Le Metropole - Egypt Today/Mohsen Allam
By Farah El-Akkad
Unlike nearly all historic boutique hotels in Alexandria, most of which were built as palaces by the Greek and Italian then later transformed into hotels, Le Metropole was originally built and established as a hotel in 1902. Located in the heart of Alexandria’s downtown Ramleh station, right across Saad Zaghloul intersection, this is the spot where Cleopatra’s Obelisk was erected by Egypt’s last Ptolemaic queens in honor of her love to Mark Anthony. According to French archaeologist Jean Yves Empereur, the obelisk, which is now present in Central Park in New York City, was granted to the US by Khedive Ismail Pasha in 1879.
Le Metropole’s most popular resident was the Egyptian-Greek poet and writer Constantine Cavafy who resided in suite 205 for the last 25 years of his life. Cavafy had a home in the same district, now a museum located on Cavafy Street, a 15-minute walk away from Le Metropole, but he was known to spend many nights writing at Le Metropole. Cavafy’s parents settled in Alexandria during the 1850s and he was born in the coastal city in 1863. He moved to Europe as a young adolescent then returned to Alexandria in 1900 and lived there until he passed away in 1933.
On a recent visit, Christine, a member of the hotel’s team, shows us black and white photos of Cavafy’s suite which still looks exactly the same as it was more than a century ago. The entire hotel is like a time machine, taking you back in time. The rooms are all feature high, elaborately decorated ceilings accented by English furniture.
The most remarkable pieces in the suite are the wooden desk at which Cavafy sat to write and the exquisite wooden hangers. Christine tells us that many Greek tourists choose to stay at Le Metropole just to see the prominent poet’s suite and take photographs.
The rest of the hotel’s rooms are decorated in the same style, featuring antique paintings and hand-decorated ceilings. The rooms all have open vistas on Saad Zaghloul Square and beyond to the waves of the Mediterranean. The hotel’s antique gilt elevator with its wrought-iron door dates back to the 1920s, its quaint style popular at the time across France or other parts of Europe.
Not only does the hotel’s ambiance take you back in time, everyone who works there seems to belong to a different era. The elevator operator is dressed in an old-style uniform decked in brass button while breakfast is served by a waiter donning white gloves. The breakfast room is a big hall with maroon-painted ceilings, gilt mirrors lining the walls.
Being one of Alexandria’s oldest-remaining hotels, Le Metropole— which served as the setting for the British movie Ice Cold in 1958, is home to a unique display of antiques such as statues and paintings mostly dating back to the 1800s. Taking pride of place are a grand piano from the late 1800s and a chair belonging to Muhammad Ali Pasha.
Le metropole - Egypt Today/ Mohsen Allam