Monthly Archives: August 2013

Oh, iSay!

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For those of you with an iPad, Grand Hotels of Egypt is now available as an iBook. It’s not an abridged version, it’s the whole text and all the images. All the images and more, in fact, because we’ve added some expanded picture galleries and a handful of new old photos. Everything can be blown up to full-screen and, what, with the backlighting, the pictures look fantastic. Another bonus is that the book is fully searchable. It’s available exclusively (they won’t have it any other way) on iTunes.

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A visit to the Louxor

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I was in Paris last week and I went to the cinema – not just any cinema, but the magnificent cinema above. It’s a place I’ve passed it many times on trips to Paris over the years, but previously the building was always derelict and boarded up. Apparently, it had been that way since the 1980s. But recently it has undergone a three-year long restoration and the regenerated Louxor – Palais de Cinema opened in April this year.

It’s a beautiful example of Egyptian-inspired Art Deco that followed in the wake of the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb – except that this theatre was built the year before Carter’s epic find, in 1921. One theory is, it was designed this way to capitalise on the massive success of the 1917 silent film Cleopatra staring Theda Bara.

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After the cinema closed, the building was a disco and a gay nightclub. Now it’s back to showing films. Good films, too, with an eclectic programme heavy on arthouse and world cinema, the latter reflecting the make-up of neighbouring multi-racial Barbès district.

The Ancient Egyptian theming isn’t limited to the mosaics and columns on the façade – the main auditorium also has a painted relief spanning the whole of the room and moldings of pharaonic heads. I particularly loved the 1920s bar up on the third floor, which has a small outdoor terrace from where you can see the roof-line mosaics close up – or, if you are facing the other way, the domes of nearby Sacré-Cœur. You can use the bar even if you aren’t intending to watch a film. The Louxor is in front of Barbès-Rochechouart Metro station, one stop from the Gare du Nord.

LE LOUXOR

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LE LOUXOR

LE LOUXOR

LE LOUXOR

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A Burger and a fancy dress invitation

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Another piece by the prolific Willy Burger, whose postcards and Egyptian Hotels Ltd brochure I’ve posted previously. In this case, it’s a single-sheet brochure for the Continental-Savoy dating from the late/early ’30s. The dealer I bought it from also threw in his’n’hers party invitations for a fancy dress ball at the hotel for the evening of 30 January 1932.

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Lions in the garden

In Grand Hotels of Egypt, I tell the story of two roaming lions. One morning, just before the 1914–18 War, the Gezira Palace hotel was visited by Lord Kitchener, then the British Consul-General, who was escorted around the grounds by hotel impresario Charles Baehler. Baehler asked his guest if he would allow himself to be photographed at the hotel, but Kitchener said no. A short time later Baehler received a message from Kitchener’s office saying he would reconsider the photo if the hotel would make him a present of a pair of marble lions that he’d spotted in the grounds. Baehler agreed and the statues were transferred to the grounds of the British Embassy in Cairo, where they remain today, one either side of steps leading up to the garden entrance to the Residence.

We searched long and hard for a photograph of the lions for the book and, eventually, one was found, supplied by the British Embassy in Cairo itself. Now I find another (below), this one in the archives of the Imperial War Museum in London; it shows British ambassador Sir Miles Lampson with Lady Lampson in the garden of the Embassy at Cairo, taken possibly in 1942 but definitely by Cecil Beaton, of whom more in a future post.

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