Friday 23 May 2008

InterContinental, CityStars, Cairo

Just ten minutes from both the airport and Cairo's aging convention centre, this plush, modern hotel complex is a favourite with business travellers. The excellent "Meet and Greet" service (160 Egyptian pounds) will get you a visa and through passport control and customs quickly and into a modern car, equipped with your room key, so there is no need to check-in at the hotel. With 774 rooms, the InterContinental CityStars has a suitably large foyer and outdoor pool decorated with Cleopatra's needles, sphinxes and other mock Egyptian antiquities, plus a substantial, well-equipped gym, housed in a pyramid, and a couple of decent restaurants - Japanese and Lebanese. The unusual lifts take some getting used to - you press the button for your floor before you board. A screen tells you which lift to take and then it automatically goes to your floor.

The conservatively-decorated rooms have big comfortable beds, free high-speed Internet access, desks, armchairs, televisions, irons and ironing boards. They are also very quiet - the air conditioning is barely-noticeable and the sound-proofing is good. But the en-suite bathrooms aren't as impressive - you might get a sink that won't fill with water or a temperamental shower. You can eat a pricey buffet breakfast (163 Egyptian pounds) on the pleasant terrace with its sturdy wooden tables overlooking the bars and the pool. The cold food is generally good, but the hot food can be disappointing - sausages lack flavour, while the scrambled eggs are watery. Still, there is good coffee and freshly-squeezed fruit juices - made to order from everything from oranges to bananas to kiwifruit. With warm and efficient Egyptian staff, this is undoubtedly a good business hotel, but tourists may find it too far from downtown Cairo's sights and the Pyramids, which are at least an hour's drive away through traffic mayhem. 7/10