Egypt: The Windsor Hotel

Volume I, Number 2 July 1st, 2000

The Windsor Hotel

The Windsor hotel is unique. Historically, it must be classed with the Winter Palace in Luxor and the Old Cataract in Aswan, though these hotels are five star while the Windsor only rates three. What is common in all of these hotels is that they are colonial era, but unlike, for example, the Mena House, have a decidedly European or British ambiance. While the Old Winter Palace seems of old English ladies and afternoon tea, the Windsor feels of rowdy English officers amidst a break from war. Though the Windsor certainly does not live up to the refined, well kept reputation of other historical hotels in Egypt, perhaps this very fact insures that the ghosts of British officers sitting about the bar are a bit more visible. It is not difficult to imagine that one has passed into a different era upon entering the hotel. The Windsor is a Cairo landmark. Originally, the building was a Turkish bath house of the royal families in Cairo. But for those who long to relive the days of the Shepheards Hotel, the most famous of the colonial period establishments, the Windsor was its annex. Later it became the British Officers club. In 1952 when the Shepheards Hotel was burnt, the Windsor survived with minor damage. After the revolution, when most substantial businesses were nationalized, the Windsor was sold to a Coptic family who continued to operate the property in the tradition of its former Swiss management.

A typical Windsor Room The Windsor is not a "slick", restored facility like many of the other historical hotels of Egypt. As such, it is not a hotel that everyone will enjoy. One must understand the nature of this hotel to fully appreciate the stay. While other historical hotels retain much of their past charm while embracing updates and restoration to facilitate their five star status, the Windsor must be thought of as a living museum in which one may actually stay a few nights.

The Dining Room at the Windsor The hotel is certainly faded, as any true museum exhibit might be. In the elegant dining room hangs a painting, cracked and darkened with a large hole gouged in its otherwise unrecognizable canvas, while elsewhere a broken chandelier dangles in ruined grandeur, all relics of Egypt's revolution. The dining room's painting was damaged by the same fire that burnt the Shepeards Hotel. Within the bar area (see our separate review) are found chairs made from old wooden barrels which date to the early 1900s, and on the walls are trophy animals shot by British Officers while on leave. Throughout the hotel, art deco travel posters from an earlier era adorn the walls and ancient furniture, including an antique piano crowd sitting areas located on each intimate floor. Centered in the midst of this is the lift, said to be the oldest in Egypt, which must be operated manually with a lever by the porter.

Grand Bar at the Windsor Hotel Beyond this museum called the Windsor hotel, is its friendly management and hospitable service. Guests are catered to, advised and entertained. The Doss family, which owns the hotel, seems always ready and eager to explain its history to a curious guest. Other staff members will arrange a thrifty tour to most any location in Cairo, or even make sure that a guest is not overcharged by a taxi. One feels a comfort in all this, as many hotels simply do not portray the atmosphere of a one on one encounter between staff and guests on such an intimate level. And unlike many of the three or four star hotels, the English speaking tourists will not feel lonely, as the hotel often caters to people from the US, UK, Australia and other English speaking countries. Finally, while the menu is limited for any particular meal, the food is excellent and inexpensive in the small, elegant dining room.

Rooftop Terrace GardenThe Windsor Hotel
19 Alfi Street, Cairo, Egypt
Telephone 02 5915810 - 5915277
Fax: 02-5921621


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