Unreasonable if you think about it, but you somehow expect a handwritten document penned a century ago to offer a little insight into how greatly different life was back then. The letter above, written in the first decade of the last century, just complains about a missing key. What is evocative of another era though is the hotel’s illustrated notepaper, which is just gorgeous (click to enlarge). The hotel in question, the Angleterre, originally stood on the northeast corner of Cairo’s Azbakiya Gardens, but this is its second incarnation, after it had been relocated to premises on Maghrabi Street (now Adly Street), next door to the Turf Club and the site on which the local Jewish community would shortly raise the Shaar Hashamaim synagogue.
The proprietor of the Angleterre was a Greek-Cypriot from Limassol named George Nungovich. His name is all but forgotten these days but he was one of Egypt’s greatest hoteliers, a man who embodied the glamour and get-rich-quick spirit of Cairo as it hustled from the 19th into the 20th century.
Nungovich arrived penniless in Egypt in 1870, aged fourteen, but by the end of the century he was said to be worth over a million pounds sterling. His entry into business came courtesy of the British Army, which was then campaigning in Sudan. He was engaged in the ofﬁcers’ mess of a Highland regiment and was so successful he returned to Cairo in the late 1880s with enough money to purchase the lease of the Hotel d’Angleterre. Not long after, Nungovich learnt that a British regiment had arrived in Cairo unexpectedly with no accommodation arranged. He rushed over to the station and offered to take all the ofﬁcers at his hotel. When they were leaving and requested their bill, Nungovich refused to issue one, saying that he was only too honored to have had the ofﬁcers of the British Army as his guests. It was a shrewd bit of PR that ensured his popularity with Her Majesty’s subjects, who were at that time pouring into Cairo, both in uniform and civilian attire.
In 1894, the year after he moved the Angleterre to its new Adly Street premises (above), he was able to add a second Cairo hotel to his portfolio, which was the Continental on Qasr al-Nil Street; when the lease on this building expired he moved the business to new, far larger premises, reflected in the new name, the Grand Continental (the hotel was later renamed the Continental-Savoy, which I wrote about last post). By the time of the letter at the head of this post, Nungovich’s empire numbered eight establishments, including the Savoy Hotel, also in Cairo, which he built in 1898, the San Stefano in Alexandria, which he bought in 1900, and the Mena House out by the Pyramids, which he acquired in 1904.
By the early years of the 20th century – boom years for Egypt – Nungovich’s interests had outgrown the hotel business, and he was speculating heavily in land, property and shares. The slump when it came, came quickly. The panic of 1907 began in New York but the shock reached even Egypt, where shares on the stock market plummeted. Millions were lost and lives ruined. A no-longer wealthy George Nungovich suffered a heart attack in summer 1908 and died. His hotel empire passed into the stewardship of a protégé, Auguste Wild – his name appears as General Manager on the letterhead above – before being bought out by Charles Baehler.
The Angleterre didn’t make it that far. It had never been a particularly glamorous hotel. Located away from the hum of the Azbekiya it appealed to a serious and sober clientele, and it provided them with spacious apartments rather than just bedrooms (in the letter, the author refers to the ‘doors of our flat’). Gertrude Bell stayed here in 1911. I don’t know the exact date of its closure but the last reference I’ve found to the hotel is in 1914. Many hotels failed to survive the lack of guests caused by World War I and the slowness of tourism to return in its aftermath, and I’m guessing this was the fate that befell the Angleterre. The building still survives – here it is:
If you compare this photograph with the postcard above, you can just about recognise the Angleterre under all the clutter. A clothes store occupies the space that was the front terrace and portico, and the other street façade has been obliterated at ground and first-floor level by more shop fronts and ugly, ill-mannered signage. Perhaps the name of the man who was once called ‘the Napoleon of hoteliers’, George Nungovich, means nothing any more, but really, no building should be treated with such disrespect.
18 Responses to Then and now: Hotel d’Angleterre
Thanks for this. He is one of my ancestors – My Great-Grandmother Margarita Nungovich’s Uncle.
A very interesting article. Thank you.
I am also a descendant of George Nungovich.
My grandmother was Mariette Nungovich, sister of Marguerite Nungovich.
I would be interested in Alexi David making contact as I am very interested in the Nungovich ancestory.
Please notify me of any follow up comments by email.
