Egyptian diplomat Hussein Roshdy was recently in touch with me asking about the Gezira Palace Hotel. Not the original Gezira Palace Hotel that opened in the former royal residence built for the visit of Empress Eugenie, but the “fake” Gezira Palace Hotel, which stole the name when the original closed. This was a new hotel that occupied part, or maybe all, of a 1940s (I’m guessing at the date) apartment block on the Corniche at Bulaq, exactly across from the real Gezira Palace. In the photo above, which is taken from the roof of the old Semiramis hotel some time in the 1960s, the building with the new Gezira Palace Hotel is one of the pair just to the right of the Aboulela Bridge in the distance. I wrote in Grand Hotels that “After the Suez War of 1956, this hotel was used almost exclusively by UN troops until their withdrawal after 1973. The hotel was demolished around 1980.” That is the sum total of my knowledge as far as the hotel goes. I also have these two photos, below, the second of which is taken on the hotel roof and shows Aboulela Bridge and Zamalek in the background. If anybody has any memories of this building, please get in touch.
Meanwhile, Hussein directed me to one of his favorite movies, a little known drama from 1964 directed by Youssef Chahine called Fagr Yom Gedid (Dawn of a New Day). It features plenty of beautifully shot footage of Cairo, including a brilliant and dizzying sequence on the stairs of the recently completed Cairo Tower. Towards the end of the movie, there is some aerial footage of the Aboulela bridge and you can briefly spot the original Gezira Palace in a decrepit state, half covered with scaffolding., before the camera sweeps down the Corniche at Maspero and past the fake Gezira Palace Hotel and the empty lot where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would later be built.
I have had a request for information on Nile houseboats/steamers employed as overnight accommodation by Imperial Airways during the 1930s. I know of one boat used in this way, which was the Mayflower (pictured above), which belonged to Anglo-American Nile Company and which was moored at Rod al-Farag in Cairo for a number of years. My correspondent wants to know of any other boats used in this way, along with any photographs, contemporaneous accounts and descriptions, beginning and end-of-service dates, dimensions, etc – basically, anything that can help him flesh out the operations of the Imperial Airways Africa service in Egypt. If anybody has anything to offer, please post it in the comments bleow or contact me directly – my email address is in the “About” section of this site.