Splendours of Egypt – The Amazing History of the Cairo Marriott Hotel
It is well known that the Marriott Hotel was built by Khedive Ismail Pasha to accommodate Empress Eugenie of France on her visit to Egypt. The Khedive spared no expense in building this hotel to house the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte III and other European dignitaries during the inaugural celebrations of the Suez Canal in 1869.
The modern-day hotel was built around the al Gezira Palace which housed Egypt’s royal family during the 19th century. After the Suez event, the next biggest gala was the wedding of the Khedive’s four children in one massive, lavish celebration. After the signing of the marriage documents, festivities continued for 40 days, and included royal guests from all over the world.
When the Khedive eventually went bankrupt, and had to liquidate his assets to cover his debts, the palace was acquired by the Egyptian Hotels Company in 1879, operating as the Gezira Palace Hotel. The tourism industry suffered a downturn after WWI as a result of which the hotel was auctioned off. Habib Lotfallah Pasha, head of a wealthy land-owning family from Syria, bought the Gezirah Palace for LF140,000 in 1919, along with which he acquired the title of prince. For the next 42 years, the palace was the home of Prince Lotfallah’s descendents, who kept most of the original structure, furniture, artifacts and paintings intact. The Saraya Cafe was used as an arabesque dining room by the Lotfallah’s family, in which they hosted a great number of elites during this eventful historical period.
Well, Tony and I can claim to be guests of this famous dining room as well, however our feast was somewhat more modest, comprising salads and espressos.