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One Night in Alexandria- A Photo Tour

I was invited to my cousin’s wedding in Alexandria, Egypt in January 18, 2015. Although it was extremely cold in Cairo, the capital, it was warm in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. The weather was very inviting to take a walk by the Corniche and to have a good fish meal in one of the local restaurants before we head to the wedding party.

My husband and I decided to spend the night in the historical Cecil Hotel in Ramleh Square. It is one of my favorites. The history of the Steigenberger Cecil Hotel dates to 1929, it was built by the Italian Alessandro Loria from Tuscany, having been commissioned by the French Metzger family. Loria built the Cecil Hotel to be a landmark building, with its elegant revolving doors, two beautiful wooden elevators, and its bar, which was carefully kept unchanged since World War II, making it one-of-a-kind in Alexandria. The rooms have high ceilings and large shuttered windows, and the richness of the classical French-style burgundy and gold drapes, and soft furnishings decorating the space give the place an atmosphere of centuries gone by.

Here are several photos I took in the Ramleh neighborhood and in Cecil Hotel in downtown Alexandria

From the Balcony of Cecil Hotel

The Corniche from our balcony in Cecil Hotel

 

Ramleh Square with the statue of nationalist Saad Zaghloul in the middle

Ramleh Square with the statue of nationalist Saad Zaghloul in the middle

 

 

Ramleh Square and the Corniche in the morning

Ramleh Square and the Corniche in the morning

 

Ramleh Square and the Corniche at night

Ramleh Square and the Corniche at night

 

Corniche Road on a bustling day

Corniche Road on a bustling day

Locals on their way to work

Heading to work

 

Fishermen trying their luck

Fishermen trying their luck

 

An ill-fated sail

An ill-fated sail

The lift of Cecil Hotel-feeling nostalgic

The lift of Cecil Hotel- Feeling nostalgic

The foyer of Cecil Hotel

The foyer of Cecil Hotel

 

The stairs leading to the rooms- Cecil Hotel

The stairs leading to the rooms- Cecil Hotel

 

My favorite corner at Cecil's foyer

My favorite corner at Cecil’s foyer

Categories: Alexandria, Hotels, Mediterranean Cities, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Egyptians made it again!

Egyptians made it again!

On June 30, millions of Egyptians flooded the streets in most Egypt’s governorates, demonstrating against Mohamed Morsi to free their country from the rule of a terrorist regime. You can call it a “NATION COUP” Viva Egypt!

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Pray for Egypt

Pray for Egypt

The pyramids of Egypt– Giza Plateau

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Semiramis Pavilion opens at Semiramis InterContinental Hotel

Egypt’s Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou recently inaugurated Semiramis Pavilion meeting centre that he toured while announcing plans to promote tourism in the coming months as well as the initiative of the green energy in tourism and hotels sector. The cutting ribbon inauguration ceremony was attended by Ahmed El Gindi, managing director, Semiramis Hotels Company, Raymond Khalife, board member, Semiramis Hotels Co. Amr Fouad, board member, Semiramis Hotels Co. and Sameh Sobhy, general manager Semiramis InterContinental Cairo.

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Photo shows from right to left: Ahmed El Gindi, managing director, Semiramis Hotels Company; Raymond Khalife, board member, Semiramis Hotels Co.; Egypt’s Minister for Tourism Hisham Zaazou; Amr Fouad, board member; Semiramis Hotels Co. and Sameh Sobhy, general manager Semiramis InterContinental Cairo.

“We are delighted to see the Semiramis InterContinental Cairo welcoming local residents and travellers from further afield,” Zaazou said.  “With its central position in the heart of Cairo the hotel is an important contributor to tourism in Egypt. We look forward to seeing the hotel continue to thrive this year.”

Designed by Tony Chi, the Semiramis Pavilion combines efficiency and luxury for business clients in an uncluttered and modern environment. The Semiramis Pavilion features smart interactive whiteboards, high-speed 30MB Wi-Fi and seven multi-functional and flexible meeting rooms as well as four private offices.

