—London-based trip curator, Niquesa Travel, has created a journey exploring Egypt’s rich cultural past and its resurgence into 21st century modernity.
Most of us would be happy to get away for two weeks and lay next to a beach, but Mark Allvey felt differently. With his 30 years of experience in the luxury hotel sector, Allvey has had the opportunity to explore the world and truly master the field of travel. It’s because of his own experiences that he felt it was time to branch off from the hotel industry and change the way we think about vacations. Thus, with the help of his extraordinary team, who come with an equal calibur of experience, Niquesa Travel was born.
The London-based luxury travel company curates journeys that transcend mass tourism. They want travellers to experience a deep connection with the world, and they do so by tapping local experts in every destination. Niquesa also forecasts trends in order to know how to make that happen. Today’s luxury traveler is less likely to spend money on material goods such as jewels and handbags; trading in vanity for a growing desire to see new places. Understanding these inclinations, the staff personalizes and tailors each trip to the client, creating an experience based on what they want or how they want to feel.
“For me, excitement and a thirst for life and adventure took a priority over relaxation,” Allvey explained. “Beauty is subjective and I wanted to open up a world beyond two weeks on a beach—to all different types of luxury travelers so they can experience what they think is beautiful. Living with a family in Portugal who have been making wine for centuries, camping under the Northern Lights on a glacier in Iceland, or even seeing your first polar bear cub up close—the most beautiful things sometimes can be found in the most scenic places.”
Niquesa Travel’s portfolio ranges from riding a Harley through Cuba with Ernesto Guevara (the son of famous Guerrillero Che Guevara) to DNA kit-inspired trips to your ancestral homeland, traversing the virgin lands of Patagonia on horse-back and wildlife film-making in Kenya—there is no limit to what they can make reality.
Where you stay and how you get there is up to your imagination. With access to GMs at luxury hotels, private jets, and homes that aren’t routinely available for rent, Niquesa Travel can arrange any type of accommodation. If someone from the team has not personally visited a place, they make sure to travel there on the clients’ behalf to conduct a pre-trip inspection.
In many ways, Niquesa Travel is curating real life adventures—ones that are not only suited to your personal tastes, but consider the trip’s purpose. Recently, I dove deeper into one of the brand’s most iconic excursions—a journey that explores Egypt’s storied past. The aptly named “Temples and Tombs” journey takes travelers from the souks of Cairo to the monuments of the fertile Nile Valley on camel-back, by boat and everything in between.
Before the Expedition Begins
Allvey introduced me to Niquesa Travel’s Product Director, Chris Brunning, who shared insight into how the process would begin for a client who wants to curate their own Temples and Tombs journey, which typically ranges from one to two weeks. “I always start by asking the client, ‘How do you want to feel at the end of the trip?’ Which is not a very easy question to answer,” Brunning said. “Clients either have a very specific idea of what they want or they have no idea—it goes from one extreme to the other. I always inquire about their previous travel experiences, and ask them to describe themselves as their friends would. You get an idea of what makes them tick. Family dynamics are important as well. ‘How often they can move around? Do they have any physical limits? How adventurous do they want to get? What kinds of activities are absolute no-no’s?” Their questions are quite psychological in nature because in order to create an experience for you, they need to know you.
Egypt is a country with a world of possibilities and Niquesa Travel ensures that nothing is off limits. “We’re definitely seeing a bit of a renaissance in terms of clients who are interested in exploring Egypt,” Brunning explained. “Political tensions make this a bit tricky…but we always check for safety before booking any trips as we have our own contacts on the ground. Egypt has so much history to explore. But it’s not just about the history, it’s about seeing it through a modern lens as well.”
