The Cosmopolitan Hotel
By Juergen Stryjak
If the tourist walks through Cairo's downtown he will be astonished that there are plenty of old houses, office and apartment buildings, beautiful but silent relics of the past, which give him the feeling not of Cairo, but of being suddenly transported to a strange worn-out copy of Paris from the turn of the century one hundred years ago. To him, the buildings seem to speak. The tourist has the feeling they want to tell him their story, but the heavy dust on their facades muffles their voices, and the rest of their whisper is drowned out by the infernal traffic noise.
For decades this heritage was in danger of being lost. Due to a lack of money, or the landlord's will, it only seemed to be a question of time before the last of these witnesses became silent forever, disappearing behind giant neon lights, replaced by colorless, shiny new buildings. This danger isn't over, but there are hopeful signs that at least a part of this heritage can be preserved. The Caf Riche is such a sign, and in a different way the restaurant La Bodega in Zamalek, too where ever individual passionate enthusiasts are at work with much love and energy. Another sign is the so-called Golden Triangle quarter around the stock exchange, the Cairo Bourse. In the middle of this area we find the Cosmopolitan Hotel.
The more than 100-year-old Cairo Bourse area, located between Qasr Al-Nil Street, Sherif Street and Sabri Abu Alam Street, was renovated recently. Facades were brightly painted; the streets and small squares were transformed into a large pedestrian mall without car traffic, sporting lovely lampposts, trees, little gardens inviting for a relaxing walk in the middle of the noisy metropolis, in an area which is certainly one of the reasons to call Egypt's capital the Paris on the Nile.
The Cosmopolitan Hotel, ordered from Swiss-born hotel manager Charles Albert Baehler and built by the Italian Alphonse Sasso, was inaugurated 1928 as the Metropolitan Hotel. For Baehler, the hotel was his last gift to Cairo's townscape, after creating some of the most beautiful hotels, apartment and office buildings, mansions and shopping colonnades in the city, as well as the Winter Palace in the Upper-Egyptian town of Luxor. Some experts even consider Baehler as being the founder of new Zamalek, that posh district located on the Nile island in the middle of the town. An excellent example of his influence to Cairo's face can be found there on the northern side of the 26th of July Street, early Baehler houses, left to the corner Al-Maahad Al-Swissri Street. Today these buildings host the pizzeria Maison Thomas and the newly opened restaurant La Bodega.
Like many of the buildings in the Golden Triangle district around the Cairo Bourse, the Cosmopolitan Hotel looks like a beautiful casket. Its playful belle poche architecture with its rounded corners, arcade-like balconies, pillars and stucco work turn it into a perfect starting point for exploring the fin de sicle neighborhood. The once famous Cairo Bourse, merged with the Alexandria Stock Exchange decades ago, is only two minutes walking distance away. Until its closure in 1961, it was rated among the top five stock exchanges worldwide. Now it is open to the market again, but still waits to become as important in the financial world as in the past.
The Cosmopolitan Hotel offers clean and air-conditioned single and double bedrooms as well as six suites, all of them simple but stylishly furnished and equipped with private bath, telephone and TV. It hosts a restaurant, a cafeteria, a business center, the King's Bar and the patisserie Le Moulin.
Cosmopolitan Hotel. 1, Ibn Taalab Street, Downtown, Cairo.
Telephone: 2392-3956, -663 and -845.
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Last Updated: June 2nd, 2011