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Semiramis InterContinental Hotel

“We are looking forward to a busy summer period ahead. We just received the ‘Global Partners in Safety Award’ and we are being recognized among other hotels as being a safe place for our employees to work and our guests to stay. With such an amazing team we are sure the hotel will continue to thrive,” said Sobhy.

InterContinental Hotels Group PLC (IHG) has been present in Egypt for more than 25 years. IHG operates hotels across four of its brands – InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Staybridge Suites – and remains absolutely committed to this market.

Categories: Cairo, Egypt, Hotels, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

InterContinental Cairo Citystars Hosted Harlem Globetrotters

InterContinental Cairo Citystars hosted Harlem Globetrotters basketball team during their recent visit to Cairo.

Upon arrival to InterContinental Cairo Citystars, the team was welcomed by Ibrahim Nasha’at the Hotel Manager, Paul Schenk and Ahmed Azmy, the hotel Executive Assistant Managers.

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Ibrahim Nasha’at, hotel manager, Paul Schenk and Ahmed Azmy, hotel executive assistant managers with the team

Harlem Globetrotters is an exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism, theatre and comedy. The team was in Cairo to give three performances.

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Despite a busy weekend, the team insisted on seeing the city on with a trip to the pyramids in the morning followed by a visit to the Children’s Cancer Hospital 57357. Hospital visits are a big part of what the team does, taking the show to children who are unable to attend the actual event.

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The team has been touring the world, entertaining families with their unique blend of comedy and basketball for 87 years, but this was their first time in Cairo since 1989.

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Montazah Palace and Gardens: when old meets new

Montazah in Alexandria, is distinguished from other tourist sites in Egypt in that it is a place where the past and present intermingle. For the history buff it is a pleasure to roam around the vast estate where, before the July 23 Revolution, the royal family had their summer quarters and where the palace and the Salamlek (annex) can be seen. For those in search of the beautiful beaches, Montazah has facilities for rest and recreation. It has, in addition, magnificent gardens with royal palms that date, most appropriately, from the royal era.

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Palm trees in Montazah Gardens

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Montazah beaches

The site, situated west of Alexandria, was developed over a century ago, in 1892, in the time of Khedive Abbas Helmi II, who built the Salamlek, which today faces the Palestine Hotel.  The summer residence of the royal family is situated on an elevated mound overlooking a beautiful bay and beach, and the vast garden covers an area of 370 feddans.

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Montazah Palace, overlooking royal gardens

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Salamlek, built by Khedive Helmi II

When king Fouad came to the throne he built a bridge to join the palace to the Island of Dreams, which sounds somewhat romantic but was, in fact, a fairy-tale site covering about 13 feddans and with exotic plants, Byzantine style status and aquaria adorning various parts of the undulating land. There is also a delightful “kiosk” where the king and his friends used to enjoy their afternoon tea.

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Famous bridge of Montazah

Later still, when king Farouk acceded to the throne, he built the famous clock of Montazah; whenever the clock strikes, a soldier appears from each of its four sides.

After the July 23 Revolution, Montazah was opened to the public, and visitors were permitted to enter various parts including the island, the bridge, the kiosk and the gardens. The Salamlek and the palace are not open for visiting.

About two million visitors visit Montazah every year. It is open all the year round and operates 24 hours a day and caters for all visitors requirements. It has various shops, restaurants, coffee shops and bazaars to cater for the visitors.

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Palestine Hotel, overlooking the Mediterranean

Not to be missed is the plant nursery and greenhouse: many tourist groups come to Montazah for the sole purpose of visiting them. The greenhouse has exotic plants that have thrived from the rule of King Fouad. It supplies all the plants needed in the gardens, and there is a surplus for sale.

Summer is here, the beaches are packed with holiday makers and Montazah is enjoying a bumper season. 

