Waldorf Astoria Cairo Heliopolis adds luxury to Egypt's ancient history – Hotel Insider

First-class service and seasonal dishes are what make this one of the capital's best city escapes

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Like the Arabian accents on its walls, Cairo's Waldorf Astoria perfectly blends contemporary luxury with Egypt's ancient history.

The five-star hotel group launched its first African property in Heliopolis last summer, with the property officially opening its doors in February.

Situated next door to the Hilton's Cairo Heliopolis Hotel, the Waldorf is accessible via an opulent corridor separating their polar opposite interiors.

The National checks in to find out just how luxurious Waldorf Astoria's first hotel on the African continent really is.

The welcome

Upon landing at Cairo International Airport after a four-hour flight from Dubai, I'm whisked away in a private transfer to the hotel, which is only a 10-minute drive away. Jessica, one of the hotel's concierge team, is quick to welcome me into the hotel's grand atrium, which is filled with palm trees, water fountains, chandeliers and lavish art deco interiors.

I'm immediately struck by the grandeur of the lobby, which is shaped like an eye and dominated by floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel's signature clock – said to represent the pupil of Pharaoh's eye – takes centre stage.

My luggage is swiftly taken away while I relax with jasmine tea and a cold towel before Jessica gives me a quick tour of the hotel's restaurants and bars and then shows me to my room.

The neighbourhood

Heliopolis is one of the oldest cities in Egypt and dates back to the ancient times. It has ancient buildings and ruined temples, as well as Andalusian-style architecture that creates a unique charm.

Attempts to modernise have led to American-style highways, which make it difficult to cross the road and explore the neighbourhood on foot, unless you believe you have nine lives as the locals seem to.

There's not a lot to do in the area, as we find out when we ask the concierge. However, she directs us to book a car to “take us wherever we please”, which include Egypt's main presidential palace, Downtown Cairo and the Grand Egyptian Museum, an hour's drive away. The newly opened museum has the original statue of Ramses II, as well as 87 original statues on the grand staircase and an exhibition on Tutankhamun. Khan El Khalili, Cairo's famous bazaar, and the old souq are well worth seeing, as well as the obvious Pyramids of Giza.

The main pull for the Waldorf Astoria Cairo Heliopolis is simply its proximity to the airport, which is convenient for anyone who dislikes long and arduous transfers.

The scene

With 252 rooms and suites, a heated outdoor swimming pool and four food and beverage outlets, the hotel has plenty to keep guests occupied.

The hotel attracts a range of travellers, from families and couples to those visiting Cairo on a quick city break. Security is tight – requiring guests to have their cars and bags searched before entering the property – due to the hotel's popularity among VIPs and politicians, since it's so close to the airport.

The room

The hotel was designed by British company Adrian Barboza Design, with the interiors drawing inspiration from Cairo's history and culture – ancient Egyptian references coupled with a contemporary twist.

Gold accents and scallop wallpaper feature throughout, a nod to the Waldorf Astoria's famous Peacock Alley.

Rooms are decorated with a rich colour palette of greens, blues and neutral tones that evoke warmth and comfort. My fifth-floor room comes complete with a king-size bed that is firm and comfortable, as well as a fully stocked mini bar and a stunning view of Le Jardin pool area.

The bathroom is bright and airy, with a separate toilet and a large marble sink with lots of space for my cosmetics. A large bath tub and spacious walk-in rain shower feature impressive green scallop tiling and come complete with luxury toiletries provided by Sodashi – a luxury, vegan and cruelty-free brand from Australia.

The food

The hotel's food and beverage outlets offer lots of variety for all tastes and dietary requirements. Brasserie Ayda is the spacious all-day dining spot where we have breakfast each morning. It is buffet-style, with a live cooking station for traditional breads and a cold room filled with delicious cheese, meat, fish, fruit and mezze. Middle Eastern classics, hot dishes and healthy items are also on the offer. In the evening, the sharing menu experience is great, featuring a number of delicious dishes also available a la carte.

For mains, I try the Mediterranean Sea bass fillet (EGY1,950/Dh151)with tomato confit, lemon butter sauce and herb oil, as well as the Angus cote de boef with cafe de Paris butter, mashed potato, grilled vegetables and fried rice (EGY6,500/Dh504).

The standout dishes are the fried octopus and potato salad with Kalamata olives and capers (EGY680/Dh52) which is cooked beautifully and packed full of flavour, and the burrata with roasted baby beetroot (EGY460/Dh35) – a welcome change from the usual burrata and tomato combo – that has delicious Middle Eastern twist thanks to the addition of tangy flavour of pomegranate molasses.

Peacock Lounge serves teas, coffees and afternoon tea, while Bar Raa is the hotel's cosy speakeasy – a beautifully decorated jazz bar with a spacious outdoor terrace. Le Jardin Pool Bar is a Mediterranean-inspired outdoor restaurant serving light meals in a setting reminiscent of those found in the French Riviera.

The service

There's no denying that everyone here enjoys what they do, you can see it on the constant smiles on their faces. Everyone is always on hand to help, answer questions or simply have a chat.

I'm also really impressed by how attentive they all are – ensuring I'm fully settled in my room with fresh strawberries, providing sweet Arabic treats after a day of exploring and remembering my coffee order in the morning at breakfast.

The only downside in terms of service is that sometimes it can be slow at busier times.

Highs and lows

If you're looking for a gorgeous hotel to spend a few days relaxing in, then the Waldorf Astoria Cairo Heliopolis ticks all the boxes. It has everything you need from delicious food to a stunning spa with a hammam, fully equipped gym and outdoor setting that will transport you straight to the Mediterranean.

One low is that the room lacks a healthy number of conveniently placed plug sockets and mirrors, which make things a tad difficult when getting ready for the day.

The insider tip

Stay in a room with a pool view as these get lots of natural light throughout the day.

While the spa is not open yet, I am given a sneak preview and when it does launch, I highly recommend winding down your day floating on cloud nine with a Balinese massage on the Lemi dream bed and its cosy water cushion.

The verdict

Waldorf Astoria Cairo Heliopolis is a great option for a short city break near the airport and just a 20-minute drive to Downtown Cairo, where you can discover the charm of the old city versus the new. The hotel offers excellent food, friendly service and cosy rooms that are ideal for relaxing in after a full day of discovering all that Cairo has to offer.

The bottom line

Rates start from Dh1,100 per night for a deluxe room based on two adults sharing, including taxes and fees; check-in at 3pm and check-out at noon; hilton.com

This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel and reflects standards during this time. Services may change in the future.

Updated: April 13, 2024, 3:27 PM