during our stay.
Restaurant tables are well spaced for social distancing and cutlery placed in acetate envelopes in all-day dining restaurant Rosetta. The hotel can help arrange offsite PCR testing, for a fee, if required.
The hotel has 236 “colonial-style” rooms, including standard and deluxe options and suites, with river or landscaped garden views.
Overlooking the former and main pool from a triangular balcony, our comfortable Nile view king bedroom combines traditional wooden furniture with modern flourishes. A coffee table with armchairs and a desk area flanked by a flatscreen TV face a sumptuous bed.
The compact bathroom has a walk-in shower, suitably energising for an early sightseeing tour. Generous wardrobe space includes a safe and ironing board.
Plenty of smiles are supplied by staff in all sections of the hotel, with questions about the area answered enthusiastically. Waiting staff in Silk Road and servers and chefs at Rosetta’s breakfast service stand out for attentiveness.
While some might use Hilton’s Luxor retreat purely as a launchpad for exploring the Valley of the Kings about an hour away, it would be wrong not to devote a significant chunk of relaxation time to the property.
Plentiful loungers surround the main pool, while a smaller upper pool fronts the sunken Oasis bar and the spa’s infinity pool appears to flow directly into the Nile. The gym beneath includes machines facing the waterway, while picture windows in some of the 12 treatment rooms frame the river and landscape beyond. Facilities include an outdoor thermal garden, massages range from hot stone and pregnancy treatments to traditional Balinese therapies, and the beauty menu offers facials, waxing, and nail care. A tranquil marble and wood spa courtyard has a cafe serving refreshments.
The Hilton Luxor has eight restaurants and bars, providing enough variety for the most spirited of appetites.
Among them is Rosetta for an international buffet and breakfast until 11am. Besides cold cuts, cereals, fruit and hot items, the live cooking station handles eggs and omelettes. Chefs provide a nice touch, visiting tables each morning with homemade treats.
Upstairs, Sunset lounge and terrace connects directly with Silk Road, an Asian bistro offering Indian curries through to Malaysian soups. The Thai green curry ($17) is flavourful and light on coconut milk, with a good balance of chicken and vegetables. The tender Japanese-style teriyaki pepper beef ($16) also excels.
Oasis pool bar is ideal for witnessing slow, river-reflected sunsets with a happy hour refreshment, while the majlis-style shisha cafe Diwan serves Arabian-style teas and Turkish coffees.
Keen for local cuisine, we sample Olives’ varied menu ― which includes pizza, Mediterranean, oriental and Egyptian dishes ― by tucking into hearty favourites koshari ($9) and oven-baked fish singari ($10).
The spa’s Jannah Tea Bar serves herbal teas and smoothies, plus light lunches and organic snacks. Keep in mind that menu prices are subject to 26 per cent taxes and service charges.
Highs and lows
The food, vibe and location of Olives deliver a hugely authentic feel, from the daily Egyptian specials to that stunning view, providing you choose a table at the edge of the restaurant.
It’s difficult to find a low point other than the potential environmental impact of those plastic cutlery sleeves at Rosetta’s breakfast service. With the pandemic subsiding, hopefully this temporary measure will cease soon.
The insider tip
Taking in a Nile sunset is an experience that will stay with you. So, reach the pool area early enough to grab loungers or seats at one of the outdoor F&B outlets with your camera, or phone, fully charged.
While most people land in Luxor for historical sights, there’s no reason you cannot stay in style and comfort. Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa benefits from a peaceful, stunning Nile setting for a room rate that is great value considering location and resort quality.
The bottom line
Room prices at Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa start from $100, including breakfast but excluding tax. Check-in is from 2pm; check-out at noon.
Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa, New Karnak; https://www.hilton.com/en/hotels/luxhitw-hilton-luxor-resort-and-spa
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during the time; services may change in the future