A GM tells of opening challenges
HELLO to everyone from the shores of the Mediterranean.
My feet have hardly touched the ground since we arrived here on May 5 from Bali – via Singapore and Dubai! I have since spent two weeks at Four Seasons headquarters in Toronto attending a conference and meetings and my wife Giorgia, the kids and I have been literally living out of suitcases as we wait to move into our new home.
I have been trying to spend as much time as possible on-site: it’s essential to know the property inside out and the more I see it, the more of a jewel I realise it will be. I’m starting to work both days and nights now, with sporadic meetings and site inspections with the owner. The energy is exhilarating because I feel with each visit, there’s a little bit more of me going into the project. We have appointed our chief engineer now and a director of engineering will arrive soon, followed by our director of finance (he’s the important man for us all!!). Our director of marketing should soon be announced and I reckon, by September, our full Planning Committee will be in place. From there we will set up each division of the hotel from human resources to kitchens, housekeeping to F&B… it’s an exciting prospect and the months ahead will probably see us working long hours, especially as opening day draws nearer.
Soon we will be able to start planning the gardens and beach area and finish some guest and function rooms. The 127-room hotel – is under construction on San Stefano Bay, arguably one of the finest stretches of beach in Alexandria – a city known as ‘The Pearl of the Mediterranean’. The atmosphere here in Alex is more Med than Middle Eastern and it has an ambience and cultural heritage that is quite different from the rest of Egypt, despite being only 225km from Cairo.
Its history is fascinating – each day I’m learning a lot about what has made Alex ‘tick’ since it was founded by Alexander the Great in 331BC. It was the setting for the stormy relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony and at one time thrived as a centre of learning in the ancient world. Somewhere along the line it went into decline and when Napoleon landed here in 1798 he found only a small fishing village. But from the 19th century Alex was rejuvenated as a focus for Egypt’s commercial and maritime growth. Immigrants arrived from Greece, Italy and the Levant and as they settled, the city grew and became known throughout the region for its cosmopolitanism and bohemian culture as well as its commerce.
Today all sorts of languages are spoken – it has been home to artists, writers… and I can’t but be amazed that a place and a city like this seems to have been almost forgotten for so many years, but, there’s a feeling of revival, and it’s great to be part of the excitement. There’s lots more out there to discover and hopefully over the next few months, I’ll be able to paint a better picture of the city old and new – and of course have more news on the hotel’s progress.
…from Stephan in San Stefano, August 2006
Email from Alexandria by Stephan Killinger