On the west side of Midan Opera, the Continental-Savoy Hotel was once the city’s top hotel, rivalling Shepheard’s just up the street and boasting the finest restaurant in colonial Cairo. It opened in 1869, and was soon a favourite among visiting VIPs. Guests included Lawrence of Arabia, who stayed here at the beginning of World War One, and at the end of the war, Australian soldiers celebrated with a massive pillow fight on the hotel’s grand staircase. Lord Carnarvon, who financed the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb, died in his room here in 1923, supposedly a victim of the pharaoh’s curse, and other guests included American journalist Henry Morton Stanley, of “Dr Livingstone, I presume” fame. In 1941, Orde Wingate, the eccentric military genius who later led the British commandos known as Chindits against the Japanese in Burma, attempted suicide in his room here by stabbing himself in the neck with a Bowie knife. Luckily for Britain’s southeast Asian war effort, he failed.

The hotel closed in the 1980s, and is now largely disused, its grand halls empty and neglected, inaccessible to the public and largely derelict. Much of the building is in danger of collapse. Its future remains uncertain, but it would need a huge amount of rebuilding to ever open again as a hotel.

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