Le Méridien Cairo Airport makes the airport a much nicer place to hang out
Written by Kate Durham
Photographs courtesy of Starwood Hotels
Airports are not comfortable places. Even with extensive renovations, older airports like Cairo International Airport (CAI) offer little more than shopping and eating to kill time on that awkward layover. You know, the one not long enough to see the city before your next flight but too long to spend it playing on your smartphone. Le Méridien Cairo Airport, officially opened last month, makes CAI a much nicer place to hang out — whether you’re a traveler passing through or a local looking for something new.
Assessing an airport hotel in what is usually my end destination requires a split personality. Many of my journeys involve at least 24 hours of travel with multiple layovers and time zones, so I have one view from a tired traveler’s eye. The other view is as a resident who needs some convincing to head to the airport just for fun.
Le Méridien Cairo Airport is Egypt’s first hotel actually inside a terminal, connected to Terminal 3 via the link bridge. An escalator and an elevator deposit you in front of the Latitude coffee shop, but the reception area is out of sight to the right — a little confusing if you miss the small signs pointing the way to check-in.
The room design plays on flat, seamless surfaces, with minimalist handles signaling doors and drawers. It gives the space a sleek, contemporary look, and a soothing visual respite from airplane upholstery. This is a good thing, because if your room doesn’t overlook the pool as mine did, your view is a study in desert brown and urban gray. I at least could watch the hotel staff set up for the opening gala that night.
Once you’re checked in, the free wi-fi is easily accessible and suitably speedy, and there’s cable access in the room as well.
A priority for anyone in the middle or at the end of a long journey is the bath facilities. The Méridien rooms have spacious tubs and two shower heads: one a high-pressure handheld nozzle and the other a delightful rain shower that sends hot water cascading directly down from the ceiling.
After you spend hours folded into cramped spaces, fully horizontal is a luxurious position. The hotel bed passed the all-important comfort check, with a firm mattress sheathed in a thin downy cover and a fluffier duvet to complete the nest.
While the hotel won’t have a spa until 2015, there’s the pool and a fitness center if you want to stretch your muscles, and Al-Sagheer Salon offers hair styling, manicures and pedicures. Because looking good often makes you feel better.
To accommodate any length of layover, the hotel has normal overnight rates, day use rates and Transit Rates starting from a minimum of two hours — all bookable online. There are also plans to offer 24 hour rates from time of check-in.
For Cairenes, the draw is likely to be the dining venues, which include three restaurants, a sports bar and a lobby coffee bar. The sports bar Live is the best for hanging out, with indoor and outdoor sofa arrangements that merge into the poolside seating, which has its own snack bar Splash. Live is showing FIFA World Cup 2014 matches throughout the tournament running June 12 to July 13.
The most interesting dining option is Indochine, an Asian fusion restaurant offering not only the familiar Chinese and Indian fare, but also selections of Malay cuisine — one of the few five-star venues in Cairo to do so. Indochine and Evoo, the Mediterranean-themed house restaurant, both have al fresco dining along the pool, while the Lebanese Mezzeh’s terrace overlooks the pool from above.
Even lounging in the pool area, you forget that you are sitting in the dead center of an active airport surrounded by three runways. Look up and you’ll see the radar tower and the occasional take-off and landing, but you don’t hear the jet engines.
The al fresco dining options and the spacious terrace off the lobby are a must, as Le Méridien Cairo Airport is a non-smoking building — one of first hotels in Egypt to go completely smoke free. That said, Live offers shisha on its terrace.
The lobby is set up for networking, segmented into open spaces with couches and armchairs arranged for intimate groups of two to four people. So if you’ve got friends passing through with a long layover at CAI, there are plenty of options in the hotel for you to keep them company. I’d recommend Latitude, which has one bar for alcohol and a second for coffee and snacks. The seating here is fronted by a seven-story window, infusing the space with plenty of natural light.
Le Méridien Cairo Airport is about more than casual socializing. Of the 349 rooms, there are 19 suites well equipped for intimate business meetings or pre-wedding preparations. The focus seems to be more on business, though, as there’s only one indoor ballroom. There are also six smaller conference areas supported by a multi-room business center.
Whether you decide to make the trip for business or pleasure, the hotel has its own small parking lot, so you don’t necessarily have to park in the airport lots located conveniently across the street and next door to the hotel. et
Le Méridien Cairo Airport • Cairo International Airport Terminal 3 • Tel: +2 (02) 2265-9600 • www.starwood.com