Staying at the Windsor on Alfi Bey Street in Cairo's colonial downtown, it's easy to imagine the 1952 Egyptian Revolution never took place. British accents ring out in the clubby Barrel Bar as aged gents in old school ties peruse newspapers on reading sticks.
Everything here is as it was before the Windsor's famous sister hotel, Shepheard's, was burned to the ground just across the street. This is not hyperbole. The manned elevator, the telephones, the switchboard, the furniture, even the shower fixtures...all original, for better or worse. This is not a refurbished place, redesigned and updated to appear colonial, this is the real deal, so if you want mod cons and luxury look elsewhere.
The neighborhood also retains a similar faded colonial glory. It's only a short walk down Alfi Bey ( be sure to stop at the historic Alfie Bey Grill) to Talat Harb, the great theatre and shopping street of pre-revolution Cairo, which is still lined with art deco cinemas, hotels, and apartment houses, in varying states of decay.
We stopped at the Windsor twice during a two-month stay in Egypt and were treated like family both times. All of the staff have worked at the Windsor for a very long time. Sabah and Imam, two sisters who serve in the restaurant and bar, are a particular delight, brightening every breakfast with their big smiles. After hours, Wagdy, an expert barman of the old school mixes his drinks with a touch of class. There are few places in Cairo I'd rather be than at his bar with a cold libation in hand.
If you are new to Cairo, look for Samir Fayek at the desk and he will tell you how to get where you want to go in the cheapest, most efficient manner. Many people you meet in Egypt will try to sell you overpriced tours or drivers when you don't really need them. Samir is not like this. When we told him we wanted to spend a day in Mar Girgis (Coptic Cairo), he told us where to hop on the subway and where to hop off, just across the street from the Hanging Church. He will not try to mislead you into purchasing transportation you do not need, which is a very refreshing concept for Egyptian hotels.
But if you would like him arrange something, he is top-notch. Samir made our first visit to the Giza plateau something we will never forget. Please do not get your first glimpse of the pyramids after climbing out of a packed tourist bus and standing on line for tickets only to be molested at every turn by hawkers inside. Ask Samir to set you up with a couple camels. You will leave from the Giza stables and approach the pyramids and sphinx slowly, across the desert. Thanks, Samir, for making our visit to Giza so wonderful.
Stay at the Windsor, you won't be disappointed!
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- Also Known As:
- Cairo Windsor Hotel