El Nakhil Hotel and Restaurant
By Jane Akshar
A warm welcome waits for you at the newest hotel on the West Bank of Luxor. Managed and owned by Salah Gaber Ali and his German wife, it is a welcome addition to the increasingly sophisticated and popular hotels on the West Bank. Whilst Luxor City is famously known for its hassle, here on the West Bank it is a quieter and more relaxing atmosphere all together. There are no shouts of calache (the horse drawn carriage). Indeed there are none on this side of the river. A few drivers will wait by the ferry offering taxis but that is it. Once you have shaken them off you can wander the streets of the Al Gezera at will, enjoying the friendly local atmosphere of this village and without the headaches of the vendors on the east side of the Nile.
Al Gezera means island, and in times gone by it was separated by water from the rest of the West Bank, but nowadays there is a road that leads from the ferry to the Valley of the Kings. The village is small but abounds with coffee shops, restaurants and supermarkets.
There are a few shops selling locally produced goods for the tourist trade but mainly the shops are everyday ones selling everything one needs to feed the family, household goods, medication, bakery goods and there is even an internet caf.
Being on the West Bank means being close to 90% of the monuments and this saves a lot of time that is otherwise wasted crossing from the East Bank via the bridge. It also enables one to see the real local life all around. This is no tourist town but an ordinary Egyptian village that has tourists in it. The discerning tourist has always been able to find family run hotels here, competitively priced in tranquil surroundings and this, the latest in this genre, is no exception.
Or rather I should say it is an exception because it has been built, designed and finished by an art teacher with an eye for detail and style. Salah was an art teacher for seven years until he built his hotel, and his background certainly shows up in his property. Both overall design encapsulating techniques of the famous Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy, and accessories show a coordination of typically more sophisticated Egyptian building that he has every right to proud of. He tells us that his aim was to build a hotel from his heart; he wants you to feel you are in his family home. It is located on the southern edge of the village at the end of Mosque Street.
One of the features of some of the bedrooms is a dome that makes the rooms incredible cool and airy. This was a characteristic of the homes Hassan Fathy built based on the idea of earlier Nubian houses. He was a leading advocate for creating architecture suitable for local conditions. There is no denying that it is an effective way of keeping the rooms cool. The bedrooms, 14 in all, incorporate a mixture of domed ceiling, fans and air conditioning and all are furnished with an eye for detail, right down to embroidered pillow slips with the hotel's logo on them.
The bedrooms are furnished with hand built furniture made in the village but designed by Salah. All are clean and comfortable and the bathrooms are up to and even beyond Western standards.
He has even designed a suite for disabled visitors with emergency call button, ramps, accessible shower and toilet. There are 14 bedrooms in all, a mixture of single, double and triple rooms. The prices including breakfast are respectively $26, $32 and $47 USD per night.
Meals can be obtained in the downstairs restaurant or on the roof terrace and both of these are open to non- residents. The menu provides a range of soups, sandwiches, salads, pasta, omelets, meat, fish, salads, pizzas and desserts, and a typical meal will cost between 30 40 LE, which is under $10 per person. He also serves a range of soft drinks and local beer and wine. Salah is determined to have the highest standards and with this in mind he uses only fresh local ingredients, salads are washed in boiled water and fresh juices are made with mineral water. This is an excellent place to relax after a hard morning in the tombs.
One of the most charming things about this hotel are the beautiful gardens, ideal for relaxing in, and all the rooms overlook this area. The hotel itself is set in the middle of a grove of palm trees after which it is named. A true oasis of green.
Reading through his visitors book I came across this comment
We were happy to discover this tiny paradise after arriving in Luxor. It has become one of our favourite places in Egypt. We arrived as guests but it is our feeling that we left as friends. The best way to make us wish to come back thanks to every person working here
I totally agree and I think the West Bank will have more and more of these quality places to stay as it develops, let us hope it never loses its charm.
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