x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa

This is the perfect place from which to tackle Luxor's treasures, though it's a fantastic destination almost in itself for a weekend break.

Hotel guests watch the Nile from their rooms or while relaxing on a riverfront divan.
Hotel guests watch the Nile from their rooms or while relaxing on a riverfront divan.

Off a dusty high street 15 minutes from the airport, a slick private drive lined with backlit palm trees tells you that you are entering one of Luxor's smartest hotels. Security scanners notwithstanding, the greeting is warm and - each time I stepped inside the swish, hexagonal lobby - came with the welcome proffering of cold towels to soothe the face and hands after a long day's sightseeing.

The hotel is situated on Luxor's East Bank, well away from the town's other large chain hotels. At the back of it is what's known as Karnak village - it's a bit scruffy, but only a five-minute drive from Karnak Temple, one of the world's most important sites, and the Luxor Museum. But the best thing about the hotel is its glorious position on the Nile. The hotel was originally opened in 1998 but closed in 2006 for a US$50 (Dh184) million renovation, the American designers making full use of the waterside splendour. Most of the hotel faces a peacefully green and undeveloped stretch of the West Bank, where the temples of Hatshesput and the Valley of the Kings are backed by mountains. The landscaping contains several swimming pools beside an unfenced, 170m-long stretch of waterfront. It's an unusually beautiful spot.

Most of the hotel's 236 rooms are spacious, with fantastic beds, fresh flowers and small Arabesque details, but otherwise unremarkable. What really sets them apart are the views. Most rooms have direct views of the Nile (deluxe rooms have the very best views and the biggest balconies), so whenever you look outside you are greeted with the beautifully pastoral scene: feluccas floating past, birds flying overhead, verdant reeds and farmers cutting hay in the fields opposite. The hotel opened last November following its renovation, so the décor throughout is fresh and contemporary.

So many hotels these days outsource their hospitality, so it's nice to see a mainly Egyptian workforce. They are generally laid-back and humorous, and it was nice that even the maintenance staff, who were redecorating parts of the hotel when I stayed, took the care to stop work (and the associated noise) and apologise, whenever guests approached.

There are eight bars and restaurants on the property and 60 per cent of the ingredients are sourced locally, making for fantastic salads, juices and local dishes in the buffet restaurant, Rosetta. Silk Road, which specialises in Malaysian, Thai, Indian and Chinese dishes, from gado gado to Massoman curry, is good for an intimate dinner, while Olives, overlooking the pool, offers fresh fish, pasta and pizza. At the cool-but-casual Diwan, I enjoyed tea, a shisha and the sunset, although mezze is also available.

About half of the resort's customers come for a holiday - mainly from Europe and the US - but a surprising 50 per cent are here for business meetings and conferences. The general manager, Osman Khairat, the brother of the Cairo pianist, Omar Khairat, is no stranger to celebrity - guests have included actors, assorted Gulf royal families, and kings and presidents from all over the world - but there's an overwhelmingly relaxed atmosphere. The hotel is so spread out, and the ambiance so serene, it's hard to imagine feeling stressed here. And then there is the 2,000-square metre Nayara Spa. With its own section of waterfront, including an infinity pool, shaded hammocks and riverside treatment rooms, it's one step removed again. Part of the Austrian Schletterer group, the spa facilities are open to guests for an added charge (for the truly dedicated, there are five "spa suites" - guest rooms with their own spa treatment rooms attached).

The spectacular views, particularly from the rooms, the spa swimming pool and Diwan - the quiet, unassuming shisha cafe right on the river - and the overwhelming peacefulness of the place. The buffet food at Rosetta - breakfast, lunch and dinner - was notably sophisticated, fresh and tasty.

The complimentary in-room tea and coffee provisions were not replenished when my room was cleaned, so I was constantly stocking up with supplies from the breakfast buffet. At the Jannah tea bar at the spa, a so-called masala chai was made almost entirely of milk and so tasted like it, too (luckily, the staff swapped it free of charge for a cucumber cooler). Internet access was charged at $10 (Dh37) per hour, plus a 12 per cent service charge, 10 per cent sales tax and two per cent municipality tax.

This is the perfect place from which to tackle Luxor's treasures, though it's a fantastic destination almost in itself for a weekend break, a fortnight's holiday, a wedding or honeymoon. I'd return tomorrow - but without my laptop and with a supply of teabags.

Double rooms at the Hilton Luxor Resort and Spa will cost you from $260 (Dh955) per night including taxes and breakfast. The Hilton Extra Nights programme (www.hiltonextranights.com; 8000 444 8557) is currently offering a complimentary night with a three-night stay or two extra nights on a five-night stay, for travel before Sept 30. Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa, New Karnak, Egypt (www.hilton.com/worldwide resorts; 00 20 95 237 6571).