Skip to main content

Featured

Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan

Recently voted one of the top hotels in the Middle East this Sofitel Legend's property is breathtaking. Built at the turn of the Twentieth Century  by Thomas Cook, the Old Cataracts was part of the early tourist expansion in Egypt. The hotel is historic, elegant, timeless and luxurious, it will always be remembered for it's association with Agatha Christie and her Death on the Nile. Because it was the first large hotel in the area it has a superior position and the situation is spectacular, poised above the first Cataract with many of the public spaces and rooms overlooking the Nile.  If I were the travel agent my friends think I should be, I would say this is a "do not miss" property.
We enjoyed  an excellent breakfast outside every morning at the Terrace Restaurant, at the top of the stars above, It is a magnificent perch with an incredible view. This must be one of the prettiest spots imaginable. Photo below from the Sofitel website.
Overall we were very impressed with the service at the Old Cataract which was the best we encountered in Egypt. Clearly the staff are very well trained and extremely accommodating, when I didn't finish a large lunch they sent it back to our room, beautifully prepared with additional bread so I could enjoy it later. We were also impressed that they  allowed us to bring a  bottle of duty free champagne to their French restaurant, 1902. We knew it was cheeky to ask, but they charge us a corkage  which seemed very reasonable given the cost of champagne on their menu. I was slightly less impressed by the flexibility of the pool staff, but the spa and housekeeping were outstanding. 
Restaurant 1902, serves French cuisine inside an Arabian fantasy, the architectural and design of the room  is  reminiscent of the cathedral at Cordoba in Spain, which was previously a mosque. We had a very good formal meal here and enjoyed both the staff and the opportunity to meet the chef. Sadly for them, there was only one other party in the restaurant all evening. Photo below from the Sofitel website.
The public spaces in the hotel are beautifully designed, including the bar, the lobby and the library. I didn't take good interior photos so I'm including some  from the website. As you can see it's quite spectacular. They have created a wonderfully eclectic contemporary feel while retaining the historic bones and character of the hotel.
I failed to take interior pictures because I was too focused on the outdoor vistas. I could barely believe what I was seeing every time I open the curtains!
Below you can see the incredibly ugly 1961 addition now known as the "Nile Wing", which is on the other side of the pool. Along with the rest of the hotel it has been extensively renovated and houses accommodations and the new spa. The room are large and have beautiful views from their balconies, see the second photo below. However, after our experience in the modern Victory Annex at the historic E&O in Penang, I was going to ensure I was in the original hotel. For me it doesn't matter how lovely these new rooms are, I want to enjoy the historic atmosphere and  aesthetic. Consequently, I would avoid the "Nile Wing" unless they are  considerably cheaper, though this may be a less compelling consideration for others.
While the location  of the hotel is is amazing  the rooms are fantastic too. The hotel was closed for several years and as you can see from the public spaces the refurbishment is extraordinary. The rooms are stylish, glamorous and elegant. We booked a regular room but opted to upgrade to a Cataract Suite. If you want a Nile view in the historic wing you'll need to pick a suite. For me the Nile view was unmissable, but the regular rooms are large and well appointed and some have small balconies overlooking the gardens.
Our bathroom had a Nile view too but I was too busy admiring the "Un Jardin Sur Le Nil" Hermes soaps to care! As you can see it was beautifully designed, with double sinks, a  bath, shower and a separate loo. I loved the monogram above the tub.

The room was very atmospheric at night and during the day I could hardly tear myself away from our terrace. 
Tip: If I returned I would request  a Cataract Suite, with a balcony on a higher floor - these rooms have a slightly better view than our ground floor room and the book up quickly. Though the hotel was far from fully occupied these rooms were already taken. Not e, not all Cataract Suites have a  terrace or balcony so make sure to request one. 
We stayed in a lot of beautiful places on this trip but this was my favorite hotel in Egypt, it would be a lovely place to come for some winter sun and I highly recommend it.

Comments

Anna said…
That view!!!
Isn't it fantastic, it's enough to make you run off to Aswan tomorrow!

EXPLORE POPULAR POSTS BELOW...