The origin of the Mena House was that of a royal lodge for the Khedive Ismail, used as a rest house for himself and his guest when hunting in the desert or visiting the Pyramids at Giza. The main dinning room of today was once the entire lodge, but in 1869 with the opening of the Suez Canal, the lodge was enlarged. Also, a road was built between Cairo and the Pyramids (specifically for the visit of the Empress Eugenie) which made visits to Giza much easier.
In 1883 it was sold to Frederick Head as a private residence. The Heads, a wealthy English couple, lived an idyllic life at their new residence, enlarging their home and adding a second floor. Seeking a name for their estate, Professor A.H. Saya made the suggestion that it should be called Mena House, after the first king referenced in the Tablet of Abydos.
1885 Another hugely wealthy English couple, the Locke-Kings purchased the house from Mrs. Head, and it was they who set about turning the estate into a luxurious hotel.
1886: ‘Mena Hotel’, as it was called, opened
1887 Mena House hotel received its first guest. With plenty of money to work with and an estate already rich with furnishings and other treasures left by the Khedive and the Heads, the Locke-Kings enlarged the building once again, adding the English touch of great fireplaces that were unusual in Egypt. However, they retained much of the Arabic ambiance of the facility, and enhanced this with fine Mashrabia (wooden screens) work, fine blue tiles, mosaics and medieval brass-embossed and carved wood doors. Their taste was excellent, and the hotel has been kept with such good care, that many of these original fixtures are still in use.
1889, 4 November: the leading society figure of all European spas and resorts, from the springs of Baden to the roulette tables of Monte Carlo, visited Mena House. His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales (top) had been welcomed by His Highness the Khedive, who showed him the Pyramids. Lunch was served at the old ‘kiosque’ of Empress Eugenie. After lunch, The Egyptian Gazette reported, they ‘went over to the Mena Hotel and took coffee there.’
1890 With a new swimming pool Mena House hotel operated during year round, where all other major hotels were closed in summer.
1895–1896: After Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes book and his wife Louise (Touie) spent the winter of 1895-96 at the Mena House Hotel.
1896: Emil Weckel and a certain Mr Schick bought the Mena House. The hotel had lawn tennis, two croquet lawns, shooting, stables with Arab and English horses and desert carts for hire.
1898: Cairo received electricity (gas since 1870). Ernst Rodakowski sold his shares in the Mena House for £45,000.
December 1899 the Golf Course was opened as a sandy Golf Course. And it was turned into grass in 1917 by Roy Wilson.
1900: Four tramways were traversing Cairo and a fifth was being built to run from Giza to the pyramids. Trains ran from Helouan and Tura. English department stores and shopping districts were set up. At the Mena House, a lift had been built in the main building and for the first time electric light illuminated each floor, and all public rooms. The 1900 spring season at the Mena House offered a croquet lawn, lawn tennis, shooting, gymkhanas and the swimming bath. A daily coach service was in operation. The whole city was buzzing with word of the new tram scheduled for autumn completion In November, the new electric tram was proudly mentioned in every advert. Of course, this new means of convenience was great for business. Leaving the Pont des Anglais downtown every 40 minutes, it increased the traffic to the Pyramids, from seven in the morning until nine in the evening, when the last train chugged back. There was one first-class carriage, built in America with a sitting-room for 24 passengers, 36 passengers were travelling third class.
With the new golf course in place, the hotel now held its famous gymkhanas on the fairway of the 9th and 18th holes. The grand stand was at the foot of the Great Pyramid. The idea was to leave Cairo with the 12.20 train for lunch at the Mena House, and take the 5.40 to return to the city.
1904: Schick and Weckel sold the Mena House to the George Nungovich company. Nungovich had started as a porter in Cairo station and built a hotel empire in Egypt.
1909: Empress Eugénie, the widow of Napoleon III, arrived for a second visit to the Pyramids. In the same year The Prince and Princess of Wales visited the Pyramids. The group’s general manager August Wild arranged for a banquet near the Pyramids. The best location was clearly the chalet that had been built for Empress Eugénie in 1869. The Mena House staff moved out in.
The 1913-1914 tourism season was great in Egypt, but the First World War came to Egypt amongst martial law. But later during the First World War, the Mena House became one of the hospitals, and remained so for the rest of the war.
1943, the Mena House saw one of its most exciting years. Plans for Overlord, the invasion of Europe, had to be discussed by Churchill and Roosevelt and operations in Southeast Asia needed consultation with General Chiang Kai-Shek. It was decided that the Big Three conference should take place at the Mena House Hotel.
In the 1971 The hotel was meticulously renovated and expansions incorporated. Under the Oberoi management, the hotel matched the highest standards of international hotel Dom and became a member of “The Leading Hotels of the World.”
1979: - Mena House, was the venue for MENA HOUSE CONFERENCE, the pre-Camp David talks, where President Sadat met with President Carter and Prime Minister Began.