Cecil Hotel
Photo: AFP

Jewish family reclaims historic Alexandria hotel

Previous owners of once-luxurious hotel, which was nationalized by state in 1952, get Cecil hotel back after long negotiations

It took exactly half a century for the Metzger family to reclaim ownership of the Cecil Hotel, the illustrious palace overlooking Egypt's Mediterranean and immortalized in Lawrence Durrell's classic, "The Alexandria Quartet."


"I can't believe it, after all these years of lost hope," said Patricia Metzger, the British daughter in-law to Albert Metzger who owned the Cecil and was kicked out of Egypt in 1957 "with only two suitcases."


Albert Metzger came from a Jewish family in Alsace-Lorraine in eastern France. Born in Egypt, he was given one week by authorities to leave the hotel that his father founded in 1929. 

Cecil Hotel entrance (Photo: AFP)


Fleeing westward towards Libya, he reached Malta then Italy before finally settling in England.


All efforts to come back to his native Egypt were in vain. Tens of thousands of the country's foreign and Jewish elites fled Egypt where the hostile mood following the creation of Israel made them suspect or at least unwelcome.


Looking toward the Mediterranean sea, the Cecil palace, which once attracted Alexandria's rich cosmopolitan elite, was nationalized by late president Gamal Abdel Nasser after Egypt's nationalist revolution in 1952.


It is now an 86-room four-star hotel run by French company Accor.


'A page has been turned'

After marathon negotiations, an agreement was signed between the Egyptian government and the heirs to the once glistening palace which in its heyday hosted the likes of Britain's wartime leader Winston Churchill, British writer Lawrence Durrell and the infamous Al Capone.


Patricia and her son John, 40, who now live in Tanzania, signed the deal with Egypt's tourism holding company Hotac, returning to the family the hotel which they have now sold back to Egypt for an undisclosed amount.


"A page has been turned, a terribly moving one," said Patricia.


"Justice has finally won, but it took too long," said the elderly lady, who celebrated her engagement at the palace in 1956 before her forced exile.

Square in front of Cecil Hotel (Photo: AFP)


After his expulsion, Albert began a new life with his family in Tanzania. In Dar Es-Salaam, he bought the New Africa hotel, which itself was nationalized after the independence of the east African country in 1964.


"My grandfather was a real adventurer, a man of great strength who cashed in before dying in 1971," said John Metzger, a Canadian citizen.


After Albert's death, Patricia and her two children spent the "nightmare" of 1970s in the courts trying to reclaim ownership of the Cecil. In 1996, a court ruled in their favour, but the ruling was never carried out.


The Egyptian government had quietly opposed the deal, for fear of creating a precedent. The official "owner," the Egyptian state-owned Egoth hotel chain, claimed it had spent 4.5 million dollars (3.3 million euros) to turn Cecil into a luxury hotel.


A source close to the negotiations said that Egoth had been dragging its feet over a settlement with the Metzgers who demanded 10 million dollars for the palace, minus money spent on so-called renovations.


פרסום ראשון: 06.24.07, 08:20
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