Tag Archives: Bucher-Durrer

A hotel for amphibians?

Last month I posted a complete early 20th-century promotional booklet for Shepheard’s hotel. It was put out by Egyptian Hotels Ltd, who at this time owned several major Cairo properties, another of which was the Semiramis.

A riverside location is now almost a perquisite for any five-star Cairo hotel, but when it opened in February 1907, the Semiramis was the first hotel in the Egyptian capital to be built beside the Nile – previously all the hotels had been clustered around the Azbakiya or close by in Downtown. The insightful entrepreneurs behind the project were Franz Josef Bucher-Durrer and Josef Durrant, founders of a hotel chain with properties in their native Switzerland as well as Genoa, Milan and Rome. Unfortunately, Bucher-Durrer died before the new Cairo venture could be completed and just three years after its inauguration his heirs decided to sell the Semiramis to Charles Baehler of Egyptian Hotels Ltd.

It was the most aristocratic of Cairo’s hotels, attracting the highest class of clientele. It had a handsome wide veranda that overlooked the river and, at roof level, accessed by electric lifts, a garden terrace planted with flowers and shrubs, and with a café-restaurant and ‘tea-kiosks’. The roof had views across the city to the Citadel in one direction, and over the Nile to the Pyramids and desert in the other. Even at only four stories, at the time of its opening the Semiramis was the highest hotel in Cairo.

It would be soon after Baehler bought the hotel that the booklet below was published. Note that the text boasts that of the 200 bedrooms, 100 have ensuite bathrooms and lavatories. When London’s Savoy was under construction in the 1880s, its financier D’Oyly Carte also requested one bathroom for every two bedrooms, leading his contractor to ask if Carte was expecting his guests to be amphibious. Note also in the lists of ‘principal’ sights, number 8 includes an ostrich farm at Matarieh (sadly missing from the attractions of modern Cairo). It is also notably more expensive to board servants without their Masters.


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