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Historic Hotels of EgyptOld Photos of Egypt HotelsMedia Center Historic Hotels of Egypt

Mena House Cairo Hotel

The origin of the Mena House was as a royal lodge for the Khedive Ismail. It was used as a rest house for himself and his guests when hunting in the desert or visiting the Pyramids at Giza.

The main dining room of today was once the entire lodge. In 1869, with the opening of the Suez Canal, the lodge was enlarged. In addition, to facilitate the visit of Empress Eugenie, a road was built between Cairo and the Pyramids. This made visits to Giza much easier.

In 1883 the lodge was sold to Frederick Head as a private residence. The Heads, a wealthy English couple, lived an idyllic life at their new residence, enlarging their home and adding a second floor. Seeking a name for their estate, Professor A.H. Saya made the suggestion that it should be called Mena House, after the first king referenced in the Tablet of Abydos.

1885: Another hugely wealthy English couple, the Locke-Kings purchased Mena House from Mrs. Head. It was they who set about turning the estate into a luxurious hotel.

Mrs. Locke-kings, hired an English Architect Henri Favarger to create an Arabian Magic to their Hotel.

1887: Mena House hotel received its first guest. With plenty of money to work with and an estate already rich with furnishings and other treasures left by the Khedive and the Heads, the Locke-Kings enlarged the building once again, adding the English touch of great fireplaces that were unusual in Egypt.

They retained much of the Arabic ambiance of the facility and enhanced this with fine Mashrabia (wooden screens) work, fine blue tiles, mosaics and medieval brass-embossed and carved wood doors. Their taste was excellent and the hotel has been kept with such good care that many of these original fixtures are still in use.

1890: With a new swimming pool, Mena House Hotel operated all year round, where all other major hotels were closed in summer.

1899: A sandy Golf Course was opened on the grounds before being turned into grass in 1917 by Roy Wilson.

1900: Years later after Mr. Locke-King's death, the Mena House was finally sold to George Nungovich who operated the Egyptian Hotels Company.

1953: Mena House Hotel nationalized and becomes a part of the nation’s heritage.

1972: Oberoi Hotels & Resorts are selected to manage Mena House. Now called Mena House Oberoi.

1979: Mena House Peace Conference held at Al Rubayyat – with Presidents Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Prime Minister Begin.

The hotel has undergone major renovation in the garden rooms with new additions namely an Italian restaurant, an Oriental restaurant, magnificent landscaping and breath taking swimming pool and water features.

 

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1869: Thomas Cook embarked on his first trip to Egypt, spotting endless opportunities.
1879: The Sultan of Turkey decreed that the Khedive of Egypt should leave his country in the hands of his son Mehemet Tewfi K Pasha. On June 30, a long luggage train laden with pictures and cabinets, dinner services and rare carpets, bronze and silver candelabra, plates of solid gold and inlaid with jewels, left Cairo for Alexandria. The treasures were shipped on board the gorgeous steam yacht Mahroussé, bound for Italy, where the despot lived happily until his end (see similar happenings—> 1952).
1880: In Cairo, The Egyptian Gazette, a daily newspaper, was founded.

1880s: Egypt was becoming a fashionable and chic winter resort for European travellers. The climate near the Great Pyramid in Giza, outside Cairo, was obviously better than in town. During the winter there were no muddy roads (due to occasional rain), no dust in the air and no traffic.
This peaceful environment was the right place for a young couple to settle in front of the Great Pyramid.
1883: Lord Cromer became the British Agent in Egypt. Meanwhile,  Frederick and Jessie Head, a couple on their honeymoon, acquired a former Khedival hunting lodge near the Great Pyramid. They enlarged the house and added a second floor. Jessie Head started teaching children from the nearby villages English. The English couple Locke-Kings bought the house from the Heads and decided to construct a hotel next to it. They built a magnificent oriental palace facing the Pyramids, complete with Arab mashrabia windows, brass embossed doors, blue tiles and mosaics of coloured marbles and mother-of-pearl. The great dining hall was an exact replica of a Cairo mosque.
1886: ‘Mena Hotel’, as it was called, opened.

1887: The first guests arrived by coach from Cairo, and soon word spread that there was a new hotel right next to the Great Pyramid. All this boded well, hand in hand with the growing appeal of Cairo itself as a destination. The Opera House announced 80 performances for the coming season, and impresario Rey even presented the great actress Sarah Bernhardt (right). She certainly visited the Mena House on her excursion to the Pyramids.
That same year, the Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor opened. At Shepheard’s Hotel a new lawn tennis court was the talk of the town.

 

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