Volume I, Number 4 September 1st, 2000
The Cairo Marriott
The guest Khedive Ismail most wished to dazzle during the celebrations marking the inauguration of the Suez Canal was Empress Eugenie, who, as a cousin of de Lesseps, had agreed to open the event. He built a lavish palace for her, in which the decoration of her own apartments at the Tuillerie Palace was duplicated, with an influence of Islamic architecture in the use of marble and mashrabiya work. In 1863, Ismail had engaged the services of German architect Julius Franz (later Franz Bey) to design the palace that was completed in 1868, with the help of Abdin Palace designer De Curel Del Rosso. The interior of the palace was to include the most luxurious fittings that could be imported from Paris at the time. French landscape architect Barrillet Deschamps was encouraged to transform the entire island into a formal park, incorporating the existing palace and kiosk of Mohamed-Aly into the gardens. The U-shaped salamlek combined baroque European style with traditional Islamic decorative motifs and architectural features, using "high rectangular windows and corniches of the Renaissance period beside Islamic horseshoe arches. All of the arches, of cast iron, were produced in Germany and assembled in Cairo by German workers brought to Egypt expressly for that purpose.
The German designer Carl Wilhelm von Diebitsch decorated the building by prefabricating the furniture, draperies and other internal fittings as well as the gilded stucco decorations in his workshop in Berlin. Once finished, the items were assembled and packed into containers which traveled from Berlin to Trieste by train, then to Alexandria by boat and finally to Cairo once again by train. Many of von Diebitschl's decorative elements have been preserved to this day and can be observed in several of the Marriott's ballrooms.
According to Aly Mubarak, minister of public works under Ismail, the palace had cost more than three quarters of a million Egyptian pounds, a considerable amount for the time. This amount excluded the landscaping, in itself a colossal enterprise which entailed reinforcing the banks of the river and protecting the large area around the palace from floods. Only when this work had been completed could Franz lay the foundations of the 147 meter-long palace, which nestled in the middle of the gardens. Once the work was finally concluded, Franz, whose forte does not seem to have been modesty, decreed it "the most beautiful building of modern Arabic style in its category".
In 1880 Ismail's creditors claimed his possessions, and the palace was sold to a hotel chain. It became known as the Gezira Palace hotel, which rivaled in luxury the famous Shepheard's and was for a while under the same management. Left: The Salon Royal Staircase The gardens were divided between the Khedival (later the Gezira) Sporting Club, encompassing the race course and polo field which had previously surrounded the royal residence, while to the west of the estate, Ismail's fish grotto was converted into a garden featuring rare trees and an aquarium, opened officially to the public in 1902.
The Aida Foyer Around 1908, the hotel was sold to Prince Michel Lutfallah, who transformed it into a private residence. However, following the 1952
Revolution, it was sequestrated and later in 1962, turned into the Omar Khayyam hotel, which featured unsightly green and yellow makeshift cabins all over the garden. Right: A typical Bedouin setup at the Aida Ballroom In the '70s, the property was handed over to the management of the Marriott hotels, who restored the original palace with loving care, equipping it with all the amenities befitting a five star hotel. In addition, they build to flanking mammoth modern skyscrapers to provide room for the numerous tourists who regularly seek accommodations in these enchanting surroundings.
The Salon royal Today, many tourism professionals consider the Marriott one of the finest examples of western style hotels in Egypt. So many of these show little in the way of Egyptian architecture, but the Marriott stands out among chain hotels as a splendid example. It makes one feel that they are indeed, in Egypt.
This is a wonderful facility located in a quite, garden district and surrounded by upscale shopping, restaurants and art facilities. Nearby are located many of the foreign embassies and consulates. Left: the Saraya Cafe The Cairo Marriott is a full service hotel and really has all the amenities and facilities one expects in such a resort. Perhaps even more. Beyond luxurious rooms, the hotel has 10 different restaurants, including an American style steakhouse (JW's Steakhouse), the Fish Market, a cruising restaurant called the Nile Maxim. There are also five bars, including Harry's Pub, the Casino's Omar El Khayyam bar, and a Piano bar.
There is a complete health and fitness center with a whirlpool, sauna, massage service as well as a universal gym. This enhances the large outdoor pool and three floodlit tennis courts. Right: Harry's Pub The business center includes Internet access, a secretarial service and all the fax and photocopying facilities required, but the hotel also seems well known as a place of business meetings, with great and varied facilities from small, to banquet size rooms.
The Country Kitchen As for rooms, there are non-smoking, as well as easy access rooms for the handicapped. All rooms are air conditioned, have mini bars, direct dial telephones with voice mail and data ports, hairdryers, private balconies, TVs with satellite, irons and ironing boards, safes, and fire detection. The Cairo Marriott is truly one of Egypt's premier hotels, well known for gracious hospitality in a location that is hard to beat with facilities born of old money and cherished memories.
Omar Khayyam Casino Cairo Marriott
Saraya El Gezira St., Zamalek, Cairo Egypt
Phone: +20 2-340-8888
Fax: +20 2-340-667
Budget and Independent Travel to Egypt - Part III By Jimmy Dunn
Historical Hotels in Egypt - Part III By Jimmy Dunn
Doing Business In Egypt By Jimmy Dunn
The Ancient Egyptian Bride By Ilene Springer
Editor's Commentary By Jimmy Dunn
Ancient Beauty Secrets By Judith Illes
Book Reviews Various Editors
Kid's Corner By Margo Wayman
Cooking with Tour Egypt By Mary K Radnich
Hotel Reviews By Juergen Stryjak
Egyptian Exhibitions By deTraci Regula
Nightlife Various Editors
Restaurant Reviews Various Editors
Shopping Around By Juergen Stryjak
Egyptian View-Point By Adel Murad
Medical Advice in Egypt By Omar Ragab.
Web Reviews By Siri Bezdicek
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Last Updated: June 5th, 2011