Exploring the Markets
Markets are the center of Egyptian culture. With food and all kinds of people to meet, they’re a must-see and a great way to start your journey. Your visit to Egypt begins with a visit to the 14th century Khan El-Khalili bazaar, often regarded as the largest bazaar in the Middle East. In order for visitors to not get overwhelmed, Niquesa’s team will make sure you are joined by a local guide who knows the lay of the land and will help you select food and produce (which can also be used for a private cooking class), help you barter, and show you lesser known indigenous markets with sights and smells you’ve never experienced. You’ll also have the option to wander around on your own through the narrow streets and explore the workshops and stalls selling traditional handmade glassware, perfumes, leather goods, fabrics and so much more. Khan El-Khalili is not too far from the Beit El Seheimy, often described as one of the most impressive homes of the 17th century Islamic era.
A Journey Through Time
For those with the archeology bug, Niquesa Travel can arrange for a renowned archeologist to guide you through 7,000 years of Egyptian history. This experience begins with a tour of the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities where you’ll see the collection of golden treasures that were found in King Tutenkhamun’s tomb, as well as explore the “Mummies Room” that houses the mummies of Egypt’s kings, queens, and pharaohs. Your guide will take you to the Dahshur Pyramids, where you’ll be able to see the famed “Bent Pyramid.” Though less famous than their counterparts in Giza, they’re just as mesmerizing.
The next stop on your archeological tour of Egypt is the West Bank of Luxor. Here you’ll explore famous sites like the Valley of the Kings, City of the Dead, and the Valley of the Queens. You’ll also stop to see Queen Nefertari’s tomb that is well known for being the most decorated tomb of the West Bank of Luxor. Speaking of decorated tombs, while in Luxor you will be able to explore the Temple of Goddess Hathor in Dendera. Hathor personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood. A sight to behold, the carefully preserved temple displays a massive stone roof, dark chambers, underground passages, and towering columns that are covered in ancient hieroglyphs.
Adventure on the Nile
During your trip you’ll also be able to see Aswan, fondly known as the “Jewel of the Nile” for its lush river banks and harmonious mix of ancient and modern architecture, from a typical Egyptian sailboat on the Nile. While you’re in Awsan you’ll explore the romantic Philae Temple. When the High Dam was built, the temple completely flooded and was moved stone-by-stone to a new island that was landscaped to replicate the old one. You’ll also get to visit the Granite Quarries that provided most of the hard stone used to build the pyramids and temples as well as take a relaxing stroll through the lush greenery of Lord Kitchener’s Botanical Gardens. Finally, if you want to know what these sites looked like when they were first re-discovered by archaeologists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Niquesa team can also arrange a special slideshow with early images of the first expeditions that you need special archival permission to access.
History Around Every Corner
Egyptology can be quite a heavy topic so to balance your trip, Niquesa Travel can lighten your itinerary and arrange for you to take camel rides into the desert where you can watch the sun rise or set, have dinner with a local family or sit down with a journalist and get to know the country from someone who resides there. You can also witness special light shows that are given in the evenings on the pyramids themselves, or experience Egypt from the sky with a hot air balloon ride.
For traveling families, Brunning suggests a “quest.” Niquesa Travel has organized these quests, in places like Morocco, where a mysterious stranger hands the family a cryptic box that they have to find a way to open. Inside is a set of GPS coordinates and the quest begins. Eventually, after deciphering a series of clues, it might lead them to a secret rooftop location where Niquesa has set up a Berber feast with music and sundowners. This can be adapted to different age groups. For those itching for a more Indiana Jones-esque experience, they can also arrange special safaris to Sinai or the White Desert with off-road driving, sand boarding, hiking through remote canyons, hot air ballooning, caving and anything else you can imagine. For the “glamping” aficionados, you can enjoy a few nights in a beautiful pop-up camp in the middle of the desert.
If you choose to embark on the Temples and Tombs journey, you will find yourself lost-but-found in history and culture dating back more than 10,000 years. Soak up the sun as you gently wade through the serene currents of the Nile. Discover Cairo as your feet tread the same ground as pharaohs before you. End your days watching the sun-set along the Giza Plateau, stones (or temples) glistening as they have for centuries. Reality will fade into a distant dream and you’ll realize there’s no better story to tell than the one you’ve just lived. This seamless adventure is crafted by those who know its story, but its experience is shaped by you.
*For more information please visit NiquesaTravel.com