© 2009 LuFarah lu [at] lufarah dot com

Where the Basha did Summers

For our last two days in Egypt, we decided to stay at a different hotel before flying out of Alexandria. We took the train from Cairo to Alex, the Spanish train this time, and made a reservation on Expedia, nearly midnight the night before, to El Salamlek , located inside the Montazah Gardens in Alexandria.


El Salamlek used to be one of the royal summer retreats.Apparently, it was built by HH Khedive Abbas Helmi II, in 1890 something, as a hunting lodge for his (then) mistress the Countess May Torok von Szendro ( they married at some point). It's an old mini palace, restored but still retaining that creepy decadence of westernized arab aristocracy. We stayed at the Pasha Suite, complete with a black and white portrait photo of a dead child princess by the bed, rococo iron bed and striped wallpaper in various shades of pink. The great thing about this hotel is that it is smack in the middle of Montazah gardens, which i am guessing was the royal family's summer house backyard. Now it is public, thank god for that. Of course, as anything public in Egypt, to get it you must go through a couple of military checkpoints, but i figure it's still better than being blown up by some unhappy terrorist faction. At the reception, when we told the 3 receptionists we had made our reservations through Expedia, they did not know what that was. I was moody and cranky after 3 hours on an early morning train from Cairo, so I sort of just watched Anis deal with them. He actually had to open his laptop and show them the reservation. It was a good thing he saved the page because there's no wi-fi there ( but we didn't expect it to, anyway). We had a tiny balcony but the view was great. Don't have breakfast at El Salamlek. We did and it was gross. Dinner was not bad, we went to the french restaurant which used to be the pasha's den. Apparently, the cutlery and china are the same as from the Basha time. French service is annoying though. Food was good but not exceptional, french fare straight from school of culinary arts txtebook, i could tell. But no complaints there, it just added to the whole decadent experience. Anis explained to me that keeping the Salamlek as it was and having the staff dress as they did in the Basha time was like a big joke on royalty. The last Basha pretty much let Europe trample over Egyptian people, their heritage and culture not to mention all the commercial exploitation. And all that because he dreamt of being french and tres chic. More about the mistress Countess who died as Haile Sellassie's wardrobe consultant, Here
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