Masks of Nyarlathotep
Shepheard's Hotel, Cairo
8 Sharia Kamil, between Sharia Alfi Bey and Sharia Dubre. 350 rooms, apartment suites available, prices from 160 P.T. per room per night. Some suites 1 £I3 to 2 fE per night. Open
1 November to 15 May, closed during the summer.
The hotel’s spacious terrace is the site of nightly concerts; a ball is held every night in the high season. A garden in back provides al fresco dining, and also has a large raised dance floor in the center. There is a restaurant and grill room, a bar, and post and telegraph offices open 24 hours a day. All major theaters, most night clubs, and the Cairo Opera are within easy walking distance.
Shepheard’s hotel is the place to stay in Cairo. The starting point for every expedition, safari or tour of note, its corridors bustle with the pith-helmeted rich and idle of all nations. It has been said that “Alexandria is merely a signal stop on the tourist road to Shepheard’s.”
While the accommodations and food are no better than many other hotels in Cairo, it is the place to meet people of influence. Five minutes from the railway station, and the center of social life for Cairo’s well-to-do, the serious traveler cannot afford not to stay at Shepheard’s. This reputation is well earned, but fails to hide the fact that the hotel backs on to a block where the desperately poor live crammed together, their livestock tethered on their rooftops, and that the prostitutes’ quarter begins just across the road to the west.
A bulletin board in the foyer holds public and private notices of interest to the European community of Cairo. The board lists houseboats to let, flats available, notices of meetings at clubs, and when and where forthcoming social functions are to be held.
Doors at the hotel are never locked, although keys are always provided. A Chubb safe, located in an office behind the hotel desk, is at the disposal of all guests and staff. It is advertised as being the most burglar-proof safe in Cairo.
At four stories high, with round cupola towers at each corner and a colonnaded entry foyer and portico, Shepheard’s is an impressive building. From the upper floors the whole vista of Cairo can be enjoyed, the flatroofed houses gleaming in the midday sun or moonlight. From west-facing rooms, the pyramids lurk on the southwestern horizon, beckoning to the tourist with promises of ancient mysteries and marvels waiting to be uncovered.
The smell of hot dust rises into the air as the parade of human, motor and beast traffic passes in the street below, and at regular intervals the constant murmur of life is punctuated by the ululations of ’the muezzins in their minarets calling the faithful to prayer. Stables and garages at the side of the hotel house the cars and donkeys of expeditions preparing to set out into the unknown deserts, and huge caravans of people and goods assemble in front of the hotel when the adventurous prepare to leave.
Special function rooms at Shepheard’s include the Isis Room and the Moorish Hall. These are often booked for private functions, dances, or club meetings, and are lavishly furnished in typical Egyptian decor. The hotel is redecorated each year during the summer, and reopens each winter newly polished and finer than the year before.
The original Shepheard’s Hotel was built in 1849-1852 on the site of the Palace of Mi Bey (1750’s). There were a smaller palace and a temple on this site (dating from 900 A.D.), which were leveled before the newer palace was built. Bey’s palace was Napoleon’s headquarters during the French occupation (1798-1799), and later became Muhammed Ali’s School of Languages (1815-1847). When the fist hotel was built, the palace was leveled; the current building sits over the previous ruins. The cellars excavated for the hotel cut through and across the ancient temple and palace cellars, as well as tunnels excavated by Bey, Napoleon, and Ali The original hotel, only two stories high, was replaced in the late 1800’s by the current building.