This hotel in Upper Egypt would easily be the most famous hotel in the country and certainly one of its most luxurious. I do travel a lot but typically prefer to keep my hotel stays in clean, comfortable hotels – not necessarily luxury ones. It was time for a little indulgence though and it was well worth it! I also wouldn’t usually dedicate an entire blog post to a hotel, tending to write more about the places we visit but this hotel can be the exception.
The hotel was built in 1899 on the location of a granite barrier that creates the first cataract of the Nile River, this giving it its unique name. It was built by the Thomas Cook Travel Company to house well off European and English travellers who wanted to ‘rough it’ in the deserts of North Africa. This was my type of roughing it.
The Old Cataract, Aswan
Built on a granite outcrop the hotel offers marvellous views of the Nile River bustling with felucca sail boats, Elephantine Island (with its ancient ruins that are thousands of years old) and the edges of the Nubian Desert. The view is captivating. It looks like a postcard and photos simply don’t do it justice.
The Old Cataract Hotel has played host to many renowned and prominent guests over the last 100 years including heads of state, kings, queens and movie stars. The lobby is sumptuous and the striped arches reminded me a little of the stunning interior of the Mezquita in Cordoba, Spain.
The two most well-known guests have been Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie, who both stayed for extended periods in the hotel and both have the privilege of having a suite names after them. The large Churchill suite goes for around $10,000 USD a night; you can ask the hotel front desk for a tour of the suite as it’s well worth a look.
There are two parts of the hotel, the original Palace built in Victorian grandeur style with some Moorish influences and the Newer Wing built in 1961 that looks like a Russian apartment building. The Palace Wing is more expensive and in my opinion does not have as good a view compared to the Newer Wing. It was for this reason that we chose to stay in the Newer Wing as we had the benefit of better views, plus you don’t see the Newer Wing itself, just views of the grand Palace, gardens, pool and Nile.
Our hotel room
We booked a “luxury room” that was enormous and located on the 6th floor of the Newer Wing, it was very modern with some Egyptian and Arabic influences with its furniture and décor. The bathrooms were oversized with a free standing bathtub, shower and two vanities. The highlight of the room was the expansive balcony with deckchairs and lounge perfect to enjoy a drink and watch the sunset.
Our large, luxurious balcony with the perfect view
Currently the hotel has 138 rooms and suites, 4 restaurants, 1 bar, a fabulous lobby with deep comfortable armchairs, full stocked library, 1 terrace to watch the sunset, 2 incredible pools, and comprehensive health club and full service spa.
The incredible pool, Aswan
The highlights for our short stay at the legendary Old Cataract;
- Enjoying a cool drink while watching the amazing sunsets from our private balcony overlooking the pool, Palace and the Nile with its sail boats.
- Swimming in the refreshing pool after a day’s sightseeing (it gets really hot in Aswan)
- Breakfast on the Terrace – a real grand affair as they serve all the cheese, cold cuts and fruit on fancy 3 level trays (not the normal Bunnik household breakfast)
- Experiencing a pre-dinner drink in the bar and chatting with the bar staff, they are extremely friendly and went out of their way to make our kids feel welcome.
This is truly one of the loveliest and most luxurious hotels I have ever had the pleasure of staying at. So tick it off your bucket list and book your stay.
Morning tea on the Terrace
Photo Credit: All images by Sacha Bunnik