Wednesday, January 8, 2020

the style saloniste: Travels with The Style Saloniste: My Recent Voyage...

the style saloniste: Travels with The Style Saloniste: My Recent Voyage...: I’m just back from Egypt, a highlight of a lifetime of travel. I traveled independently, with a focus on architecture and art, and the grea...

Travels with The Style Saloniste: My Recent Voyage to Egypt was Inspiring, Thrilling, Poetic, and a Vivid Encounter with the Ancient Pharaohs

I’m just back from Egypt, a highlight of a lifetime of travel. I traveled independently, with a focus on architecture and art, and the great achievements of centuries of Pharaohs. I loved every moment, especially a glorious cruise along the River Nile on the historic Steamship Sudan.

Come with me for a photo report. I visited temples you’ve never seen (only recently restored), and moments of beauty and reflection along the Nile.

More rare are some shots of me. My excellent Egyptian guide, Eid Mohamed Moawed Soliaman persuaded me to pose for a shot at Abydos temple, and later the Greco-Roman temple at Philae, and Luxor. 

I met wonderful, warm people at every turn. The weather in November/December was perfect, with 75 deg F days, balmy evenings.

Come with me to capture a dream adventure with time for research, study, and fun. 

Oh, and be sure to visit me on Instagram: @dianedorranssaeks for more images and reports.  All photos below by Diane Dorrans Saeks for The Style Saloniste.

“No other country but Egypt contains so many marvels and wonders, and so many works of art and architecture and sculpture that defy all description.” — Herodotus, fifth century BC Greek historian and the great traveler of Antiquity

Come me as I visit the Pyramids on the Giza Plateau. They are mystifying and elegant and a thrill. I stayed at the Mena Palace Hotel…and woke up the first morning with the pyramids right outside my terrace.

After time in Cairo, I flew to Luxor to board the MS Sudan, commissioned in 1895, and a rare travel experience. French-directed, superbly maintained, it glides along the river, and quietly sails to destinations the larger modern ships cannot visit.

Days were spent visiting historic sites, late afternoons sailing, gazing at the Nile.

Scenes along the banks of the Nile floated past. We never saw other boats.

The Sudan has 25 cabins. It was all very private. I was the only English-speaking passenger. Other passengers were French travelers, connoisseurs of luxury locations.



With my guide, I visited temples large and small, spending hours studying their hieroglyphics and and tilting my gaze upward to the soaring 60-feet high capitals, with original paint. Colonnades, sanctuaries, inner chambers, pylons, obelisks, some still show the palimpsests of the arrivals of Copts and Ottomans and Persians, and later Napoleon and Italian and Austrian and German archaeologists. And always the carved stones and painted bas-reliefs tell of a veneration and fervent belief in the afterlife, and desire of the infinite. Visiting the temples I was transported by the art of myths and legends, fantasmes, scarabs, sacred birds, secret languages, symbols, the perfection of craftsmanship, beauty, and a wild desire for ‘something beyond’.

“You ask me whether the Orient is up to what I imagined it to be. Yes, it is; and more than that, it extends far beyond the narrow idea I had of it. I have found, clearly delineated, everything that was hazy in my mind. Facts have taken the place of suppositions — so excellently so that it is often as though I were suddenly coming upon old forgotten dreams.” — Gustave Flaubert, Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour


I sailed along the Nile from Luxor to Aswan in Southern Egypt. The MS Sudan passes silently along the banks of a region where Pharaohs built some of the world’s greatest monuments.

Obsessed with eternity, they built crafted temples and tombs of great beauty and inspiration that have lived on for thousands of years. As we sail along this noble river, the light, the groves of palm trees, the shimmering and brilliant sun, all speak of time and eterntiy, indeed.

We passed a riverbank panorama of families fishing in little wooden boats, boys diving into water and waving ‘hello', sugar cane fields, fields of wheat, placid horses and cows in green fields, a herd of goats, Here, the magnificence of the Pharaohs seems far away.




A cruise on the Nile is essential. It’s romantic, practical, and rare.

I was told that MS Sudan on which I sailed is mostly sold out for 2020.

If you do travel on another ship, secure a private guide and driver at each destination. You will arrive earlier, visit before groups arrive. With your guide you can see highlights, linger at favorite places, stay late, enjoy a totally private visit. Alone with the guide, you are nimble, independent, and will have time to capture images and truly encounter history, myths, architecture, art, ideas, and memorable personal moments and pure enjoyment.

Timing is important. Spring, fall and winter are ideal. Summer is hot. November is perfect. February/ March. Clear bright days, golden Egyptian light, offer the best temple viewing.

For some travelers, traditional sailing boats, dahabiyas, are low-key and authentic. Several of my friends sailed with the Nour El Nil , and loved the relaxed atmosphere.

I loved MS Sudan and I booked it over a year in advance. Cabins are charming, authentic. It’s very well-organized, and directed by, a specialist custom travel French company that is the authority on Egyptian travel for over four decades.


Mena House Hotel, Cairo — ook a room with a view of the pyramids.

Old Cataract Hotel, Aswan — one of the great hotels in one of the most exciting locations. Historic, authentic.

Winter Palace hotel, Luxor — historic, faded luxury. I prefer a suite overlooking the garden and pool.


My favorite temples were the less-visited Abydos and Dendera (north of Luxor) , along with Philae in Aswan. Kom Ombo at night was a trip. The Ramesseum is small-scale, poetic.

Arrive early.

I also loved the Luxor temples, and Karnak, which are more visited. Go early with a private guide.

Edfu is impressive, a must visit. Kom Ombo and its museum devoted to Crocodiles were a quirky evening trip. I loved the Crocodile mummies. Sculpture.

The Valley of the Kings, with tombs, is best visited with a private guide who can select the best ones, and early arrival. Fascinating.