Categories: Alexandria, Egypt, Mediterranean Cities, Palaces, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Think about Oman

I admit I was surprised when I read in The Sunday Times travel supplement a year ago that the Sultanate of Oman was recommended by the newspaper as one of the top 10 places in the world to spend a holiday. I had not heard of Oman being a promising tourist destination before I read the article. I thought that Dubai of the United Arab Emirates was the only Arab Gulf city witnessing a tourist boom with its vast stretch beaches, skyscrapers, shopping malls, deluxe hotels, conference rooms and sophisticated ballrooms besides its well paved roads, enormous airport and the quality service it offers to tourists. However, the moment I set foot in Oman’s airport, Al-Seeb International, I felt an exclusive travel experience coming up in a country that doesn’t look like any other.

A mini-van was waiting outside the airport to transport us to the hotel, Muscat Crown Plaza, about 25 minutes from the airport. On the way I saw a country with a distinctive character with its wide roads, its three- and four-storey white buildings with their Islamic architecture, its mighty mountains embracing the buildings, roads and gardens, its greenery — where in an arid country there shouldn’t be — which covers everything around, as well as hundreds of birds flying here and there relaxing on trees or on the ground or at a home window sill.

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A view of the Crown Plaza Muscat Hotel overlooking the Gulf of Oman

So what can Oman offer travellers? Its deluxe hotels and the high standard of service they offer; its vast virgin beaches overlooking the Arab Gulf and the Indian Ocean; its old souqs that sell traditional craft, old silver, spices, embroidery and incense; plus modern malls that offer the latest international brands of clothes, watches, sunglasses, jewellery; and above all its clean air, its slow pace, its quiet and its warm people.

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Souk Mutrah, where you can buy traditional products

Besides hotels, souqs and beaches, Oman is privileged to have a unique environment. The shimmering blue ocean holds a wealth of marine life — exotic fish, dolphins, turtles and some of the best coral formations in the world. If you drive a few hours from the city centre you’ll find yourself transported into a different world, from rose gardens perched atop mountains, ancient ruins, blowholes, one of the largest subterranean chambers in the world, to misty mountains and the undulating splendour of the desert. Wadis and lagoons in Oman are home to hundreds of species of resident and migratory birds.

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A picturesque view of the ocean

When Muscat gets hot and humid in the summer, it is the other way round in Salalah, 1,000kms to the south. Towards the end of June each year, as the khareef season begins, the southern city of Salalah is almost magically transformed. The dull browns are replaced by rolling green hills, misty woods and sparkling mountain springs. Temperatures drop to a comfortable 30 degrees Celsius making Salalah a perfect place to escape the summer heat. Every year, Salalah hold the khareef festival in July and August where visitors enjoy the picturesque landscape and are entertained by folklore dancing.

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Salalah Khareef, when all mountains are covered in green

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Part of the celebration of Salalah festival

History also lies all around you in Oman. This is not surprising as Oman, which lies in the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, is the oldest independent state in the Arab world. At one time it had its own empire, which at its peak in the 19th century stretched down the east African coast and vied with Portugal and Britain for influence in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. The ancient ramparts of Bahla Fort, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is among the most important historical sites in Oman in addition to the carefully preserved Jabrin Castle dating from 1670 and the site of Bat, with neighbouring sites forming a most complete collection of settlements and necropolises from the third millennium BC.

Museums in Oman are also a big attraction. Bait Al-Baranda and Bait Al-Zubair in Muscat are two examples of how Omanis are trying to preserve their culture and heritage. The former is a visitor’s centre detailing the history of Muscat over a hundred million years ago to the present. It has sections dealing with geology in Oman (plate tectonics and scenic diversity in Muscat); ancient life in Muscat; earliest human settlements in Muscat from 10,000 BC to the early Islamic era; Muscat from the first century to 1744 AD; and Al-Bu Said Dynasty. Besides being a visitors’ attraction, Bait Al-Baranda also hosts local and international exhibitions, lectures and other cultural activities.

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Facade of Bait Al Baranda

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Inside Bait Al Baranda

Bait Al-Zubair is also an integral part of Oman’s heritage. Built first as a home in 1914 by Sheikh Al-Zubair Bin Ali, it was opened as a museum in 1998 by his son Mohamed to display aspects of Omani heritage either inherited or collected. Its displays include traditional Omani weaponry, jewellery, costumes, domestic utensils and recreated urban and rural environments.

