Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cairo ~ A Stay at the Palace . . . I mean, the Marriott

As usual, The Scout, had done his homework on hotels prior to our trip to Cairo, Egypt. We were headed to the Cairo Marriott and Omar Khayyam Casino, in the Zamelek neighborhood of this sprawling city.

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Cairo Marriott Hotel entry
What I hadn’t realized until our driver pulled into the guarded and gated entry (as most public places are these days in Cairo) that it wasn’t ‘just a Marriott’, on this island in the middle of the Nile River, it was a Palace! 

Quite literally, we’d arrived at the146-year-old former Palace Al Gezirah, the centerpiece of this five-star hotel.

Map picture

While I didn’t know about the palace prior to our stay, we were so taken with it while there that I've set out to learn more about its history . . .

The palace was built at the direction of Isma’il Pasha,(often referred to as Isma’il the Magnificent), who served at Khedive of Egypt and Sudan from 1863 until 1879 – its purpose was to be a guest palace for the Suez Canal inaugural celebrations in 1869.

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Imagine the guests who've walked these stairs
The neoclassical building, (a popular architectural style throughout Europe at the time), was designed by Austrian architect Julius Franz. German architect Carl von Diebitsch, was responsible for the ornate interior design.

During our near week-long stay earlier this month we had ample access and opportunity to explore the former palace as its grand rooms are used for receptions, meetings and events and some have been converted to restaurants and  lounges. The casino is housed there as well.

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Imagine making your entry via this hallway
It was easy to let our imaginations take flight when walking the long elaborate hallways – all the while wishing  that the walls could talk. So many tales they could tell of its guests; Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, among them.

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One of the meeting/reception rooms
And then there were the events like Khedive Isma’il’s son’s wedding which reportedly lasted 40 days.

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Setting up for a dinner 

The building itself has undergone a number of changes as it transformed from palace to a hotel. For instance, back in 1879 when it was known as the Gizirah Palace, it was seized by the state for outstanding debts and subsequently acquired by the Egyptian Hotels Company.

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Another palace room
Between 1894 and 1903 an additional 400 hotel rooms were added, along with electric lighting.

During the British occupation of Cairo (from 1914 – 1918) the palace served as a hospital and then was returned to the Egyptian Hotels Company. The following year it was sold to a Syrian landlord who’d settled in Cairo. Habib Lotfallah, the purchaser, paid 140,000 Egyptian pounds. For 40 years it was known as Palais Lotfallah.

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One of the hotel restaurants located in the Palace
In 1961 under President Gamel Abdel Nasser, the palace was nationalized and became the Omar Khayyam Hotel.  In the 1970’s Marriott International took over management of the hotel, renovating the palace, and building two towers that flank it. The resulting compound is more than 1,000 guest rooms, numerous restaurants and bars.

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The Palace was breathtaking from ceiling to floor
While exploring the hotel was so interesting that we could have spent hours there, we had 'a bit more' history waiting for us in town and surrounding areas. . .you know, places like the pyramids and the Sphinx in Giza. . .just to name a few. We’ll take you with us as we set off exploring some of those in our next post. We also plan to backtrack a bit and show you around other places in the Middle East that we visited as part of our spring cruise.

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Hotel grounds and our room
For those of you not ‘into’ history or palaces, let us assure you the hotel has modern guest rooms and beautiful grounds.  While we used accumulated Marriott loyalty reward points for our stay, room rates for rooms with view decks are currently about $150US per night, double occupancy on booking.com. (An incredible deal, as we paid that to stay at a Fairfield Inn in Central Washington State last summer.)

Happy New Year to you and yours ~  hope your 2016 is filled with travel adventures whether taken from your armchair or in real time! And as always, thanks for the time you spent with us today!



Linking up this week:

34 comments:

  1. That's some impressive Hotel Jackie!
    Thanks for the interesting history, looking forward to seeing your pictures of the pyramids etc.
    Susan.x

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    1. It was stunning, simply stunning as was the entire city. Such a shame that unrest and terrorism has slashed tourism here. Thanks for the comment, my friend. xxx

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  3. OMYGOODNESS...what a fabulous place. I love this post with all the history...thanks for the beautiful photos.
    Happiest New Year to you and all those you love

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  4. Very elegant!
    Thanks for linking up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/12/little-painted-desert.html.
    Best wishes for the new year!