Hello Mark! I’ve just noticed your reply. We are 3rd cousins, once removed!
My research has yet to uncover answers to my questions. Some departed relatives had mentioned Austria as a point of Ancestry. All I know is that George Nungovich Bey was born in Limassol, Cyprus, and his brother Michael was my Great-Great Grandfather. As far as I know, they both identified as Greek-Cypriot, and the very non-Cypriot surname remains a mystery. There’s certainly lots of descendants though, still bearing the surname!
Funny coincidence – my Grandmother Maria Erato Lyra (George was her Great Uncle) married into the Cypriot Leptos family – again, another Hotel dynasty. She was born and raised in Heliopolis, outside of Cairo.
I am a cousin of Mark’s and presumably also yours at this point since my great-grandmother was Marguerite Nungovich, Mariette’s elder sister.
I can tell you that the surname is Georgian, but cannot provide an explanation as to why George and Michael ended up with a Georgian father being born in Limassol.
Hi Harry! We are indeed 4th cousins! Please feel free to e-mail me with anyyyyy info you have on our common ancestors. I hope to get some answers the next time I am in Cyprus, searching for records. I am in NYC.
It seems that we are spread all around the world! My great-grandfather was Eliseos Nungovich , he had a brother named Michalis I think. My mother always says there is a family sigil but I have never seen it. His daughter, Ioanna, married Minas Erodiades (who also had a hotel in Bunia) and they lived in Congo Belge. Her sister Chariklia also lived nearby. They had two kids, George and Christalline, Lenia for short (my mother). When my mother was still a school girl due to the rebellion in Congo they left everything behind and came to Greece.
Also, I know that my grandparents where from Angastina, Cyprus.
Hi Ioanna! We’re 3rd cousins! I would love to get in touch with you for help with the family tree, which is on Ancestry.com. Elisseos was my Great-Grandmother Margarita’s brother. Michalis Nungovich was their father – George Bey’s brother. They were all born in Limassol. And if you’ve never seen their faces, I found photos of your Great-Grandparents ca. 1923 in Heliopolis.
Very enlightening, thank you. My grand father served at the Angleterre as a waiter.
I have the copy of a certification dated Cairo, April 1 1901 and signed by Le directeur H. Braun: “Je certifie, que le nommé Albrecht Henri [Heinrich Albrecht] à été à notre service en qualité de garcon de salle pour la saison d’hiver 1900-1901 et que j’ai été content de son travail et de sa conduite.”
What a wonderful story….what is going to happen to the old Nile Hilton..built in 1963 and now I think closed???
The Nile Hilton was 1959, the first international chain hotel in Egypt. It has recently been revamped and relaunched as a Ritz-Carlton property.
I am interested to know where and the date of the map in the article about Hotel d’Angleterre. I am interested in Sh. Game el Kekhia and dating this map would be helpful.
Thanks for any information.
Lesley, my apologies but I can’t find where this map detail comes from. I thought it was one of my old Baedekker maps but it turns out it isn’t. I can tell you it is post 1894 because that is the year the Hotel d’Angleterre opened on Sharia el-Maghrabi, which is where the map has it. For what it is worth, the Baedekker maps of 1895, 1902 and onwards, label the street as Kasr el-Nil.
I am doing a research about hotel employeés in the Grand Hotels of Tyrol (South Tyrol and Trentino) in the end of 19th/beginning 20th century and I found some information about Georges Nungovich and the Austrian connection:
Georges Nungovich and Anton Aulich, former Manager of the Hotel D’Angleterre in Cairo (in the winter season) and of the Karersee Hotel in the Dolomites (in the summer), opened together in 1897 the Savoy Westend Hotel in Karlsbad (former Bohemia now Czech Republic.). It is difficult to say if they owned the Hotel in Karlsbad (some ads call them „Besitzer“ owner,) or if they were leaseholder.
Thanks for that. Nungovich Bey was a very busy man.
Is anyone aware of a certain Numgovich in Congo who sired two kids , aboy and a girl, aged 11 and 10 respectively, with a Congolese mother ?That nyngovich had a rwandese mother and a Greek father.Any details?
Probably a descendant of Petros M. Nungovich, who had 8 kids. I don’t have the full family tree for him yet. He was the youngest sibling of my Great-Grandmother Margarita. They were nephews of George Bey.