BY HANA KOTB
Art Deco meets Mamluk glamour in this chandeliered palace, with halls adorned with photographs of royals, artists, and other VIPs who’ve stayed there. The tower’s contemporary decor echoes ancient Egyptian motifs with a dash of French. When you check into the Old Cataract Hotel, you’re stepping into a timeless story that’s still unfolding to this day. It’s time to learn a little more about this iconic hotel.
1- Located in Aswan, Egypt, the Old Cataract Hotel, a Sofitel Legend hotel, sits right on the Nile River’s bank and has long served as a luxurious stopover for countless travelers, famous and otherwise.
2- The hotel was built in 1899 by Engineer Henri Favarger, under the orders of Thomas Cook, the travel entrepreneur.
4- Its guests have included Czar Nicolas II, Howard Carter, Sir Winston Churchill, the Duke of Connaught, the 3rd son of Queen Victoria, Aga Khan III, King Farouk, the Shah of Iran, Nahas Pacha, Khedive Abbas Helmi, Mohamed V King of Morocco, Margaret Thatcher, Jimmy Carter, Helmut Kohl, Queen Nour of Jordan, Princess Diana, Princess Caroline of Monaco, François Mitterrand, Antoine de Saint Éxupery and Agatha Christie (We can add Amina Khalil, Amr Youssef and Mohamed Mamdouh to this list now!)
5- Agatha Christie set portions of her novel Death on the Nile at the hotel.
6- The hotel’s two most spacious suites are named after the guests that stayed in them: the Agatha Christie Suite, at 1,900 square feet, and the Winston Churchill Suite, at 1,500 square feet.
7- The Ramadan mosalsal Grand Hotel was not the first thing to be shot there! The 1978 film of Agatha Christie’s novel, Death on the Nile, was shot at the hotel.
8- The Old Cataract’s first newspaper advertisement appeared in The Egyptian Gazette on 11 December 1899, stating, “Every modern comfort. Large and small apartment rooms, library, billiard room etc. … fireplaces in hall, salons and the main rooms. Electrical lights running all night. Perfect sanitary arrangements approved by the authorities. Can accommodate 60 visitors.” (Keep in mind it’s 1899!)
9- A new tower wing was built in 1961, which operated as the New Cataract Hotel for many years. The hotel was closed from 2008 to 2011 for a complete restoration by French designer Sybille de Margerie, during which the tower was combined with the historic Old Cataract wing into one hotel.
10- The hotel has a 13,000-square-foot spa, the So-Spa, with eight treatment rooms, a three-room hammam and indoor pool. There is also a fitness center, Jacuzzi, sauna and tanning salon. Treatments include a variety of massages and facials.
11- Originally, there were three restaurants at the hotel, but now there are four. There’s 1902, a fine-dining restaurant; Al Saraya, a brasserie-style venue; Oriental Kebabgy, a Mediterranean restaurant overlooking the river; and Palms, a poolside eatery.
12- Additionally, there are four bar—The Bar, Promenade, Terrace, and Yasmin.
13- The hotel also has five meetings rooms, ranging from 500 square feet to 670 square feet.
14- We’ve mentioned in fact #1 that this hotel is a Sofitel “Legend” hotel. But we should mention that there are only five around the world!
15- Sofitel Legend is a collection of stately heritage hotels and palaces found in iconic cities around the world. Each landmark property in the collection is historic with an enchanting back-story. These exclusive hotels are legendary places, and they’ve played host to legendary people. The footfalls of a bygone era echo in the halls, and the legacy continues today through world-class service, stunning décor and inspiring culinary experiences.
The legend continues…