Story Egypt's Only Boutique Hotel
The Hotel Longchamps
by Jimmy Dunn
So what exactly do the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo, the Conrad Cairo Hotel, the Grand Hyatt Cairo and the Hotel Longchamps have in common, besides all being located in Cairo, Egypt? Answer: They are all solidly rated 5, the highest rating, by users on tripadvisor.com and they represent a very select few in Egypt with such a rating. However, perhaps a more important question is, how are they different? Well, the first three hotels have average room rates of between $133 and $240 per night, while the last one, the Hotel Longchamps, has an average room rate of about $40. Simply put, it is the only hotel in this price range in Egypt that is so highly rated by its guests.
In fact, the Hotel Longchamps, amidst all the grand hotels in Cairo, and there are many grand hotels in Cairo, has a popularity index on tripadvisor.com of 6, actually better than the Grand Hyatt, for example.
None of this is all that surprising to us. For a number of years now, we have considered the Hotel Longchamps to be the official hotel of the Tour Egypt staff. It is where we hang our hats in Cairo and the place we call home, but that's not exclusive to us. I can remember about a year ago when Stephen Harvey, a good friend of ours and the lead Egyptologists of the Ahmose Pyramid project, expressed a similar feeling. I can even remember feeling a tad jealous. But after all, Stephen and I also share this feeling with other Egyptologists and more than a few embassy personnel, businessmen and knowledgeable tourists who also call the Longchamps home.
Why is this? I could probably sum it up by saying that it is a very comfortable place, with modern and bright accommodations and a friendly staff at an affordable price, but that is really only the part of the story. One is made to feel at home here, but that doesn't explain why, for some reason unknown even to me, that I can feel more relaxed sitting on the Longchamp's summer terrace than I do in my own living room in Texas. Nor can it explain the feeling of homesickness I get when I've been away too long.
Perhaps its all the good old memories, and the expectation of new ones. I do love Egypt and I have had so many good moments all over this grand old land, but over the years, there have been so many nice evening spent on the terraces of the Longchamps meeting with friends and making new ones. I do love to meet the well know European artists who frequent the hotel, and kicking back with the staff of the German or Swiss embassy on a warm summer night over drinks and snacks. It is here that I met Towheed Ramy, the father of Egyptian multimedia and the inventor of the Sound and Light shows, and it is here that I have met more than a few of the Egyptologists I know. I've enjoyed discussions with world renowned journalists on these terraces, and I must admit that I miss the company of the owner's father, who died a short time ago. When the big wigs of Egyptian tourism came to call on him, they too called him father, because he was considered somewhat of a founder of modern Egyptian Tourism. I must also admit that I thoroughly enjoy meeting up with the Tour Egypt readers who frequent the hotel. Its just always a grand time for me. Obviously I can no longer write a completely objective review of this hotel, but thankfully, my views are shared by many others.
Of course, the Hotel Longchamps is a rather small hotel, to small in fact to attract the attention of the large tour companies. There simply is not enough space to put up a large tour group. Therefore, it caters to, and is dependent upon, independent travelers. At the same time, the hotel is very well suited for foreign travelers. The staff is fluent in English and a few other languages, and Hebba, the owner, switches effortlessly between English, German, French, Italian and Arabic.
A few years ago, we all thought of the Hotel Longchamps as a very good budget hotel, but constant updates, renovations and improvements have really turned the hotel into something else. In Europe, it would be considered a Boutique Hotel, while Americans might think of it more as a fine Bread and Breakfast. The pricing is still good, not all that different than when I first stayed here, but every time I go back, the facilities are better than before.
Few, if any hotels in the same price range as the Hotel Longchamps in Egypt offer the modern amenities to be found here. Each of the rooms have modern televisions with cable, modern direct dial telephones, and most unusual for even many of the most expensive hotels, wireless internet. Rooms also have mini-friges, some have desks and the bathrooms are all well appointed with modern fixtures and full amenities. At the same time, all of the rooms are somewhat different, as they should be in a be for a Boutique Hotel. Most are very spacious, and some have their own reasonably sized terraces. The hotel has a very nice restaurant which also serves food on the terraces, and a well equipped bar.
Admittedly, it is also located in the heart of my favorite district in Cairo, Zamalek. Zamalek is a very upscale area of Cairo where most of the embassies are located, along with fashionable shops and a number of fine restaurants. Zamalek is know as a garden island and it is here that one finds the famous
Cairo Tower, the Cairo Opera House, the Gezira Club (one of Egypt's oldest and most fashionable country clubs) and various well known Art Galleries. Zamalek is also centrally located in Cairo, very near many of the cities most famous tourist attractions.
Now it is true that this old Texan is, just now, a little homesick for the Longchamps, but that will soon be remedied. I'll be heading back there late in August (2005) for about three weeks, and I would love nothing better than to see more of our readers while I am there. Join me there, and on a warm moonlit night overlooking the gardens of Zamalek, we'll talk about my favorite subject, Egypt.
Last Updated: June 22nd, 2011