A huge wonderful step back in time yet with everything the modern traveler needs. Late 19thcentury… Victoria’s empire was dominating the global scene when Thomas Cook built the first concrete hotel to house rich brits exploring the wonders of Egypt. It officially opened in 1899 with 60 rooms noted for their luxurious interiors and state of the art conveniences. The hotel proved so popular that overflow guests were housed in tents until a 1900 enlargement doubled the number of rooms. Rich and royalty flocked to its colonial British style enhanced with oriental Moorish interiors. King Farouk (Egypt’s last royal) held opulent dinners on a regular basis, printing the menus on papyrus for guests to take as souvenir. Agatha Christie sat on the terrace drinking Gin & Tonics writing mysteries. Characters from Death on the Nile enjoyed the luxury of the Old Cataract Hotel before they set off on an ill-fated Nile cruise. Winston Churchill painted from his suite and Yvette Labrousse & the Aga Khan carried on a notorious very romantic love affair while enjoying the health benefits of the surrounding desert. Tsar Nicholas II, Princess Di and Howard Carter (the discover of King Tut) are but a few of a huge list of guests wowed by the charm of this Sofitel Legend Hotel. However, by 2008 the glamour had started to fade. The hotel closed for two years for a head to toe renovation. The number of rooms were reduced, electricals were upgrade and bathrooms were modernized . Yet all the original elegance, history and style was preserved. Stay in the old building.
Number of Rooms: 138
Sweet Suite: Winston Churchill’s Suite. The bedroom, living room and bathroom are all grand but it is the enormous balcony that truly makes this suite a dream. I can’t imagine ever wanting to move from this heavenly spot overlooking the Nile.
Favorite Thing: The 1902 Restaurant, which opened December 10thof that year with a famous dinner that entertained the who’s who of early 20thcentury politics. Designed by Royal Institute of British Architect’s member Favarger as a Moorish hall. The 75 foot high dome decorated with mashrabiya and stained glass was inspired by Qalawun Mausoleum in Cairo. I found it so romantic with brilliant old fashioned formal service. I so wished I had experienced it in the decadent period between the two World Wars when flappers sipped cocktails and danced all night.
Near By: Tons of Egyptian treasures including Elephantine Island, the Nubian Museum, Philae Temple and the Aswan Dam. The everyone-must-do site of Abul Simbal is a three hour drive through the desert (my choice) or a 30 minute flight away. see my review Abu Simbal.
Amenities: 2 Pools (one indoors, one outside), Spa, gym, 3 restaurants, room service, Free Wi-Fi, Free bottled water, picnic lunches