Ramesseum in Luxor: I love Ramses II and his artistic achievements, so I had to see his memorial temple. Eid, my guide, and I were the only visitors. Marvelous, intimate, a perfect capsule of pharaoh history.

In Cairo the Egyptian Museum is a voyage back in time. Enjoy the atmosphere, the dusty, fusty style. It is in transition now, and some treasures havebeen moved to the yet-to-open Great Egyptian Museum near the pyramids. Plan timing to avoid groups.

I dined at the hotels I stayed at, and on the Sudan. That left time for exploring, and for my research and study projects.

Sailing along the Nile and viewing Biblical scenes of daily life, farming, villages, lush palm trees and sunsets and early morning on the placid river—is one of the great travel experiences.

I hope you travel to Egypt soon.


Voyageurs du Monde


All photography shot by me. Images of me were by my guide, Eid Mohamed Moawed Soiiaman, who is based in Aswan, and guides private travelers and groups throughout Southern Egypt. 

 Contact: or message me via my Instagram site, @dianedorranssaeks

Bon Voyage!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

‘Axel Vervoordt: Portraits of Interiors’ Newly Published by Flammarion Is One of the Most Exciting New Fall Season Design and Architecture Books

It’s a beautiful book that is a call to action for designers and architects, art collectors, and design lovers. Eighteen different international houses/interiors/retreats/a castle/a country house and a city palace are beautifully photographed by Laziz Hamani, who has been photographing Axel’s work for more than two decades.  

I find it tremendously inspiring. The excellent and thoughful text by Michael James Gardner is informative, highly detailed, and richly described.

Axel Vervoodt wrote an inspired Foreword and an Afterword.

Many of the houses have never been published.

In particular, I love Axel’s point of view that his goal and assignment and ambition is to uncover a universal spirit and an emotional feeling of one-ness that a home can provide. He believes that every residence is a family’s oasis. And to achieve this he and his fantastic team collaborate with the owner on a quest for harmony, beauty. They immerse and focus on the creation of atmospheres that are rooted in the past and connected to the future.

Axel also notes in the book that he is always searching for a sense of unity…creating a connection with the landscape and site. And in handcrafting much of the house, and seeking comfort and peace,he embraces ‘the beauty of imperfection’.

Come with me to discover the wonderful world of Axel Vervoordt and his family and team. 

“We aspire to create spaces that are genuine and authentic, and that envelope visitors with positive energy. This is the result of seeking balance and creating a dialogue between architecture and nature and art.” — Axel Vervoordt

One of the reason for the success of the Axel Vervoordt Company is that Axel Vervoordt's wife and two gregarious sons, Boris and Dick, are very much involved in his business.

May, a textiles expert, runs the fabric studio at the Axel Vervoordt art and antiques and workshop complex in Kanaal, near Antwerp, Belgium. Boris, who resembles his jocular and gregarious father, runs the company and Kanaal exhibitions, and directs sales and acquisitions in contemporary art, his specialty, and antiquities and diverse collections. His brother, Dick, who used to be a professional ice hockey player, runs and directs the company's real estate operations.

Engaging, scholarly, and articulate, Axel Vervoordt was one of the founders of the prestigious annual European Fine Arts Fair in Maastricht and for many years has been a vivid presence at both the New York International Fine Art and Antique Dealers show and the Paris Biennale des Antiquaires.

Axel is among the few truly cross-cultural antiquaires. He draws his antiques and art from the far corners of the earth and several millennia. The garden is a surprise, too. Most new château owners would want imposing gardens, but Axel loves to confound expectations. He has the confidence to emphasize the rusticity of the setting. The potager, for instance, is a working garden: beautiful but not meant simply to impress.

Over the past two decades, Axel and May’s residence outside Antwerp, Kasteel van 's-Gravenwezel, has become an indispensable address for an international coterie of designers, art collectors, and antiques connoisseurs.

The Vervoordts love to entertain; Boris recalls the Breughel-esque scene one winter when the moat around the castle froze over, and they served hot pancakes to friends who came to skate and sip steaming cider beneath the oak trees. 

While many clients have toured the castle and glimpsed the parkland beyond the still, dark moat and the cobblestone courtyard, surrounded by handsomely restored 18th-century farm buildings, few enjoy the private pleasures of the Vervoordts' world.

The garden is a perfect paradise.

With its tall arched windows draped in white wisteria (the elegant W. floribunda 'Longissima Alba'), an orangerie fashioned after a Palladian villa serves as a perfect entrance to the gardens. The light-filled room, with its tailored linen sofas, Louis XVI-style chairs, anddining table that seats 20, reflects the Vervoordts' singular style. White and pink camellias flourish in handsome wood planters, hydrangeas bloom in Italian terra-cotta pots, and fragrant stephanotis traces the windows.

“We feel a responsibility to create living spaces that inspire emotions of serenity and reflection, with the precious comfort of home.” — May Vervoordt

Houses in the Book

The book shows in detail eighteen very different residences around the world.

Included are a riverside home in Kerala, a Surry estate, a Tokyo town house, a New England coastal home, a barn in Flanders, an Ibiza island retreat.

There is a palazzo in Venice, a London penthouse, a Moscow penthouse, a Mediterranean villa, and an Antwerp city palace…plus Axel and May’s castle.

The Vervoordts live the most gracious life and entertain with generosity, said top Paris antiques dealer Bernard Baruch Steinitz, recalling cocktails on the wisteria-draped terrace beside the herb garden. Theirs is a garden of great refinement. It's grand but not at all pretentious.


‘Axel Vervoordt: Portraits of Interiors’ with text by Michael James Gardner, with a foreword and afterword by Axel Vervoordt.

Photography by Laziz Hamani. Published by Flammarion.

All photography here published with permission.