The Old Cataract, Aswan, Egypt
One of the most suggestive views that I remember from my travels is the one from the terrace of the Old Cataract in Aswan, in Egypt. It’ s not only the view, but the whole environment where this legendary hotel is situated. Agatha Christie, in her book Death on the Nile, imprinted it on the collective imagination during an era that the cruise on the Nile from Cairo to Nubia was organised by the company Cook & Son, and the passengers were called Cookies.
Let us go back to 1902. The local topography, unchanged for thousands of years, was radically transformed by the construction of the first dam. The Nile cataracts (waterfalls) that had once amazed newcomers to the area, were no more because the eddies and whirlpools formed small islands and barely submerged rocks in the river. But when the river’s flow was regularized by the dam in 1902, the cataract disappeared and Thomas Cook, a businessman with a poetic bent, sought to perpetuate the memory of the cataract by giving its name to one of the most famous hotels in Egypt, opposite the spot where the cataract had once been. So the illusion was preserved.