El-Fateh: Vivre la Revolution!

I had a pre-view of Burj El-Fateh this morning. You know, the grand egg-shaped hotel (aka Gadaffi’s Egg) that has transformed Khartoum’s skyline over the past few years. I was severly reprimanded for hinting at its egg-like ovalness. Don’t call it an egg! It is supposed to symbolise the sail of a ship. That is as might be, but I’m pretty sure that rabbiting on about sails of Italian sea vessels is likely to sell far fewer articles than talking about eggs. It’s only human nature. Actually, I reckon that, if you walk round El Fateh, on the west side, and head for the National Museum, the hotel starts looking like The Titanic, particularly at night. And you know what happened to The Titantic.

If you’ll forgive me a little bit of drooling for the moment, the hotel, from the inside and outside, is actually pretty stunning. With six restaurants and cafes at various points throughout the hotel, and oozing plushness in every cranny, this hotel is certainly going to be a hit with the rich businessmen and government delegations. Plus the facilities: squash courts, tennis courts, gym, sauna, health club, spa, swimming pool, club lounge, business/conference hall… There’s even a shopping mall attached!

I don’t mind saying I was a tad impressed, although I’ll admit the wow-factor would probably have been markedly less were this hotel in Dubai or London. Where my review would probably have been “sure, it’s okay, but why the egg shape, surely gherkins are all the rage these days?” But this is Khartoum. Khartoum! Where things do not really happen in floors of more than three. This hotel has 23! And 230 rooms!

So I asked about the prices, thinking they’d probably send me reeling down the glass stairwell. But, surprisingly, they were not outrageous. $275 is the cheapest, for a rather nice single room, ending up at $5000 for the presidential suite. The prices fluctuate according to demand, I was told, so this $275 might in reality be higher. But, for a standard rack price, it’s pretty good. The nearby Grand Holiday Villa, which is dwarfed by this billowing sail, has similar prices. These other hotels in Khartoum are really going to have to do some price-cutting.

At the end of my tour, I asked about the name, which as I already knew is named after the year and month that Colonel Gadaffi took power in Libya. The young lad that was showing me around said that he didn’t want to get into politics since the hotel has nothing to do with politics. Apparently, it’s owned by some Libyan enterprise or other, nothing to do with the chap in the military uniform.

Au contrare, mon ami, au contrare. The hotel has everything to do with politics. After all, why would a company who wants to establish an a-political hotel in Sudan, name it after a coup d’etat in their home country? And one must ask what powers are at work behind the scene that allows a Libyan company to launch such a hotel in the city, when the government isn’t always so welcoming of foreigners. And then there is the history – let’s not forget the deep, deep ties that Libya and Sudan have had for many years, and yet which are so rarely talked about.

As I left El Fateh in beautiful sunshine, I was half-toying with the idea for an article, provisionally entitled: “How many people have died to build El Fateh?” Not, of course, in the literal sense of falling of the roof (none, I think), but in the more abstract way that Libya has been able to cement its ties with Sudan by being so intricately linked with the country’s conflicts. And yet no one really seems to talk about this. (But, of course, this would just be adding fuel to the endless and nonsensical Sudan-bashing everyone in the West seems engaged in, and I refuse to get involved in that unless I have an original point to make.)

Vivre la Revolution!

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3 Responses to “El-Fateh: Vivre la Revolution!”

  1. Glenna Gordon Says:

    From one journalist based in Africa to another, I like your reading of this hotel. Especially since I just attended Gaddafi induced madness at the opening of the mosque in Kampala. However, I think the world at large is generally uninterested in the specifics of regional politics between places like Sudan and Libya, when people still don’t understand anything about either Sudan or Libya. The luxury hotel market in Africa burgeoning to satisfy the needs of the businessmen and developers, however, is a bigger story. In Kampala, for example, they built huge numbers of hotels for Chogm, all luxury, and the whole hotel industry in Uganda would have collapsed if not for post-election violence in Kenya that drove conferences and foreign dollars in this direction.

    However, I’m waiting for an Inter Continental in Juba, since I’m heading there next week to cover the LRA peace talks and am not necessarily looking forward to my $100 a night TENT. But given Khartoum and the South’s relationships, I doubt Gaddafi will be a big spender in Juba anytime soon. Tent here I come!

  2. Andrew A. Sailer Says:

    Hi i am so pleased I found your blog, I really found you by mistake, while I was searching Yahoo for something else, At Any Rate I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a wonderful blog posting and a all round intriguing blog (I also love the theme/design), I do not have time to read it all at the right now but I have bookmarked it and also added your RSS feeds.

  3. Neon Light Says:

    luxury hotels are always expensive but they offer some very attractive features and packages `-;

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