Al-Ahram Weekly Online   23 - 29 September 2010
Issue No. 1016
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


By Sahar El-Bahr

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photo: Sherif Sonbol

FOR HONEYMOONERS who want to travel back in time to almost a century and a half ago, the Cairo Marriott in Zamalek is a great choice. Sahar El-Bahr steps into the time machine.

The historic Cairo Marriott Hotel is a combination of royal tradition, elegance and contemporary facilities, where the modern twin towers flank the historical Al-Gezira Palace. Located on the Nile, the hotel is one of the most unique properties among the international chain's hotels.

Al-Gezira Palace was built by Khedive Ismail as the guest residence for royalty, including Napoleon III's wife Empress Eugenie, visiting Egypt during the inauguration of the Suez Canal in 1869. Khedive Ismail commissioned architect Julius Franz Bey and interior decorator Carl von Diebitsch to design and finish the palace.

The khedive also commissioned Verdi's Opera Aida for the occasion, which was performed for the first time at the Cairo Opera House in December, 1871. Hence, the hotel's ballrooms are all named after the characters from Aida or the composer himself, Verdi. The hotel has more than one large banquet hall for wedding parties, and there are four honeymoon suites comprised of one bedroom with a king size bed, all-white accents -- including blankets, floors and paintings -- and a living room with a terrace overlooking the gardens. Newlyweds are served complementary fruit baskets, dinner, chocolate and flowers throughout their stay there.

The gardens at the hotel cover an area of six acres, which is a fraction of the original six feddans surrounding Al-Gezira Palace. One large pool, which is heated during the winter, and the poolside snack bar Wave are popular spots for relaxation. There are also several restaurants and cafés offering a wide variety of tastes, including Ristorante Tuscany serving authentic northern Italian food, JW's Steakhouse for US imported steaks, and the outdoor Egyptian Nights serving authentic Egyptian and oriental cuisine to the tunes of live entertainment, as peasant women bake fresh bread on the spot for guests.

The Garden Promenade Café specialises in barbeques, snacks and drinks, while sushi lovers can go to Torii Japanese Restaurant. There is also live music at the Piano Bar which begins serving cocktails at 8pm, but you should go to the Empress Entertainment Lounge if you want to dance the night away. For a night cap, Harry's Pub is an authentic English pub offering casual fare, imported beverages and live entertainment.

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