Fact: No hotel stay will ever surpass our experience at the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, Egypt. This is the most luxurious hotel, with the most picturesque location. I was quite literally speechless after we arrived and began to settle into our room. Every morning I thought I must have been waking up in a dream, only to find that it was all still real. Here is your sneak peek inside the best hotel in the world.
The Old Cataract Hotel opened in 1899 to accommodate the rich and famous as they explored Upper Egypt. It was the best of the best at the time, perfectly situated overlooking the Nile. It boasts 220 rooms, 82 of which are luxurious suites, spread over both the original property (“The Palace”) and a detached addition, where the spa and fitness center are also located.
We literally walked in on a red carpet that had been rolled out, and as soon as we walked in, the scent of fresh flowers greeted us, as did a gentleman serving hibiscus tea. Famous guests include kings, princesses, prime ministers, presidents, writers, singers, actors, the list goes on. And yet, even a couple of weary travelers lugging their own backpacks (that’s us) were graciously welcomed here.
More here: The Best Things to Do in Aswan
The entire property is beautiful. I always thought of the desert when I thought of Egypt before this trip, but the Old Cataract Hotel’s grounds are lush, green, and vibrant. They truly had the best location with the most spectacular view, day or night. Their outdoor pool is stunning, but they way the light up the whole property at night highlights it even more.
Our Room: Palace Opera Suite
This is the part that made me speechless. Because we booked with Egypt Elite, we were upgraded to the Palace Opera Suite in the historic building. Saying it was spacious seems like an incredible understatement. It was massive. There was a living area, dining area, bedroom, sitting area in the bedroom, a dressing area, and more closets than we could possibly use. It came with two balconies and three bathrooms.
You read that right.
It was the largest, most luxurious room I had ever stayed in. Often “historic” properties have quirks you’d never accept in a modern property, but this could have been an entirely new construction made to look historic. It was so well laid-out, and I still can’t get over the views from the room. Management, and every employee, knew how to look out for the details.
Speaking of details, here’s a sweet one. One thing Steve and I usually don’t get to take advantage of in luxury hotels is turn-down service because we’re usually jet lagged and exhausted hours before turn-down service starts. But we really wanted to see what it would be like here. We called down to ask for early service, and we were actually pleasantly surprised when someone came in just a few minutes.
We were in the living area watching the 1978 version of Death on the Nile, which is available in every room on every TV, while the man who came to do turn-down service worked his magic in the other room. We must have looked like honeymooners, because he sprayed the bed with a light scent and put rose petals on it in the shape of a heart!
I’ll say it again: We had three separate bathrooms. I nearly laughed out loud in the butler’s face when he said we had a second bathroom, and then nearly lost it again when he said we had a third! One toilet room was located by the entryway, a second toilet room by the bedroom, and a master bath (which was really two rooms) with two vanities behind the bedroom and through the dressing room.
The bath and shower rooms were easily larger than my first apartment. The shower room was at least as big as Steve’s and my walk-in closet back home. And it was beautiful, with a marble-topped bench inside and iridescent tile. It practically glowed, it was so beautiful. We didn’t even use the soaker tub, we simply admired it.
Keep reading: What to Know Before You Visit Egypt
That’s balconies, plural. Not a typo. The first balcony, in the bedroom, overlooked the pool, the Nile, and Elephantine Island. I didn’t get a photo of that one because I was WAY too busy taking photos of our incredible view.
Our second balcony had a similar view, but was much larger. I could get used to having coffee out there every day and possibly writing my next book! I love a beautiful outdoor space at a hotel, but especially when it’s our very own.
I’ll shoot straight with you: Steve and I did not bring proper attire for this restaurant. You need a reservation to dine here, even as a guest, and there is a formal dress code. Luckily for us, breakfast was also served here during our stay, no dress code required. Breakfast is usually served on the Terrace, but mornings are chilly in January, so they moved the whole operation into 1902.
Most hotel gyms are so jam-packed with equipment that there’s barely any space to move. The Old Cataract, however, has done a great job of making the most of their long, narrow gym. There’s plenty of equipment to choose from, and even enough to share, plus plenty of open space to actually use the free weights or get in a HIIT workout. Here is a list of the available equipment:
- 2 sets of free weights
- 1 multi-use weight machine
- 1 cable machine
- 1 workout bench
- 1 yoga ball
- 2 mats
- 1 jump rope
- 4 treadmills
- 3 bikes (2 recumbent)
- 2 stair climbers
- 1 wave (lateral elliptical machine)
- 2 traditional elliptical machines
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Located in the newer detached portion of the hotel, this is a true spa, not a neglected hot tub next to an outdoor swimming pool. As soon as I walked into the spa lobby, I immediately started to feel relaxed. There was a fountain, a sweet scent, and soft lighting. The woman at the front desk showed us around, starting with the beautiful indoor lap pool, complete with waterfall wall at the end.
But we didn’t stop there. We also visited the saunas (multiple, again, not a typo), relaxation room, and were shown the way to the treatment rooms for massages, hammam, body wraps, facials, etc. I booked the “Nubian Experience,” which included a body scrub, clay body wrap, and full-body massage. It was easily two of the best hours of my life.
Read on: How to Practice Self Care on Travel
The Hotel Tour
Many people who book a room at the Old Cataract Hotel do so at least partially for its famous history. As such, the head butler, Ahmed, leads a tour each day at 5:00pm. You’ll begin in the library, just off the lobby. You’ll learn about the history of the hotel first, then head up to the largest suites, as long as they’re not booked for the night. You’ll round out your tour with some of the past guests, framed in one of the hallways, then end up at the 1902 Restaurant (no dress code required before dinnertime).
Also fun: The World’s Best Hotel Luxuries
Agatha Christie Suite
Agatha Christie is one of the most widely-read, prolific authors to ever live, and she stayed here, in what is now the Agatha Christie Suite, for a year. While on a Nile cruise, she was inspired to write Death on the Nile. Staying at a hotel like this with a large balcony and an inspirational view is the dream for all writers!
The room has been renovated over the years, but the 1930s charm and opulence is still reflected in the decor. The furniture in the sitting room, though re-covered, is the same that was here during Christie’s stay. We were given the go-ahead to sit on it during the tour!
Winston Churchill Suite
The other large suite you’ll see, as long as it’s not booked for the night, is the Winston Churchill Suite. Though it’s named for Churchill, it’s been a temporary home for kings, prime ministers, presidents, etc. The suite is massive and includes a kitchenette, but the real crowning glory here is the two-level terrace. It’s even larger than Agatha Christie’s!
Read next: What to Know Before You Visit Aswan
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