How would you feel about being taken back into time in a luxurious palace? I thought so too.. Just walking into this magnificent hotel that is the Sofitel ‘Legend’ Old Cataract Aswan, you feel like you’ve been taken back into the beginning of the 1900’s. Feels like stepping into a timeless story.
The Old Cataract sits right on the Nile River’s bank and has long served as a luxurious stopover for countless travelers, famous and otherwise. It overlooks Elephantine Island, at the crossroads of the Nile River Valley and the Nubian Desert.
Built in 1899 by Thomas Cook, it was home to many famous people, amongst them Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie. The two most spacious suites at the Old Cataract are named after them. To be honest, the Winston Churchill’s outdoor wins with its big beautiful balcony! Though the furniture in Agatha Christie’s was more to my liking.
Agatha’s husband was an archeologist, he would go work and leave Agatha at the Old Cataract where she would wait for him to return. She’d sit on her balcony and write. This is where it widely believed that she wrote Death On the Nile, one of the most famous crime novels of all times.
The 1978 film of her novel’s Death On the Nile was shot at the hotel, but also more recently the Egyptian adaptation of Grand Hotel (series) was shot here in 2016.
The hotel has had famous guests from all over the world, including Czar Nicolas II, Howard Carter, the Duke of Connaught, the 3rd son of Queen Victoria, Aga Khan III, King Farouk, the Shah of Iran, Khedive Abbas Helmi, Mohamed V King of Morocco, Margaret Thatcher, Jimmy Carter, Helmut Kohl, Queen Nour of Jordan, Princess Diana, Princess Caroline of Monaco, François Mitterrand, Antoine de Saint Éxupery.
If you walk in the corridors of the old building, you will find pictures of the famous guests who stayed there and a note written by them.. I told you, it’s like going back in time.
The hotel is home today to Sir Magdy Yacoub, the Egyptian-British cardiothoracic famous surgeon, the man behind Magdi Yacoub Heart Foundation, if you’ve never heard about it I invite you to, they do impressive work for developing countries!
The hotel is made of two completely different wings, housing 138 rooms. Stepped in history and heritage, the Old Palace Wing exudes authenticity, high ceilings, whilst the Nile Wing is more modern and brings a stunning view of the river Nile and Aswan. The rooms are spacious, even the first category, almost feels like a suite with a living area, a big dressing room and a big bathroom with a walk in shower, bath tub, toilets, and hers and his sinks.
The hotel has a 13,000-square-foot spa, the So-Spa, with eight treatment rooms, a three-room hammam and indoor pool. There is also a fitness center, Jacuzzi (you have to book in advance), sauna and tanning salon. Treatments include a variety of massages and facials. Guess what, the indoor pool is heated! Great for winter isn’t it. The hotel’s pool is heated too, but while we were there it seems like there was a problem with the heating system. We still took a dip because the weather was actually great (first day of December, can you imagine!)
There are four restaurants. There’s the restored 1902, a fine-dining restaurant modeled after Cairo’s Ibn Tulun mosque; Al Saraya, a brasserie-style venue; Oriental Kababgy with a superb view overlooking the river; and Palms, a poolside restaurant. To be honest we didn’t eat at the hotel other than breakfast, they have a great selection, you will enjoy it. And of course I had my oh so famous club sandwich by the pool!!
P.S.: If you don’t know, the Sofitel Legend is a collection of stately heritage hotels and palaces found in iconic cities around the world. Each landmark property in the collection is historic with an enchanting back-story. These exclusive hotels are legendary places, and they’ve played host to legendary people. The footfalls of a bygone era echo in the halls, and the legacy continues today through world-class service, stunning décor and inspiring culinary experiences.