Hotels along the Nile, in the Garden City section of Cairo
Garden City is a well-planned and leafy district of central Cairo, immediately south of the very centre of the modern city at Midan Tahrir. In 1905 the agricultural architect Jose Lamba was asked by the owners of the Nile Land and Agricultural Company to design a new city. His vision was of a leafy, suburb with a layout drawn up more using a compass than a ruler, unlike the grid system with strong right angles and straight lines popular in other suburbs like Ma'adi, and Zamalek. Lambas preferred an Art Nouveau style with smaller roads and uneven lines, interspersed with triangles often leading the walker back to where they started.
Garden City is the location of several large hotels and embassies. The British and the American to name two. There's not much to do here, but it's a reasonable place to stay, close to downtown, but in a quiet and high security area. This is one Cairo neighbourhood that once housed the elite of the 30's and 40's Egypt. It is considered, to this day, a posh place to live.
The Vatican in Rome owns the biggest portion of land in garden City with 12 of the original 273 plots, and houses the Mere de Dieu School for Girls.
If you want to take the taxi to Garden City most taxi drivers will know Qasr al-Aini street. This street runs from the south of the district to Tahrir Square and through the heart of Garden City. The international hotels are located at the well known Corniche el-Nil, though if you state your destination to the taxi driver as the Four Seasons, other ritzy hotel, the driver expects you to pay more. Same goes for taking a taxi from Garden City to elsewhere. It is best to catch a taxi at some spot other than a hotel.
Local bus or micro bus
From the terminus at Abdel Mon'em Riyad behind the Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Sq you can take a bus or a micro bus with the destination Qasr El Aini to Garden City.
Stops in Garden City on the metro are Sayida Zeinab Station and Saad Zaghloul Station, both part of El Marg-Helwan line, Line 1 . Garden City is also within walking distance of Sadat Station at Tahrir Square Downtown which is an intersection of both major Metro Lines: Shubra-Giza, and El Marg-Helwan.
- Beit El-Sennari, Harat Monge. Built in 1794 by Ibrahim Katkhuda El-Sennari, a Sudanese occultist, Beit al-Sennari housed French artists and scholars after Napoleon arrived. The house was restored in 1995, and opened to the public in 2000. The house is home to the Institute for Applied Arts, which has glassware, pottery, and other works on display. You can also see the courtyard and open gardens, and the various sections of the house.
- Egyptian Parliament and Museum, 128 Qasr el-Ainy (close to the American University of Cairo), ☎ +202 429-1920, . For those who take a political interest take the time to tour the Egyptian Parliament home to both the People (454 members) and the Shura Council (264 members) - this is the epicenter of the Egyptian government. There are tours offered and a museum chronicling the Egyptian government. (Note: Most likely not open, as a major fire occurred at the Parliament building in August 2008.)
- Ethnological Museum (Museum of modern life), 109 Qasr el Aini St, ☎ 2794 5450. Sat-Thurs 09.00-13.00. Part of the Geographical Society created by Khedive Ismail in 1895, this rather neglected museum displays more modern Egyptian cultural artifacts, and examples of daily life. Free.
- Fellucca tour. Sail over the Nile in an original Egyptian ship. Felluccas are waiting in front of the Four Seasons Hotel. No reservation needed. In the summer it is recommended to sail a Fellucca late in the evening or at night because of the heat during the day. The view at night is also very spectacular. As with most things in Egypt negotiating about the price is needed. 50 LE for an hour is a reasonable price.
- Corniche. An evening stroll along the Corniche is always a good idea. Take a stroll up to the Qasr el-Nil Bridge, where you can see the lion statues at the foot of the bridge. Qasr el-Nil Bridge is a popular spot for young Egyptian couples to have an inexpensive date. Many couples stay out for hours on the bridge, where you can often find vendors renting plastic chairs by the hour, and selling roasted lib (peanuts, pumpkin seeds) in small paper cones, and hot sweet tea served in glasses. Occasionally you will see amateur fishermen landing Nile perch from the bridge. A great place to see the lights over Cairo city at night.
- Scarabee, Corniche el-Nil (by the Shepheard Hotel), ☎ +20 2 794 3444. Departures at 8 PM and 10:30 PM, cruises last two hours. Enjoy a romantic evening cruising the Sofitel owned M/S Scarabee on the Nile. Scarabee offers belly dancing, live music, and international cuisine, grilled meats, and vegetable platters served buffet style. 120LE.
- Marquis Cruise (Grande Hyatt luxury yacht), Grande Hyatt Hotel Garden City. Enjoy a drink and cruise up the Nile in the evening on deck in the Moonlight Cafe,or enjoy lunch or dinner downstairs in the Baccarat Restaurant aboard the Grande Hyatts private yacht the Marquis. Lunch is served 14.30 till 16.30. Dinner served 20.00 till 22.00. Reserve seats at Hyatt reception. $$$$.
