< EGYPT | CAIRO: Cairo Marriott Hotel
Set amidst six acres of verdant palace gardens in the vibrant Zamalek district, the Cairo Marriott Hotel was originally the Gezirah Palace, built in 1869 by Khedive Ismail to serve as a guest palace during the Suez Canal inauguration celebrations. In the years since, it has housed European monarchs, including Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III. It was to be the venue of the first performance of Verdi's Opera Aida.
The historic Gezirah Palace's architecture and construction demonstrated Khedive's passion for neoclassical style, favored by designers in Europe at the time. Khedive engaged the services of Austrian
architect Julius Franz (later known Franz Bey) and De Curel Del Rosso, the designer of the Abdin Palace.
German architect Carl von Diebitsch served as the palace's interior designer. He designed the décor and prefabricated the furniture, draperies and other internal fittings.
Gezirah Palace has hosted several noteworthy ceremonies throughout history; these include the wedding of Khedive Ismail's son, which lasted 40 days, as well as the wedding of the daughter of Prime Minister Nahhas Pasha in the 1930s and a boat party in front of the palace as part of H.M King Farouk and H.M Queen Nariman's wedding celebrations.
The palace's transition to a hotel led to certain inevitable changes. In 1879, due to outstanding debts, it was confiscated by the state and acquired by the Egyptian Hotels Company. Remodeled, it opened as the Gezira (Gheezireh) Palace Hotel in October 1894.
In 1919, Habib Lotfallah, a Syrian landlord who had settled in Egypt, purchased the hotel for 140,000 EGP. In 1961, during the time of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the palace was nationalized and became the Omar Khayyam Hotel.
Marriott International took over the property for management in the 1970s. They restored the original palace, furnishing it with amenities befitting a five-star hotel and flanking it with two modern towers housing 1,087 guest rooms.
Today, the palace is all that remains of the estate. Many of its rooms and furniture have been preserved and restored to their historic splendor, and now serve as reception rooms and lounges. Likewise, several of Von Diebitsch's decorative elements can be seen in locations throughout the hotel.
Additional literature: n/a