Templed out at the Winter Palace

I’m all maxed with ancient architecture: after Luxor, Karnak, and the Valleys in the last 48 hours I’m getting my Amunhoteps confused with my Hatchepsuts. So time to recuperate with a pot of tea in what must be one of the great hotel experiences of the world: Sofitel’s Winter Palace, on Luxor’s Corniche-el-Nil.

Stepping inside – after ascending a *carpeted* outdoor staircase; it doesn’t rain here – is like entering a time capsule sealed by Agatha Christie (who stayed here while writing ‘Death on the Nile’.) The corridors are strewn with yellowing photos elegantly framed, standard lamps and sofas outside every suite, steamer trunks and billiard tables among the overfussily cushioned furniture… the same faded grandeur as a Mayfair gentlemen’s club. It’s easy to imagine a brace of retired colonels polishing their elephant-guns just around the corner in the Rendez-Vous bar, and the toilets are just awesome, brassy contraptions straight out of a Heath Robinson drawing. By keeping the original pieces in place, rather than a simulated recreation of them as at Singapore’s Raffles, the place has a patina of authenticity that’s simply thrilling, dahling. Not a bad experience for the price of a pot of Earl Grey.

I wouldn’t have minded an extra couple of days in Luxor; it’s relaxing here, and my hotel (the one I’m actually staying at, not this one) is surprisingly upmarket for $9 a night; I’ve had worse four-stars. But I’m heading out into the desert for a few night’s camping on Monday, which means hopping the night train to Cairo tonight. And so the adventure continues.

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