Shepheard's Hotel was the leading hotel in Cairo and one of the most celebrated hotels in the world from the middle of the 19th century until it was burned down in 1952. A modern hotel called the Shepheard Hotel was built nearby in 1957.
Originally operating under the name Hotel des Anglais (English Hotel) in the early 1840s, in 1860 the hotel was renamed Shepheard's Hotel, after its owner Samuel Shepheard (1816–66). Shepheard, an English entrepreneur from Preston Capes, Northamptonshire, England, became co-manager of the hotel with a Mr. Hill (who was Mohammed Ali Pasha's head coachman) in 1841. In 1845 Hill relinquished his interest in the hotel, and Shepheard became the sole owner. Shepheard sold the hotel in 1861 and retired to Eathorpe Hall, Eathorpe, Warwickshire, England. Shepheard's Hotel was famed for its grandeur and opulence, though a frequent complaint was that its cuisine "leaves much to be desired". It was extensively renovated in 1891, 1899, 1904, 1909 and 1927. Richard Burton, a close friend of Shepheard, left a detailed description of his generous character and successful career, describing him as "a remarkable man in many points, and in all things the model John Bull".
In the First World War, the hotel served as British Headquarters in the Near East. The hotel was totally destroyed in the "Cairo Fire" anti-British riots on January 26, 1952, in the course of the civil unrest that led to the July 23 Revolution.
The current Shepheard Hotel was erected in 1957 by Egyptian Hotels Ltd. in Garden City, Cairo (downtown Cairo), at a location which is about 1/2 mile from the site of the original hotel. The new hotel and the land on which it sits is owned by E.G.O.T.H. (Egyptian General Company for Tourism and Hotels). For quite a while the hotel's operations/management company was Helnan International Hotels, and the hotel, accordingly, was known as the Helnan Shepheard Hotel. Recently, as per a contract signed on September 29, 2009, the Rocco Forte Company was chosen as the hotel's new management company. Under this contract, the Rocco Forte Company will operate the hotel on a trial/experimental basis from July 2010-June 2011, after which time the hotel will be closed for extensive renovations.
Shepheard's Hotel in popular culture
The hotel had many notable guests, both real and fictional. Among the former were Henry Morton Stanley; Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener; Winston Churchill, Ronald Storrs and T. E. Lawrence. It was portrayed in the 1934 Egypt-set British film The Camels are Coming. The hotel is the setting for a number of scenes in the 1996 film The English Patient. The Grand Hotel des Bains in Venice Lido, Italy, was used for the filming of these scenes, as it very closely resembled the old Shepheard's Hotel building. The hotel is used as a base of operations for "The Race" in the Colonization series by Harry Turtledove.
- Elaine Denby - Grand Hotels: Reality & Illusion (New York: McGraw-Hill; London: Reaktion Books, 1998)
- Michael Bird - Samuel Shepheard of Cairo: A Portrait (London: Michael Joseph, 1957)
- Sir John Gardner Wilkinson - A Handbook for Travellers in Egypt (London: John Murray, 1858)
- Richard F. Burton, The Gold-Mines of Midian (C.Kegan Paul & Co, London, 1878), at pages 43 to 46
- Nina Nelson - Shepheard's Hotel (London: Barrie & Rockliff, 1960)
- Nina Nelson - Helnan Shepheard Hotel Cairo-Egypt (Cairo: Al-Ahram, 1992)