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Displays at Bait Al Zubair showing traditional customes

Omani officials say their tourism is still a new industry. It started in the early 1990s but is developing quickly. In 2006, Oman received over one million tourists who contributed to one per cent of the total national income of the country.

“Quantity was never our target. We care more about quality. We don’t target mass tourism, only the upmarket,” is how Al-Tobi of the Omani Ministry of Tourism encapsulates their strategy. “Through a well examined marketing process, we target a certain caliber of tourists who respect our culture, our customs and traditions and are able to preserve our environment, our natural surroundings, our flora and fauna. One tourist with these specifications and with high spending potential is better than 10,” Al-Tobi said, adding that they also have a policy of limited building construction. “We never allow skyscrapers or gigantic projects. We have to preserve our identity.”

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The corniche at Muscat at night

Cultural tourism is the number one way of attracting visitors to Oman, especially the kind it is targeting. “We have 14 UNESCO World Heritage sites that date before Christ. We have more than 500 fortresses and we are turning some of them into museums, each with a different theme. We are also thinking of turning some of them into hotels following the old Roman style. Some are already being used as open air theatres,” Al-Tobi said.

Besides culture and history, Oman has nature, geology and adventure such as mountain climbing, bird watching, watching dolphins, whales and turtles, old caves and curative tourism.

Muscat has only six five-star hotels that target the middle and upmarket business and leisure tourists. Since 1999, Oman has been attracting big chains such as the InterContinental, Hyatt and Radisson. In the next few years it will attract small brands as well as budget hotels.

*This article was published in Al Ahram Weekly newspaper in 2006

 

 

Categories: Arab Gulf, Oman, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Holiday Inn Cairo Citystars awarded TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for 2013

Holiday Inn Cairo Citystars has been awarded TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for the Year 2013.

The award was sent on behalf of the TripAdvisor community, one of the fastest growing travel community websites for travelers all around the world with around 200 million unique monthly visitors worldwide and over 100 million reviews and opinions on restaurants, hotels, resorts, vacation rentals and flights.

To qualify for a Certificate of Excellence, the hotel must maintain an overall rating of four or higher, out of a possible five, as reviewed by travelers on TripAdvisor, and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months. Additional criteria include the volume of reviews received within the last 12 months.

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The facade of Holiday Inn Cairo Citystars

“Holiday Inn Cairo Citystars is pleased to receive this prestigious award,” said Mohamed Ibrahim, Holiday Inn general manager “We strive to offer our guests a memorable experience, and this award is evidence that our hard work is translating into positive traveler reviews on TripAdvisor.”

The website is based solely on travelers’ reviews and who voted for the hotel and chose Holiday Inn Cairo Citystars as one of their favorite destination hotels, making the award even more valued.

Categories: Cairo, Egypt, Hotels, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt’s Lovely Mornings

A lovely morning from Cairo, Egypt. A wonderful weather and picturesque scenery.

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Celebrate Ramadan Sheraton Montazah Style

In preparations for the holy month of Ramadan, Sheraton Montazah Hotel in Alexandria started decorating Layalina Café, Beach Café and La Terrace Café with magnificent and oriental themes and ambiance that match the spirit of the holy month.

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Sheraton Montazah Hotel overlooking the Mediterranean and the gardens of Montazah Palace

The hotel is also planning a wide array of continental delicacies with exquisite oriental specialties for families and friends at a rich Iftar buffet including mouthwatering recipes and appetizing treats.

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Sumptuous Iftar buffets and Sohour menues will be available during Ramadan.

At night, guests can enjoy the Sheraton Montazah Ramadan celebrations at the Layalina, La Terrace and the Beach Cafés where they can enjoy a bunch of entertaining programs, shisha, oriental drinks and sohour amidst cozy atmosphere and breezy air.

Categories: Alexandria, Egypt, Hotels, Mediterranean Cities, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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