A restored 19th-century palace is at the heart Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino. // © 2010 Marriott International
Egypt has a certain magnetism for curious travelers. These types of tourists hunger for an adventure, one that will put them face to face with ancient wonders and bring them closer to understanding Egypt’s storied past. In most cases, they will find themselves in Cairo and will want to book a centrally located city hotel overlooking the Nile River. With a colorful history of its own, Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino is a great fit for clients interested in convenience, local culture and the reliable creature comforts that can be expected from the Marriott brand.
The 1,087-room hotel encompasses a gorgeous 19th-century palace, Geriza Palace, that was originally built to accommodate royal guests and heads of state — Empress Eugenie of France famously stayed at the palace for the 1869 inauguration of the Suez Canal. Over the years, despite several changes in ownership, the palace has been carefully preserved and, in 1982, it became the heart of the Cairo Marriott. Thanks to work of history and conservation experts, a cast-iron fountain, six clocks, a grand marble staircase, a portrait of Empress Eugenie and a marble table from the time of Louis XIV still remain in tact and can be seen on the property grounds.
This year, the Cairo Marriott has begun yet another multi-million dollar restoration of the palace and the hotel’s public spaces including the lobby, gardens and food and beverage outlets. The renovation, which is expected to take two years to complete, will also add a world-class spa to the hotel’s expansive amenities.
The hotel presently features two guestroom towers with recently refurbished guestrooms, a 24-hour casino, a heated outdoor swimming pool, a bank, two ATMS, three bars, a bakery shop and eight restaurants. Of the dining facilities I experienced during my brief stay in June, Harry’s Pub was the place to find soccer fans dining on British favorites, such as smoked mackerel salad and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, while watching the FIFA World Cup matches on it’s two flat-screen televisions.
The buffet breakfast at Omar’s Cafe should not be missed. Its omelet station and spread of cheeses, breads, cereals appealed to the Westerner in me, but I had to indulge in the regional delicacies as well. It was my first time having tabouleh, baba ganoush, hummus and tahini for breakfast, but they were the perfect complement to the made-to-order falafels that I couldn’t quite get enough of. Omar’s Cafe’s falafels tasted nothing like the ones I’ve tried back home and were, by far, the best falafels I’ve had on my travels.
Those who have journeyed to Egypt know that early morning wake-up calls are a way of life, so chances are that guests staying at the Cairo Marriott will have to check out or leave their rooms before 6 a.m. to make a flight or go on a tour. In that case, I would highly recommend pre-ordering a breakfast box from Omar’s Cafe rather than going to the restaurant for a continental breakfast (served from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.), which amounts to a lackluster display of muffins, fruit salad and Swiss cheese.
When there was no need for an early wake up, guests frequented the open-air, late-night Egyptian Nights restaurant for traditional Middle Eastern fare, nightly live entertainment and a shisha (Egyptian water pipe) experience. And, any night of the week, guests can feel like the visiting royals once did by listening to pianists and singers serenade them at the Piano Bar located in the palace’s original billiard room.