- Walking Tour. Garden City is a great place to wander around admiring architecture. It's streets are filled with what once were beautiful palaces and villas, homes to the elite of Cairo. A few buildings worth mentioning are the British Embassy ( Bayt al Lourd )on Ahmed Ragab Street. A beautifully designed building with extensive grounds which can be viewed from the main street. Built in 1894 it became the focal point of many interesting historical meetings. Two of them worth mentioning are the garden of the embassy was the meeting place where Lord Mountbatten Viceroy of India and uncle to Prince Philip of Greece, later to become the Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth the first of Great Britain, where Lord Mountbatten first spoke of the betrothal of the then Princess Elizabeth in marriage. It was also from the British Embassy that in 1942 the British Envoy Sir Miles Lampson drove in a miltary cortege to the Palace of Abdeen to give the then King Farouk a choice of appointing a pro British cabinet or abdicate. The Grey Towers Building at 10 Itihad el Mohamyeen el Arab St, Garden City, also know as 10 Downing Street as it was the British Army's GHQ during world war 2, where in August 1971 British Secretary of State Oliver Lyttleton and General Charles De Gaulle of France negotiated and signed documents recognising the independence of both Syria and Lebanon, from French and British protectorates. Much history lies in these villas and palaces which fill Garden City, and architects can marvel at the various styles evident in the various facades.
The international hotels have several restaurants offering different cuisines from around the world. Local koshary (pasta, rice, lentil, chick peas, onions, garlic and tomato-chili sauce) is sold widely in small shops for a few Egyptian Pounds. These koshary shops might not look very inviting but the food is usually good and addictive.
Beware of the red chilli sauce which is served in a small plastic bag with your koshari. It is akin to Tabasco sauce and very hot.Always eat from busy fast food outlets to ensure a quick turn around of food which can easily 'go off' in the extreme heat of Summer. Buy food that is 'piping hot'. Most of these shops can be found on Kasr-El-Ainy street.
- Foul Mahous, across from the Canadian Embassy. The best foul in Cairo, dont let the looks of what is basically a stand with tables in the road fool you.
- Pyramids, 75 Qasr al-Aini. A local fast food joint with the standard Middle Eastern fare, delivery.
- Abou Shakra, 69 Qasr el Ainy St, ☎ +202 531 6111, . 9am - Midnight. Abou Shakra is a chain restaurant with an Middle Eastern/ Northern African menu and the occasional french fry.
- Bird Cage, Corniche el-Nil (Semiramis InterContinental). Thai cuisine, located on the second floor of the Semiramsis InterContinental Hotel.
- El Cinzano, 1 Latin America Street. Italian restaurant, near the embassies, featuring homemade pasta and other dishes.
- Revolving Restaurant, Corniche el-Nil (Grand Hyatt Cairo), ☎ +20 2 2365 1234. 7PM - 1AM. Located on the 41st floor, the Revolving Restaurant offers cocktails and French cuisine, with splendid views of the Nile. Reservations required and dress code (no jeans).
- Spice, 1089 Corniche el-Nil (Four Seasons Hotel). Everyday 1800-0200. Cantonese cuisine served in an elegant setting, with dim sum buffet on Friday afternoons 1300-1600. Dress smart casual.
- Tabouleh, 1 Latin America Street (close to the American Embassy compound), ☎ +202 792 5261. Reservations are essential at this very popular Lebanese restaurant. A very wide range of Lebanese mezzeh is offered.
Qasr el-Ainy Street is dotted with several coffee shops serving shisha, coffee, tea and refreshments. Otherwise, the five star hotels are your best bet, all the big ones have at least one bar.
- Garden City House Hotel, 23 Kamal El -Din Salah, ☎ +202 2794 8400, . Used to be a well-run hotel owned by Italians, now just an average, grimy but functional hotel. The staff isn't particularly the best but the bedding is clean and the rooms are big. A variety of rooms from those with air conditioning and bathroom to those with no air conditioning and a shared bathroom. Single/Double/Triple: Rates start at 96 LE without bathroom.
- Juliana Hotel, 8 Ibrahim Nagib, ☎ +20 0124249896 ([email protected]), . checkin: 1.00 pm; checkout: 12.00 pm. Located on the third floor of an office building, this hotel offers free WiFi, breakfast, modest rooms with budget design, small double beds, and towels daily. You will have to ride an elevator up to the hotel and meander to the lobby. Dorm 50 LE, rooms from 60 LE.
- El Nil Hotel, 12 Ahmed Raghab Street Garden City. 3 star status.
- Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza, Corniche el-Nil, ☎ +20 (2) 2791 7000 (fax: +20 (2) 2791 6900), . Everything you would expect from this chain of hotels, with many rooms overlooking the Nile.
- Grand Hyatt Cairo, Corniche el-Nil, ☎ +20 2 3651 234, . A semicircular hotel situated on the North tip of Rhoda Island, linked to the city center by a private bridge, and approximately 14 miles from Cairo International Airport. Has a revolving restaurant, a pool and great views of the city. An attached shopping mall with food court and a range of restaurants in the hotel with a terrace overlooking the fountain in the Nile make for an incomparable view if you eat outside. The food is good quality but there is no alcohol served in the restaurants, except for the Hard Rock Cafe.
- Helnan Shepard's, Corniche el-Nil, ☎ +202-355 3800 (fax: +202-355 7284). Views of the Nile from elegant rooms and enjoyable bars/restaurants.