Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tout passe, tout casse, tout lasse...

When we got to Cairo, Mr. Muscato and I learned some sad news: the Nile Hilton, for decades the hotel in town, is closing at the end of the year. It will turn, by 2011 and after a major facelift, into a Ritz Carlton.

It's sad for a number of reasons. The Nile Hilton was Cairo's first international hotel; it opened in 1959, a fleeting hope that perhaps even with revolution and Cold War, Egypt was still moving forward:

Happier days: less traffic, clear air, and those fab mosaics...

It wasn't just any hotel; Jane Russell came for the opening:

And she brought hats!

It has, from its roof terrace, the most spectacular views in town, up and down the Nile. Here, looking South, with sunset approaching, felluccas sailing, and generally all right with the world:

When I first lived in Cairo, my crowd hung out at the Hotel's fabulously tacky basement disco, Jackie's Joint, dancing to Arab pop and Euro hits, ogling Cairo's gilded youth. Its bar, the oddly Beaux Arts Taverne du Nil, was for many years an excellent spot for meeting artistic gentlemen of many nations.

And then one fine August afternoon, I met the most marvelous person, right there in the Nile Hilton pool:

And the rest is history, or at least our history, because that person, O Best Beloveds, was Mr. Muscato.

I'm sure the Ritz Carlton will be very nice. But in a city that already has two Four Seasons (Four Seasonses?), multiple Intercons, Marriotts, Sheratons, etc., etc., it will be just another top-end spot for the drop-in tourist.

It's silly to be nostalgic for a Hilton, I know, but it wasn't, really, just any Hilton. Even telling a taxi driver, in your best Egyptian dialect, "Heelton e-Neel, lo samaht!" made one feel just a little more chic and a little more of the place, all at once. And not every place does both...


  1. Gosh, what a way (place) to meet... it's all so exotic and wonderful!
    Sad that it'll be gone.

    I hope the Ritz does up right at least.

  2. I'm nostalgic for it, and I haven't even BEEN there.

    And I can't think of a more glamorous way to meet someone, than in an exotic pool that had been inaugurated by Jane Russell.

  3. Well, hon, at lerast you got the mister and Jane got the hats.