Egypt is a country rich in history, the home of a famed 7,000-year-old civilisation. Every year, more than 10 million tourists visit to explore sites such as the Pyramids of Giza, the Giant Sphinx and the Valley of the Kings. In addition to these ancient sites, many of Egypt’s great cities are home to various storied structures and architectural gems.
Some Egyptian hotels, for example, have borne witness to decades of modern Egyptian history, and have grown to become cherished attractions in themselves.
Here’s our selection of 8 of the best historic hotels in Egypt that you can spend the night in.
1. Cairo Marriott Hotel and Omar Khayyam Casino – Cairo
Originally the Gezirah Palace for the Khedive Isma’il Pasha to host VIPs during the Suez Canal’s inauguration, in 1894 the site was converted into a luxury hotel under the name the ‘Ghezireh Palace Hotel’. It changed hands a number of times, and even served as a hospital during World War One to cope with casualties from the Battle of Gallipoli. In the late 1970s, two large towers were added and the hotel was completely rebuilt. In 1982, it was opened as the Cairo Marriott Hotel.
The hotel consists of 1,087 rooms, meaning that it is one of the largest in the Middle East. The hotel is known for its original artwork and furniture, and is famed for having housed Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, and hosting the wedding of Khedive Ismail which lasted for 40 days.
2. Sofitel Winter Palace – Luxor
Sofitel Winter Palace in Luxor was created by Cairo hoteliers and Thomas Cook and Sons, and was built by an Italian construction firm. It was inaugurated in 1907 with a celebratory picnic at the Valley of the Kings. However, it was Howard Carter’s discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922 that really put the hotel on the map, since foreign press and ancient history enthusiasts poured into the city. The Winter Palace was a focal building since it was used as Carter’s newsroom.
The hotel is famed for its 5-star-luxury, and contains 86 rooms, 6 suites and 5 restaurants that cater to many types of cuisine. It is featured on the exclusive Palace Hotels of the World list.
3. Old Cataract Hotel – Aswan
Located in Aswan in a spectacular position overlooking the Nile, the Old Cataract Hotel was built in 1899 by Thomas Cook and Sons shortly after the 1898 construction of the Cairo-Aswan railway, which led to an influx of visitors with nowhere to stay. The hotel was catapulted to fame when Agatha Christie used it as the backdrop of her famous novel ‘Death on the Nile’ in 1937. Over the years, it has housed figures such as Tsar Nicholas II, Winston Churchill and Princess Diana.
Today, the hotel is a hugely popular destination. The Palace Wing houses 76 rooms and 45 suites, while the Nile Wing has 62 rooms and 37 suites, all with a balcony and river view.
4. Marriott Mena House – Cairo
Architect Khedive Ismail built the Gezirah Palace and the hunting lodge at the foot of the pyramids that went on to become the famous Mena House hotel. The hunting lodge was later bought by an English couple on their honeymoon because they thought it would be beneficial for their health. They renamed it Mena House after the first pharaoh of Egypt. It was later turned into the ‘Mena House Family Hotel’ in 1887. A swimming pool, which became the first in Egypt, was added a few years later. The hotel was eventually acquired by the Marriot.
The hotel has hosted a glittering array of politicians and celebrities, such as Frank Sinatra, who performed a charity event at the pyramids in 1979 and sang ‘Strangers on the Nile’.
5. Paradise Inn Le Metropole – Alexandria
Despite the fact that Le Metropole was built in 1902, the Caesareum of Alexandria, a temple to honour her lover Julius Caesar, was built on the same site by Cleopatra some 2,000 years before. The temple later became a church in the 4th century AD, but was destroyed in 912 AD. Two obelisk structures called ‘Cleopatra’s Needles‘, which are now located in London and New York, once stood there.
The hotel today is still presented in an early 20th century style, and features paintings and antiques which date from the 18th century, such as a late 18th century grand piano. Its French restaurant is particularly popular too.
6. Steigenberger Cecil Hotel – Alexandria
The neighbour of Le Metropole, the Cecil Hotel was originally a romantic-style colonial hotel opened by a French-Egyptian family called the Metzgers. During World War Two, it served as a headquarters for British Intelligence. The Egyptian government seized the hotel after the revolution in 1952, and five years later the Metzger family was expelled from the country.
50 years later in 2007, the family won a court case over the hotel’s ownership, and subsequently sold it back to the Egyptian government. It is known for having hosted an array of figures such as author Somerset Maugham, politician Winston Churchill and mobster Al Capone.
7. Helnan Auberge – Fayoum
Located in Fayoum, around an hour and a half from Cairo, Helnan Auberge was originally built by King Farouk as a hunting and fishing lodge in 1937. The lodge was used as a base for his hunting expeditions and a nature retreat more generally, and a port was also constructed nearby. The lodge later became the Auberge du Lac Hotel, where the old port stands, and was also the site of political meetings, such as one between King Abdel Aziz Ibn and Winston Churchill in 1945.
The hotel is known for the many black and white films that were shot against its pretty backdrop. Today, the luxury hotel contains some 101 rooms ranging from standard to a royal suite, as well as spacious grounds that include a lake and swimming pool.
8. Windsor Hotel – Cairo
Located in downtown Cairo, Windsor Hotel was originally built in 1893 as part of a baths complex for the royal family. It later became a British Officers Club during World War One, and has largely retained its ‘colonial-era neo-Mamluk architecture’ throughout. Its exterior strongly resembles the interior courtyard façades of the 16th century Wikala of El-Ghouri.
The hotel is also known for being features on the BBC show ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ featuring Monty Python star Michael Palin. Popular spots within the hotel include the ‘Barrel Lounge’, which got its name because of the seats being made of old wooden barrels.