“Where’s the beach?” asked my three year old son as soon as we had arrived in Cairo. I ignored his lack of cultural curiosity and did not reply. After days of the question being repeated and days of it going unanswered, he decided to change tack, “Daddy, no more looking at things.” In spite of this we had the most wonderful family holiday in Egypt.

Why? In short, because it had something for everyone. We did not try to do much, we did not overload the sightseeing, we did not have to use the ‘ice cream’ bribe to keep flagging spirits going. We certainly got lots out of the adage ‘less is more’. In the mornings we would do a little sightseeing, in the afternoons we would invariably be by the poolside.

In Cairo we stayed at the wonderful Oberoi Mena House located right by the pyramids – with children location is all important – which meant that there was no wasted journey stuck in Cairo’s crippling congestion.
Aki, our guide, was the consummate professional. Rather than reeling off facts and figures he pitched everything to the children’s level and held their attention throughout. Rather than appreciating the pyramids for what they are, we began to see them for what they were, namely a timeless memorial not just for us but for the ancient Egyptians. In the reign of Tutankhamun the pyramids had already existed for a thousand years and were a source of pilgrimage. With understated aplomb he made us fully appreciate that the Nile used to flood to the very foot of the pyramids – graphically illustrated by photos we saw later that afternoon in the Mena House.

Aki fielded questions about what the ancient Egyptians ate, he answered questions about why the little boy looking after the camels was not at school. For me, one of the joys of travel is understanding – understanding, appreciating and embracing the variety of our world – and I was very interested to see Isabel, my elder daughter, begin to take stock of the fact that life for many in Cairo is very hard. But it was not all about trying to teach them something about the world around them and I was amused to see my children swapping jokes with Aki, arguably one of Egypt’s most accomplished of guides. Aki was patient, he was accommodating, he made it interesting and thus made our stay in Cairo.

Flying into Luxor, we saw the stark truth of the aphorism that ‘Egypt is the gift of the Nile’.  From above it is all too clear that the Nile, albeit a shadow of its former self given the shackles of dams upriver, is the lifeblood of the country. Either side of its silvery path that its snakes through the desert is a verdant tapestry of fields and crops (cruelly being constrained by the ever encroaching flood of populace and in its wake construction).

The cartouches of Karnak and the hieroglyphs in the tombs of the Valley of the Kings thrilled both of my girls who had been studying Ancient Egypt in school. In the afternoons we would retreat to the idyll of the Hilton Luxor. Excellent value for money, the staff were brilliant – very friendly and always at hand to be of service – and the pool provided not only hours of fun but a chance to relax as we looked out over the Nile.

The Red Sea and in particular Hurghada was our final stop. The boom in hotels had transformed the once quiet fishing village I had first visited some twenty years ago but thankfully we were able to find tranquillity in the sanctuary of Oberoi Sahl Hasheesh. It was wonderful end to what had been an amazing family holiday.

On the flight home, I asked my girls what they thought was the best bit of their holiday, fearing that they might say “the chips” but thinking it would be “the swimming pools”. I was pleasantly surprised when they replied “the pyramids” and “Luxor museum”. There is hope for them culturally even if not for my son.