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The Cecil Hotel in Alexandria, Egypt, was one of the city’s glitziest and most popular venues in the 1930s and 40s. Designed by Alessandro Loria, a Jewish Egyptian architect, in 1929, the hotel was considered the best in Alexandria during its first decades of existence. Its guests included Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, Al Capone, and Lawrence Durrell, who used the hotel as a setting for his famous Alexandria Quartet.1 The Egyptian government took over the hotel in the 1950s, but the original owner’s family regained the ownership in 2007.2 Currently the hotel is run by the international hotel chain Sofitel.
Alessandro Loria Born in Mansourah, Egypt, to Italian parents in 1880, Alessandro Loria lived in Tuscany and Cairo before settling in Alexandria in 1914. According to his daughter, his “life was his work…he worked hard, seven days a week; he had no hobbies”.3 While his most famous work was the Cecil Hotel, built in 1929, he designed many other buildings in Alexandria, including the Italian Hospital, the Jewish Hospital, the National Bank of Egypt, the Lido House Hotel, and “several of the most delightful buildings” in Alexandria’s eastern harbor.4 Building mostly in Moorish and Venetian styles and accenting his buildings with mosaics and arabesques, Loria gave Alexandria “a carnival air”.5
History Albert Metzger, a Jewish businessman from Alsace, moved to Alexandria in the early 1900s. He became a British citizen during World War I, due to the inconvenience of having a German passport in British-occupied Egypt during the war. In 1929, he commissioned Alessandro Loria to build a hotel that he initially called the Regina Palace.6 Less then a year later he changed the name to the Cecil Hotel, after the Hotel Cecil in London, which had been the largest hotel in Europe when it opened in the 1890s. In the 1930s and 40s, the Cecil Hotel was regarded as the best hotel in Alexandria; the British Secret Service used it as their headquarters during World War II.7 After the Egyptian revolution in 1952, the government seized the hotel and eventually incorporated it into the state-owned Egoth hotel group.8 Five years later, the Metzger family was expelled from Egypt. They settled in Tanzania, buying the New Africa Hotel in Dar es Salaam.9 In 2007, following a long and tangled legal battle, the hotel’s ownership was returned to Patricia Metzger (Albert’s granddaughter) and her two children. The Metzgers sold the hotel back to the Egyptian government, who now rent it to the Sofitel hotel chain.10