The Grand Holiday Villa is a lovely hotel built on the banks of the Nile. It has plenty of old world charm and has been sympathetically restored and extended. I stayed there once with my husband and found the service and food all 5 stars+.
The hotel for some reason makes a couple of fantastic historical claims that are well surely just fantasy.
The obvious one is that Queen Victoria stayed in the hotel. I am sure the elderly Queen Vic would have enjoyed a stay in the Grand Hotel after a long journey across the hot desert and a ferry ride across the Blue Nile. She definitely approved of Charles Gordon’s death being avenged. But according to her Wiki page by 1900 “Rheumatism in her legs had rendered her lame, and her eyesight was clouded by cataracts.” She died in 1901!
The other claim is that Thomas Cook stayed in the hotel but he died in 1898 before the hotel was finished! To be fair it should be added that his son John Cook was a tourist agent who played a role in the development of European tourism in the Sudan until his own death in 1899. The Thomas Cook travel agency also had an office in the hotel and so in a way the spirit of endeavour started by Thomas and John Cook lived on…
The other claim is that Winston Churchill stayed there. This seems more than likely. You can imagine him wearing his dark suit in the ballroom and puffing on his cigar while shaking hands with the assembled Sudanese dignitaries. However, the photographs of Churchill meeting Sir Sayid Abdel Rahman were taken in London, and the former cavalry officer never returned to the Sudan after his charge with the 21st Lancers at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898.
I don’t know much about the history of the hotel except that it was open by 1900 and was for many years owned by the Sudan Government and run as part of the Sudan Railways. It’s a great hotel but they should get their own history right. Or am I just being pedantic?
Reblogged this on Sudan Hub Foundation .
I know the former Grand Hotel very well, having lived in Khartoum 1955-65. Queen Victoria, in spite of her own wish to travel, never visited any parts of her empire except Ireland, so you are completely correct about that. Winston Churchill did not set foot in the Sudan after 1898, as far as I know, so he could not have stayed there either. I could be wrong about this, though. I used to go there with my parents sometimes and sit on the verandah with them whilst they watched the sunset and sipped their whisky and sodas. People would come and offer us ivory carvings and other souvenirs on mats as we sat there.
John, thank you for sharing your memories of the Grand Hotel.