At Cairo's Grand Hyatt, alcohol ban met with cheer and uncertainty

Alex Dziadosz
3 Min Read

CAIRO: Saudi Arabian Sheikh Abdel Aziz Ibrahim, owner of the Cairo Grand Hyatt, banned alcohol in his hotel on Thursday, prompting the Hyatt’s international management to order an explanation and triggering worries the hotel may lose its five-star status and, eventually, the Hyatt brand name. Although the Hyatt chain does not oblige individual hotels to sell alcohol, a dispute arose because Abdel Aziz Ibrahim did not notify his international supervisors, before making the move.

Brother-in-law of the late Saudi King Fahd, Abdel Aziz Ibrahim is known as a staunch Muslim. His religious convictions are widely assumed to be the impetus for the ban.

Last week he drained an estimated LE 8 million worth of alcohol in a back part of the hotel while a small committee watched, said one source close to the Grand Hyatt management speaking on condition of anonymity because many details remain uncertain.

The source said the ban did not come as a shock, as the owner has publicly mulled his distaste for selling alcohol over the past several years.

Reactions at the Hyatt have been reputedly split.

“Some are happy because they say he is a good Muslim and now our money will be halal, one source said.

Others fear the move will dissuade foreign guests from booking there, pushing the tourism ministry to downgrade the hotel’s ranking, impelling Hyatt Hotels to pull out and further buttressing Egypt’s reputation as a “dry country.

The Hyatt International Corporation, a subsidiary of the Chicago-based holding company Global Hyatt Corporation, controls the hotel.

If Hyatt does pull out, the hotel would likely run independently, as it did for about a year from 2002 to 2003 after a managerial dispute prompted former managers Le Méridien to leave. Before Hyatt took over in June 2003, the hotel was known as Royal Nile Towers. The source said the Ministry of Tourism has decided not to act until the Hyatt Corporation and the hotel’s owner resolve their dispute. Officials expect a public statement from both sides this Tuesday.

Though the ministry has suggested it may lower the Hyatt’s five-star rating if guests begin to complain, sources in the Hyatt said it has not yet done so, contradicting reports in Al-Masry Al-Youm that the ranking has already been reduced to three stars.

But even those within Hyatt ranks are reluctant to rule the risk out.

“This is one of the things a foreigner would look for at a five-star hotel, one source said. “As a foreigner, you know, you might need a beer when you have lunch.

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