WHAT’S IT LIKE? Built in 2007, the Sofitel is a tall cylindrical-shape tower with sweeping views of the Nile and city on both sides. As with most luxury hotels in the city, security is tight – vehicles are checked by guards and sniffer dogs before entering the compound and all guests have to pass their bags through an X-ray machine and walk through a metal detector to enter the lobby.

The reception desks are on the ground floor and when I arrived there was no queue. The huge triple-height lobby has a giant chandelier, floor-to-ceiling windows facing the river, and plenty of comfy seating where guests can relax and order a drink. (The space is known as Window on the Nile.) In general, the interiors are modern and Western in style, but some of the eateries feature Egyptian-style décor and furnishings.

At the back of the hotel, by the water, is a palm-lined pathway leading past the restaurants, an outdoor pool and a floating deck – the setting is very picturesque at night, especially when feluccas sail past decorated with brightly coloured fairy lights.

WHERE IS IT? On the southern-most shores of Zamalek Island in the centre of the Nile between Downtown Cairo and Giza. The International airport is about 50 minute’s drive away (20km) depending on traffic, which can be extremely congested. The pyramids are about 45 minutes’ drive and the city centre is about ten to 15 minutes away.

Be aware that many taxi drivers don’t understand the English for “receipt” and when I got one of the Sofitel limousines and was charged E£100 (£12) for a 20-minute journey (about three times the price of a local taxi), I was told by the driver to get one from the hotel he dropped me off at. Of course, this was not possible – so it is a good idea to bring your own book of receipts if this is a concern to you.

HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 433 rooms including, 36 Club rooms, five Royal suites, ten Deluxe suites and 35 Junior suites across 27 floors (no floor 13).

ROOM FACILITIES All bedrooms have views of the Nile, a balcony and are of a decent size (32 sqm to 84 sqm). Amenities that come as standard include a flatscreen TV with pay-per-view channels, free wifi and wired internet access, a minibar, safe, L’Occitane toiletries and a combined bath/shower. (Suites have separate baths and showers and Hermès products.)

I was staying in a Luxury room, which was the same size and design as a standard Superior room but on a higher floor (seven to 27 – Superior rooms are on levels one to six). It featured neutral contemporary décor with a terracotta carpet, beige walls and light wood furniture. There was also a chaise longue, a good-size workdesk with a box of fruit on it, one bottle of free drinking water (avoid the tap water even when brushing your teeth), a hairdryer and 24-hour room service. The bathroom was not marble and quite small but was very clean.

My only criticisms were that the bed was a bit hard and lumpy and there was no iron/ironing board to hand. As I prefer sleeping with a window open to let in fresh air, I left the door to the balcony ajar, but this meant I was woken in the early hours of the morning (4.30am) by the call to prayer – something to bear in mind if you are a light sleeper and aren’t expecting to make an early start. (Air conditioning is also available.)

The 24-hour Sofitel Club lounge, for guests staying Club rooms and suites, is on the 16th floor and has one Mac computer and printer (free to use), a “happy hour” from 6.30pm-8pm, tea, coffee and juice served throughout the day, plus snacks at breakfast, lunch, high tea and supper.

ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The free wifi, large bedroom and balcony with Nile views.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS The drinking and dining options here are so extensive you hardly need leave the hotel, and alcohol is available in all of them. Breakfast is served at Sud (open 24 hours) on the ground floor, which has an immaculate, lavish buffet of chopped fruit, salad, breads and pastries, hummus, eggs, falafel, yoghurt, cereal and smoothies. There is also outdoor seating by the water and buffets are available for lunch and dinner  too.

La Palmeraie (open 7pm-1am), which I also tried, serves authentic Moroccan cuisine and often has live music. I sampled a tasty vegetable tagine presented bubbling hot in a clay pot. The service was very friendly and when I was served a cocktail with ice in it by mistake, they were happy to swap it.

The Buddha bar (open 8pm-3am) specialises in mixed drinks and Asian-fusion dishes, and has a funky lighting and a several-metre-tall statue of the spiritual teacher on the lower level. Beyond is a huge window with views of the river.

Other options are El Kebabgy (12pm-12.30am) for traditional barbecues, smoking shisha, and handmade flatbread baked in a wood oven, plus Vendome for French fine-dining (7pm-12.30am), and Le Deck, a floating restaurant open only in the warmer months and dishing up international cuisine in the evening.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES Events of 15 to 500 people can be catered for, with six venues ranging from Champs-Elyses for 80 delegates theatre-style to Opera for 280 banquet-style. Free wifi is available throughout the hotel and there is a 24-hour business centre. The restaurants are of a good size – Vendome can seat 80 and La Palmeraie, about 70 – so these could be good options too for private dinner parties.

LEISURE FACILTIES El Gezirah Casino Barrière is independently operated and open to foreigners only – you will need your passport to gain entry. It has 13 tables (American roulette, blackjack and casino poker) and 35 slot machines, and is open 24 hours a day.

The luxurious Le spa at Sofitel has a 24-hour gym with views of the river and Technogym equipment, plus eight treatment rooms and a huge spa bath with a floor-to-ceiling window facing an outdoor infinity pool (open 7am-10pm).

In a city with few outdoor swimming pools, this is a real plus – non-guests can pay E£300 (£35) a day for use of it, but when I was there it was almost empty. There are plenty of loungers, a couple of cabanas and staff on hand to serve food and drink. The pool area also faces the Nile so the views are impressive.

VERDICT Staying in Cairo, a city clogged with traffic and pollution, this property on Zamalek Island feels like being in an oasis. It’s a great business hotel with panoramic Nile views, extensive drinking and dining options, and good-sized rooms.

PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in June started from £136 for a Superior room. Breakfast is £16.50 extra.

CONTACT Sofitel El Gezirah, 3 El Thawra Council St Zamalek; tel +22 2737 3737; sofitel.com