Monday July 15th, 2024
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A Tour Through Egypt’s Oldest Hotels

These establishments weave opulent narratives within their walls, each a beacon of tradition, luxury and enduring allure.

Hassan Tarek

 A Tour Through Egypt’s Oldest Hotels

In a land steeped in ancient wonders, Egypt's oldest hotels stand as reminders of centuries of lavish hospitality, each bearing witness to illustrious tales, hosting dignitaries, artists, and travellers seeking respite amid the country's rich history. These establishments weave opulent narratives within their walls, each a beacon of tradition, luxury, and enduring allure…


The scent of jasmine mingles with the salty air as you step into the opulent lobby of the Metropole Hotel. Established in 1902, the Metropole is a tapestry woven from the threads of Alexandria's rich cultural heritage, with Luminaries and intellectuals having graced its halls over the century. Stepping inside is to be dazzled by the grandeur of historic architecture that blends with thoughtful modern touches.


Steeped in history and elegance, the Auberge Fayoum rises serenely beside the glistening Qaraoun lake in Cairo. Built in the early 20th century, wrought-iron chandeliers cast soft light upon polished wood floorboards, while the Bridge Room and Billiard Room beckon with a bygone charm. This storied hotel once played host to a pivotal moment in history; in 1945, within what is now the Churchill Lounge, King Farouk - who often stayed at the hotel during hunting trips - convened a fateful meeting between King Saud and Winston Churchill, shaping the course of World War II.


Like the Auberge Fayoum, Mena House was originally a hunting lodge built in 1869 during the rule of Khedive Ismail, before being converted into a hotel in the late 19th century. Over the years, it has undergone several renovations and expansions. It has hosted political leaders, celebrities, and dignitaries, including the likes of Winston Churchil, Richard Nixon, Agatha Christie, Frank Sinatra and Charlie Chaplin. The Mena House Hotel is celebrated for its history, stunning views of the Great Pyramids of Giza, and its significance as a landmark in Cairo's hospitality industry.


Rising amidst the vibrant hum of Cairo, the Cairo Marriott Hotel occupies a legacy etched in gilded history. Within its walls lies the grand Gezirah Palace, a testament to 19th-century opulence commissioned by Khedive Ismail in 1869. Reborn in 1983 as the Cairo Marriott Hotel, this iconic landmark blends the grandeur of its past with the refined luxury of the present. Ornate ceilings house lavish courtly gatherings, while contemporary amenities ensure a refreshing modern experience.


Gracing the banks of the Nile in Luxor, the hotel was first constructed in 1886, before it was acquired and launched as the Winter Palace Hotel in 1907. Originally intended as a luxurious residence for Egyptian royalty and visiting dignitaries, the Winter Palace was designed to accommodate the increasing number of European travellers seeking to explore Egypt's ancient monuments and archaeological treasures, particularly those in the ancient city of Thebes, now known as Luxor. The Winter Palace Luxor hhas hosted notable guests over the years, including politicians, writers, and celebrities. It was here that Egyptologist Howard Carter and George Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, announced the discovery of King Tutnakhamun’s Tomb.


Born in 1899 along the banks of the Nile in Aswan, amidst the twilight of British colonial rule, Cataract welcomed affluent travellers who sought the wonders of ancient Egypt and the enchanting Nile's embrace. Within its elegant walls, authors penned captivating stories, politicians forged destinies, and celebrities basked in the golden glow of Aswan's sunshine. Each step through the grand lobby resonates with voices of illustrious guests, their legacy adding a patina of timeless charm to the polished wood and ornate ceilings. Today, the Cataract Hotel remains an iconic landmark, offering luxurious havens overlooking the majestic Nile river.


In its inception, Shepheard’s Hotel, initially christened as the ‘Hôtel des Anglais’, stood amongst the world's most esteemed lodgings. Inaugurated in Cairo in 1841, this renowned establishment swiftly garnered international acclaim, famously hosting some of the world’s most distinguished guests during the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Tragically succumbing to fire during the 1952 Cairo riots, the historic edifice of Shepheard's Hotel was lost. Shepheard’s Hotel was rebuilt in Garden City near the Nile, with renovation efforts underway to reopen it as the Mandarin Oriental Shepheard, Cairo.


Born in the clamour of the 1920s, Alexandria's Cecil Hotel gracefully perched itself near the shimmering embrace of the Mediterranean Sea. Since 1929, the hotel was built where Cleopatra’s Needles - a pair of Egyptian obelisks - once stood, before they were sent to London and New York City. Cecil Hotel’s elegant facade has held witness to the ebb and flow of Alexandria's history, welcoming a kaleidoscope of souls within its walls - including Winston Churchil, Al Capone, and the British Secret Service which maintained a suite for their operations. Though years have passed, the Cecil has embraced both change and preservation, its renovations telling the tale of bygone eras while its essence remains ever captivating.


In the twilight of the 19th century, the Windsor Palace Hotel emerged in Alexandria, Egypt, a grand architectural marvel commissioned during the reign of Khedive Abbas II, whose sovereignty spanned from 1892 to 1914. Its completion in 1906 heralded a new era of opulence, offering sumptuous accommodations that beckoned the presence of royalty, esteemed dignitaries, and affluent wanderers drawn to the allure of Alexandria and the Mediterranean's resplendent shores. Enduring the passage of time, this establishment has gracefully weathered various scrupulous renovations, safeguarding its historical allure.


Ensconced majestically along Alexandria's picturesque Montaza Bay, the Helnan Palestine Hotel unveiled its magnificence to the world in 1964. Embraced by the Mediterranean's azure embrace, this opulent sanctuary commands awe-inspiring vistas and a coveted beachfront expanse, beckoning discerning travellers to bask in its splendour while exploring Alexandria's treasures. Across the passage of time, meticulous renovations and thoughtful refurbishments have been tenderly bestowed upon this haven, ensuring its stature as a haven of modern indulgence harmonising with the beguiling view of Egypt's northern coastline.