The Hotel that Saw it All...
The Shepheard Hotelâ€™s history goes back almost 170 years when it was originally founded by Englishman Samuel Shepheard in 1841. The hotel was first built on historical ground in a district known as â€œEzbekiaâ€�, a park land with tropical greenery and rare trees, that was once occupied by Napoleonâ€™s army and used as headquarters during his invasion of Egypt in the 18th century.
In the late 19th century, Cairo became a hub for international commerce, Eurpoean tourists and travellers. The Shepheard Hotel became a focal point where its famous terrace, set with wicker chairs & tables, commanded a lofty & shaded view of the comings & goings on Ibrahim Pasha Street below. It became the playground for international aristocracy where every person of social standing made it a must to have tea, to see and be seen.
The hotel continued to be at the center of many events that took place in that century, being selected to be the headquarters of many armies during the Crimean war, the Indian Mutiny, the Boer War and the two World Wars. One of the less hostile events was the celebration of the Grand Opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, when the hotel hosted numerous international celebrates that were invited to attend the ceremony. One of the highlights was a banquet given in honour of the French Empress EugÃ©nie.
The hotel had many notable guests, both real and fictional. Among the former were the celebrated explorer Henry Morton Stanley, Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener and author T. E. Lawrence. The hotelâ€™s guestbook reads as a whoâ€™s who among dignitaries, with the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, the Prince of Wales, King Faisal of Iraq, the Aga Khan, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, Prince Erik of Denmark, King and Queen of Italy, the Maharaja of Jodphur and The British Prime Minister, Sir Wiston Churchill. The Shepheard has also become a favourite location for many a feature film. It formed the setting for a number of scenes in â€œThe English Patientâ€� (1996) and most recently, was filmed and featured in the 2009 Canadian romantic movie â€œCairo Time.â€�
Nowadays, the hotel remains a mixture between exotic luxury and very special hospitality. The Shepheard became an institution and a symbol of Egyptâ€™s colonial past. When the hotel was totally destroyed in the Cairo fire of 1952, as a result of civil unrest leading up to the revolution, that past was finally laid to rest. The current Shepheard Hotel was re-erected by the Egyptian Hotels LTD at its Downtown Cairo location. It is now owned by the Egyptian General Company for Tourism and Hotels (E.G.O.T.H.)
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