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  5. Fascinating history and amazing hotel and palace. And it might be hard to tear oneself away from the the luxurious surroundings to explore some of the other wonders nearby!

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  6. I've heard a lot about Cairo and why it's not worth visiting, so it's nice to see a more positive opinion. And that hotel looks amazing, almost worth a visit in its own right!

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    1. I did read a travel blogger's report a few months ago that wrote off the whole city based on his three days there - guess I can counter that with after five days there, we can't wait to return in the spring. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder! Thanks for stopping by, Karen!

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  7. Wow what a wonderful place to stay in...add another a and it's a palace! But I am waiting for your next post about Cairo. I thought it was not recommended to go there, too!

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    1. The travel advisories for Egypt are much like that of the Middle East, in fact my next post is on safety and terrorism when traveling. Thanks for stopping by Carol! Happy New Year and Happy Travels!

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  8. Hello, what a lovely hotel. Thanks for sharing the history of the palace. Happy New Year to you and yours! Happy Monday, have a great new week!

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    1. Happy New Year to you Eileen and happy travels in the coming year! Look forward to your explorations ~ thanks for stopping by today!

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  9. What a beautiful hotel! It's fun to imagine days gone by when we are fortunate enough to book a stay at a real palace! Looking forward to your perspective on Cairo, too!

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  10. Lovely images from your amazing trip! Happy New Year to you and yours! And a great start in week!

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  11. Marriott? Marriott? OK, now I understand your post's title. Unbelievable place. What a price too!

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    1. Yes, it was pretty amazing for a big box hotel like Marriott but I guess that is part of the fun of travel isn't it? Making these incredible discoveries. . . Happy New Year!

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  12. What a fabulous surprise awaited you when you arrived at the Marriott! I love staying in historic buildings that are now hotels and learning the stories of those who have walked the corridors. Looking forward to hearing all about Cairo!

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    1. Those historic hotels are definitely our favorite and this had a nice mix of old and new for those who prefer the modern hotel room. Thanks for visiting Jenny and Happy New Year to you!

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  13. A great travelog. Thanks for linking in with "Through my Lens"

    Mersad
    Mersad Donko Photography

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    1. Thanks for hosting such a great link up Mersad! Happy New Year to you~

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  14. Wow. The Cairo Marriott looks like a fantastic place to stay. A former palace and historic site of its own!

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    1. Oh Donna from following along on your travels, I know that you would have gone nuts staying here - you'd have worn out your camera and filled your notebook; you'd simply have loved it! Happy New Year and Happy Travels to you~

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  15. I was curious about whether there was any Marriott signage outside? What an amazing property!

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    1. Just a ground level sign as you entered the property; some hotels had their names in large letters across the tops of the high rise buildings but the Marriott was more discreet about itself.

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  16. What a beautiful hotel. Wish I was there! :-)

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    1. You should consider Cairo - it was a fabulous city and hotel.

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  17. Very elegant, not what I would expect for Cairo.
    Looking forward to your travels in 2016 Jackie.

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    1. Oh Judith, I'll have to show you some of the floral displays from the Cairo Ritz Carlton lobby areas and the JW Marriott - the hotels are absolutely stunning!

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  18. Oh, Jackie, what grandeur, what elegance and style! Lucky you, who got to experience it on foot, in person, as opposed to us, armchair travellers! Eye candy for a hungry explorer, your photos satiate my hunger for such adventures! Thank you for this most appetizing treat of the magnificent Marriot, a wonderful taste of your Egyptian escape!

    xx
    Poppy

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    1. I am a big believer in counting my blessings, and while in Cairo, it seemed every experience was a blessing. I am so grateful that The Scout kept our dream alive and finally gave us that nudge to make it reality! Happy New Year to you my friend! xxx Jackie

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  19. Wowza, would never have expected that of a Marriott! It is stunning!

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  20. looks luxury

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  22. Nu încerca să efectueze unele calcule matematice de probabilitate, strategie, din păcate, este, de asemenea, lipsită de sens, ca și cel anterior. Singurul ei avantaj este faptul jocuri aparate că banii nu este jucat cu o astfel de viteză mare.

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