The Hilton Alexandria Green Plaza was not an obvious choice for the famous seaside resort town that Egyptians flock to each season. It is not on the coast and is, in fact, located in a shopping mall, but people had nice things to say about it on TripAdvisor, and the hotel offered a fantastic off-season rate.
We landed in Cairo at 5:10am, and with our driver (and soon to be friend), Ayman, we were safely delivered in Alexandria by 8:30am. Because we arrived at our hotel well before check in and also well before the shops opened, it took a little while to work out how to actually get into our hotel; both it and the shopping mall were surrounded by a huge brick and cement fence and finding the manned gate was interesting, but the obvious signs of security were reassuring. Although the 30 minute drive in traffic to the centre of Alexandria was not ideal, it was worth it to return to a haven with eager and friendly service from all staff.
The actual lobby of the hotel was on the first floor, so after going through the security check on the ground floor in the smaller foyer, we headed up in the lift to the main lobby. This was a circular, balconied space filled with light, with high ceilings, gleaming cream tiled floor and peppermint topped columns featured throughout. It provided access to the shopping mall and various plush lounges gave a resting spot for those waiting for friends or taxis. We dropped our bags off at reception and were told by the sweet, smiling young woman on the desk that the room was not ready and would we like to take a seat. We told her that we were not in any hurry to get access to our room and were happy to go off and explore the city, at which she looked so relieved. Her suggested return was 1pm.
So, Ayman took us to Alexandria’s seafront where we walked along the Corniche promenade in the bracing wind, finishing up at the Citadel of Qaitbay. While watching entrepreneurs set up their souvenir stalls along the seafront, and cats foraging amongst the scraps left by the seagulls, we planned our sightseeing hours for the next day, working out how much of this city we could squeeze into our short time in her environs. After a quick bite at Gad, the king of the falafel takeaway chain stores, we headed back to the hotel for our check in and a well-earned rest after our non-stop journey from Sydney that began 36 hours before.
The Hilton Alexandria Green Plaza kindly upgraded us to the Executive Club section of the hotel. The room was very spacious and, surprisingly for Egypt, the non-smoking room actually smelled like a non-smoking room! No stale cigarette smell clung to furnishings, which was lovely for a country where nearly everyone smokes (and when a packet of Marlboro’s cost as little as $2AUD that addiction is all the more affordable).
The firm but comfortable bed provided an undisturbed night’s sleep. The fan from the airconditioner was a little noisy, but that prevented any loud distraction from outside the room to permeate our haven. The bath allowed for a relaxing soak before retiring for the evening, which contributed to us winning the jetlag battle.
Our upgrade included access to the Club Lounge for complimentary breakfast buffet, light snacks 12-2pm, ‘desserts’ 3-5pm (high tea, I guess), and light dinner with alcohol 6-9pm. The service in the Club Lounge was always eager and friendly. Unbidden, our server delivered extra snacks to our table in the evening, such as peanuts, corn chips and crudités, to assist us in not having to disturb ourselves from our reading to go to the buffet for refills.
Of a morning, a delicious spread was provided for breakfast. We enjoyed our first experience of foul (a middle eastern fava bean dish, pronounced ‘fool’), and loaded our plates with other filling options such as grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, tomato beans and falafel. There were plenty more dishes for those with a more traditional western breakfast palate: a range of meat dishes, scrambled eggs, plenty of pastry options, cereals and salad bits and pieces. My particular favourite was the fresh strawberry juice – a completely new experience and I loved it! The fruit were in season at the time, and were in abundance.
While our two-night stay in the Hilton Alexandria Green Plaza was brief, it was a lovely ‘first experience’ of Egypt, especially in regard to the welcoming and willing service provided by all staff members.
Our adventures in Alexandria continue…
Accommodation: Hilton Alexandria Green Plaza