The Nile Ritz-Carlton Lives Up To Its Name, And More



Thu, 14 Apr 2016 - 02:26 GMT


Thu, 14 Apr 2016 - 02:26 GMT

Any review of a Ritz property is likely to be titled “Puttin’ On the Ritz” after the 1920s classic hit song inspired by the opulent Ritz Hotel — probably cliché, but the Ritz has managed to maintain its spotless reputation the world over, so the association is always spot on. The Nile-Ritz Carlton is just as glam: you know you’re in good company when thoughtful attention is put into every service provided.

by Noha Mohammed

As my husband and I walked into the lobby of the Nile Ritz-Carlton and out of the cloying dust of last month’s tempestuous sandstorms, we were greeted at the reception desk by a uniformed waiter holding out a refreshing scented wet towel and shot glass of chilled fresh pomegranate juice.

Hotel Direcor of PR Sara Ibrahim, who recently returned from Dubai’s Shangri-La properties to head up the public relations department at the Nile Ritz-Carlton, came over to personally say hello and after promises of delights to come, left us in the capable hands of her customer service specialists.

After picking up our card key, we were graciously escorted not to a room as we’d thought but to a lavish suite with likely one of the best views in Cairo. Located on the seventh floor and perched at the corner of the building, our new home for the night featured a wraparound balcony offering us a breathtaking vista of the Nile all the way to Zamalek at one end, over to the Arab League building at a right angle and then on to Tahrir Square on the other end. I stood mesmerized by the picture-perfect scene of the Nile as far as my eye could see, and couldn’t help but imagine myself experiencing the same feeling of awe that intrepid European explorers felt when they arrived here and looked out at these very same waters so many decades ago.


Pulled out of my reverie by the gracious staff member showing us around the room, I grudgingly closed the door of the balcony behind me and marveled at the amenities of the suite: the seating area was done up in plush golds and blues and featured a big-screen LED TV atop a well-stocked minibar, a desk with a welcome fruit basket on top. Everything is remote-controlled and high-tech: you can switch on the TV, dim the lights or draw the curtains all at the press of a button.

Just off that was a console table with a plugged-in coffee machine and an array of teas and herbal sachets. Facing the table was a guest bathroom done up in cool grey marble and granite countertops. A few steps down is a well-designed walk-in closet with small box room for changing your clothes in private and a modern bathroom suite with — you must have guessed it — a TV screen projected on to mirror above the sink. I was already knew how I was going to spend my morning the next day, soaking in a bubble-filled tub and watching a film. Or two. The bedroom area is swallowed up by the huge bed that my aching body was just dying to jump into, but we still had the tour of the hotel ahead so I had to save that for later.

The doorbell rang and we ushered in first the porter with our bags then a messenger with welcome goodies including bowls of nuts, a box of oversized macaroons and a platter of mini oriental sweets.

We followed them out the door and found our way to the lobby where a gracious hostess took us around the hotel. This hotel was until recently the Nile Hilton and has been done up to Ritz standards: all-new marble flooring and carpeting and total room refurbishment. One of the few remaining features, our hostess tells us as she leads us out for our Jazz Brunch, held every Friday, is the iconic staircase, which the new owners decided to keep.

We were seated at a table right in front of the band playing live sing-alongs to a full crowd of families and a large group of hotel guests spread out over several tables. Live cooking stations line one side of the area, featuring a barbecue grill, a shawerma stand and an ice cream stand. We were about to walk over and check out the prime cuts when the maitre d’ walked over to tell us there was much more to choose from inside: A fresh seafood corner, sushi corner and an array other cuisines such as Italian, Indian and Chinese. We thought we’d stick to the grills, so I made up a plate of fresh greens and dips to accompany our choice of beef and chicken cubes, kofta and quail. We also shared a chicken shawerma wrap with a side of garlic mayo dipping sauce and fries. It was impossible to pass up the desserts, so I went back in for some colorful mini éclairs, a shot glass cheesecake and a bite-sized lemon meringue that was perfectly sweet and tart at the same time.


Needing to stretch our legs and walk off the rich meal, we crossed the road and strolled along the Corniche, watching the sun go down over the lapping Nile waves as couples and families snapped pictures and munched on termis (lupine seeds). Back upstairs we showered and sat outside on the balcony, mesmerized by the dancing lights of the city and totally engrossed watching pedestrians and motorists snaking their way along the Nile.

We turned in early, a little concerned we wouldn’t be able to sleep with all the commotion on the street, but our fears were unfounded as the insulated glass windows and balcony doors shut out all signs of the outside world. The bed was the comfiest I’ve ever slept in, but in the early morning I dragged myself out of it for that enticing bubble bath. After a shower I took my freshly brewed coffee out on the balcony and watched Cairo wake up along the Nile. The air was fresh and crisp and I seriously doubted I could tear myself away from the view, but by 10am we’d become hungry and wandered downstairs in search of breakfast. Everything about the setup — from the polished marble floors and cladding to the sophisticated table arrangements exuded elegance and the food was on par. At the egg station we asked for scrambled eggs which arrived light and fluffy with a serving of beef sausage and a selection of rolls and pastries. Again the maitre d’ was superbly attentive, and every time we looked away he’d silently place platters on our table for us to sample, including a bowl of ful with all the trimmings, fiteer with cream and honey and fruit mousse shots. All without being intrusive, he practically plied us with the hotel’s signature fresh juices including pomegranate, berry, and fresh apple with ginger, which was mild and soothing.

Back upstairs, the weather had become too muggy to sit outside so we left the curtains open and enjoyed the view of Kasr El-Nil Bridge from behind the closed window. When the phone rang I was pleasantly surprised to hear Spa Director Rizia, on the line inviting us for a couple’s treatment at the spa. My husband waved me off and made a beeline for the bed while I headed off to what would prove to me my own private taste of paradise. Parker was there to welcome me, handing me a form to fill for health precautions and also indicating which areas I preferred to be massaged.

Done up to resemble a natural rock formation, the spa décor was soothing and inviting, with room after room of relaxation treats, including bedrooms! Colored glass lamps were tastefully placed across the floor, adding a warm glow to the spa interior. My therapist led me into the first room for a foot scrub and massage, then onto an adjacent room for a rejuvenating body scrub. Using her expert touch, she worked the essential oils and vanilla mud into my aching muscles, then washed me down with warm water and toweled me dry. I felt like a baby after a bedtime bath: scrubbed, relaxed and contented. Smelling of vanilla, I moved on to the last room for an hour-long massage, which I’d indicated I wanted light to medium. Working her way from my feet up, the therapist’s hands were like a butterfly playing softly against my skin, stepping up the pressure as she reached by neck and shoulders. As she turned me over to do my head, she gently fastened a sleep mask over my eyes to keep out the dim glare of the candlelight across the room, then began massaging my face and temple. I never wanted it to stop.

Treatment over, I was shown to a sitting room where Rose, the head attendant, plied me with herbal tea and nuts. She must have the nicest smile ever, and we spent an easy 15 minutes chatting about the spa and the brisk business it was doing not only with resident guests but also visitors who had become regular clients.

I could easily see myself becoming a regular client, and as Parker saw me out she handed me a free pass to the pool and a cabana, ensuring that I would certainly be back for another slice of paradise.



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