I’ve posted previously on Cairo’s Savoy hotel, at one time the flagship for George Nungovitch’s Egyptian hotel empire, here. I’ve also mentioned in passing the Luxor Savoy, here, which used to stand on the east bank, a little north of the Luxor Temple, and survived, albeit in a sorry state, until the 1970s when it was gutted by fire and subsequently demolished to make way for a shopping development. But there was a third Savoy. This was in Aswan and by all accounts was quite a grand affair. Here’s Amédée Baillot de Guerville writing in the first years of the 20th century: “At Assouan there are three excellent hotels, two of which are large modern houses. The Cataract, belonging to Cook, is admirably looked after by M. Pagnon (proprietor of the hotels at Luxor) … On the Elephantine Island, in the midst of a charming garden, there is another palatial building, the Savoy Hotel, belonging to the Anglo-American Company, and which enjoys equal popularity with the Cataract.”
(The third hotel was the Grand, which was apparently misnamed.)
The Anglo-American was a recently formed Nile steamer company, which came into being toward the end of the 1880s and entered into direct competition with the well established Thomas Cook & Son passenger services. Naturally enough, having transported boatloads of tourists up the Nile, the last thing the new company wanted was to hand them over to its rival to accommodate, so the Anglo-American took to building hotels of its own. Its Savoy was a palatial, boomerang-shaped structure with accommodation for 80 guests and a riverfront setting among the palm groves at the northern tip of Elephantine. There was a magnificent dining hall, bar, ladies’s lounge and a billiard room. Any inconvenience arising from being separated from the town by water was more than made up for by a luscious terraced garden coloured with golden-plumed parkinsonia, crimson poinsettia, and bushes of chrysanthemums which had to be drowned every day to keep them alive; a long hedge of oleanders overhung the river.
Ofﬁcially opened on 20 January 1900, the hotel was afﬁliated to the Nungovich Hotel Company, which supplied its manager, a Mr Brey, formerly of the Savoy Hotel, Cairo, and handpicked the staff. In 1905, the hotel became part of the Upper Hotels Company, of which Nungovich was a founder board member and shareholder.
Although I’ve never heard of anyone staying there, the Aswan Savoy survived until modern times, only being demolished in the 1970s. It was replaced by a new Oberoi hotel, notable for being the worst eyesore in the whole of Egypt (and that is a hotly contested title); it recently changed hands and is now the Mövenpick Resort Aswan, although it still looks as hideous. (With thanks to Cornelius Von Pilgrim)
3 Responses to The other, other Savoy
I have recently acquired your book in a bid to learn more about my family’s history and I look forward to delving into it. My great great grandfather was Albert Ferdinand Pagnon, Managing Director of The Upper Egypt Hotels Co. Ltd. I am a little confused. Was this one of the hotels he managed? I have an advertisement from a Tourist Guide dating 1907 listing the hotels he managed and The Savoy Hotel in Assouan is one of them. I am very interested in finding any of the architectural plans for any of the hotels he managed. If you have ever come across any of them during your research I would be very grateful to know. Thanks for your help.
The Upper Egyptian Hotels Company was the owner of a number of hotels including the Winter Palace in Luxor and the Cataract in Aswan. Your ancestor was a shareholder in this company and personally managed several hotels. If you have not already seen it, you can find more about him here.
I am reading my grandmothers journal from 1911 where she mentions staying at this hotel. It’s fascinating to follow this history. Thank you for your article. The Savoy Hotel