A new chapter for Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan

By Michelle Baran

Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan lobbyIts history is long and storied. The Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan, which reopened last month after being closed for three years for renovations, is housed in a Victorian building that dates back to 1899 and has seen the likes of Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie pass through its doors.

Aswan is a pivotal city in Egypt. Located on the Nile River, it marks the southernmost point of most Nile River cruises, its famous Aswan Dam having created the great Lake Nasser. From Aswan, travelers visit the dam, Philae Island and cross the lake to visit the ancient temple of Abu Simbel.

The Old Cataract hotel sits right on the river's bank and has long served as a luxurious stopover for countless travelers, famous and otherwise. The hotel overlooks Elephantine Island, at the crossroads of the Nile River Valley and the Nubian Desert.

Now, the fabled property's overhaul, led by French designer Sybille de Margerie, has infused its interiors with both an Egyptian and French sensibility.

The hotel has been transformed to feature almost double the number of suites it previously had, going from 275 rooms, including 45 suites, to 138 rooms, including 82 suites.

The Old Cataract Wing, which had 131 rooms and eight suites, is now the Palace Wing, with 76 rooms and 45 suites. This is the wing where Christie and Churchill once stayed, and it houses the hotel's two most spacious suites: the Agatha Christie Suite, at 1,900 square feet, and the Winston Churchill Suite, at 1,500 square feet.

The New Cataract Wing, which had 144 rooms, has been transformed to the Nile Wing, with 62 rooms, including 37 suites, which have a balcony with a view of the river.

Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan Nile Prestige SuiteAdditionally, the property now has a 13,000-square-foot spa, the So-Spa, with eight treatment rooms, a three-room hammam and indoor pool. There is also a fitness center, Jacuzzi, sauna and tanning salon. Treatments include a variety of massages and facials.

Previously, there were three restaurants at the hotel, and now there are four, including the more formal 1902, a fine-dining restaurant; Al Saraya, a brasserie-style venue; Oriental Kebabgy, a Mediterranean restaurant overlooking the river; and Palms, a poolside eatery.

There are four bar and lounge spots on the property, as well.

The hotel also has five meetings rooms, ranging from 500 square feet to 670 square feet.

Prior to renovations, the property was called the Sofitel Old Cataract Aswan. It is the third property to receive the Legend designation, signifying historical properties that have been updated with Sofitel's trademark French touch. The other properties in the collection include the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, the first Legend to open in July 2009; the Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam, which opened in June 2011; and the Sofitel Cartagena Santa Clara, which will launch as the fourth Legend in 2012.

Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly. 

This article has been updated to reflect the correct number of suites the Old Cataract wing had prior to renovations, the number of suites currently in the Nile wing and the size of the spa.

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