Around the World in 80 Hotels (4)
In 30 years the author of these lines has researched the history of about 500 of The Most Famous Hotels in the World, and has written over 50 history books about them.
A journey around the world can take – as we have all learnt – 79+1 days, but it can also take you to 80 different hotels. Speed is only a virtue if you are racing. Many believe that your far-travelled Louis Vuitton luggage set or your Palladium and Centurion Cards are the standard-bearers, but trust me: time is the true sign of wealth.
PART 4: GREECE — TURKEY — SYRIA — LEBANON — ISRAEL — EGYPT — MOROCCO — TUNISIA — ALGERIA — SOUTH AFRICA — KENYA —TANZANIA
Travelling south into Greek, after passing through Athens’s restored flagship Grand Bretagne, we reach Istanbul in Turkey, where the Pera Palace welcomes us. Rumour has it, that this is the place where author Agatha Christie once vanished for eleven days. I was able to confirm this. It’s a rumour. Other stories state that the grand dame of crime had written Murder on the Orient Express there. Negative, again. Sometimes my research destroys myths. Every Christie biography explains that she had written it back home, in England. However, the hotel has so many legendary stories that I managed to fill an entire book with them. I trust that general manager Pinar Timer Kartal has forgiven me. Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, had his permanent suite there. The entire espionage of both World Wars has taken place there. The affaire Cicero, Mata Hari, swapping of German U-Boot drawings and secret anchor-places — that was really exciting research, and what an interesting experience to write this history from the days of the Ottoman Empire to modern Turkey!
Ever since the Pera Palace has been an institution, its famous and mysterious guests radiating l’art de vivre, enjoying its stylish five o’clock dances, lavish balls, fine food and splendid drinks. This book offers a look behind the veil of a city that is steeped in the myths of the Orient. It talks about the legendary Orient Express. It is about famous writers and infamous spies, as the Pera Palace Hotel’s territory is at the crossroads of interest of all Super Powers on Earth.
Here you meet the most famous names of the silver screen, politics and fashion. And you meet their chroniclers, who have made the hotel immortal. They all enjoyed the discreet atmosphere of this fine palace, more or less successfully walking the tight rope between two worlds.
South we go. Oh my God, Syria. In 1911, the Hotel Baron in Aleppo, Syria, was the most modern hotel in the city. The likes of Lawrence of Arabia, and Agatha Christie immortalised it. Today we worry daily if it still stands! In Lebanon, The Saint Georges in Beirut is a ruin after decades of civil war. The Phoenician has regained its position as the city's leading hotel.
In the Holy Land, The King David was my haunt in Jerusalem.
Ever since my first journey to Egypt in 1981, I stayed at the Mena House, gazing in amazement at the Great Pyramids. I returned over 20 years later and stayed for two months, at the edge of the great desert Sahara. During these two months, in view of these gigantic monuments (All things fear Time, but Time fears the Pyramids) from the balcony of my Palace Room, I wrote The Mena House Treasury. A little book, I am proud of, as it contains a lot of informative stuff. There is the true story of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aida (which he wrote for the opening of the Suez Canal), the Pyramids and of course the history of the hotel itself. Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame arrived here in 1895, after he had left the Grand Hotel Belvedere in Davos. My little story continues.
In the footsteps of detective Hercule Poirot and the dramatic ‘Death on the Nile’, we can visit Aswan and savour a drink on the terrace of the Old Cataract Hotel. I love to sit there and overlook the Nile and Elephantine Island (it looks as if a herd of elephants bathes in the river) In Luxor, let’s stop for a night tea at the Winter Palace.
During the 1880s, an oriental palace rose in stone and mortar from the desert, decorated by the most lavish interior design ever seen. The Mena House, born as a luxurious hotel on grounds famous for hospitality since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, became the jewel in the crown of the greatest legends of the Orient. This book tells its story and delves into the fascinating past of Egypt.
Learn about the Pyramids & Hieroglyphics, the building of the Suez Canal, the true story of Aida, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the best anecdotes the grand old lady Mena House has to tell.
North Africa is home to many tales of oriental hospitality: Names like Marrakech automatically bring up the hotel La Mamounia, Tunis stands for Majestic, the hotels El Djazair for Alger and Minzah for Tangier.
The rest of Africa holds a selection of former colonial hotels, from the romantic Victoria Falls, to the traditional Mount Nelson in Cape Town.
‘I had Tea at the Nellie’ is your faithful companion to tea at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town.
Andreas Augustin introduces the history of tea and the story of the Mount Nelson – from the days of the Castle Line to modern times. Featuring: All teas served at the Nellie — The plants of the gardens — A Brief History of tea and South Africa —The best Afternoon Tea receipes — The History of the Mount Nelson Hotel and a list of its most famous patrons.
Here our desire to take tea lead to a prolonged stay and eventually to a book ‘I Had Tea at the Nellie’.
Most African capitals have lost interest in their historic hotels, but in Nairobi you can still enjoy the Norfolk's (1904) cordial welcome. It required the private initiative of a Spanish honorary consul to revive the legendary Castle Hotel (1927) in Mombasa.
* Andreas Augustin is a writer and traveler. With The Most Famous Hotels in the World he has founded an organisation to safeguard the history and cultural heritage of all legendary hotels around the world.
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PART 5: YEMEN — INDIA — SRI LANKA — SINGAPORE — THAILAND — MYANMAR — CAMBODIA — VIETNAM — HONG KONG — CHINA — PHILIPPINES — JAPAN — AUSTRALIA — WESTERN SAMOA