No, this hotel isn't called the Ava Gardner - but given the manner her brief sojourn here is celebrated, you could be excused for making that mistake.
This is Faletti's - by some measure, Lahore's most historic hotel. It was established in 1880 by Andrei Faletti, a Piedmontese chef who traveled to Punjab by way of Hammersmith. And it was opened by the provincial governor, Sir Robert Egerton, who gave his name to the road on which the hotel is located. And as Lahore has not gone in for the wholesale renaming of roads redolent of Empire, Faletti's continues to stand on Egerton Road.
Faletti's initially had competition. Michael Nedou from what is now Croatia opened the distinctly opulent Nedou's Hotel nearby in the same year. But that's now gone - Nedou's in Srinagar is derelict - though the family continues to run the Nedou's Hotel in the Kashmiri skiing resort of Gulmarg.
In Delhi, the nearest comparison to Faletti's is the Maidens Hotel which opened a few years later.
Signor Faletti died in 1905, and in 1942 the hotel was bought by the Oberoi group, a Sikh-run hotel dynasty which at one time also ran the Maidens in Delhi and Clarke's (earlier known as the Carlton) in Simla.
After the 1965 India-Pakistan war, Faletti's Hotel was taken over as enemy property.
Happily, Faletti's remains well run, with wonderful rooms - I stayed there recently. It is still largely single storey - though now much of the revenue comes from weddings held in huge marriage halls at the back of the main building.
Some of the back story that Faletti's has created for itself is a little dubious. The photo above is on display in the lobby. Whenever it was taken, it was certainly not 1900 - the cars in the picture look as if they date from a few decades later. Alas, the spot where the cane chairs were laid out is now a car park - but there is a lovely hidden-away garden at the back.
And Ava Gardner? Well, yes it seems she did indeed stay here when starring in the film version of John Masters' Bhowani Junction released in 1956.
She was described in the movie's publicity as 'the most alluring woman', starring as the beautiful but ill-fated Anglo-Indian woman Victoria Jones alongside Stewart Granger as a British colonel.
Her room - number 55 - is now the Ava Gardner suite.
The movie's trailer describes 'Bhowani Junction' as the first American film to be shot in Pakistan.
Marlon Brando is also reputed to have stayed at Faletti's in 1967 - though alas he wasn't filming in Lahore but (unlikely as it seems) supporting a United Nations initiative. The hotel's only coffee shop-cum-restaurant is named after him - the De Brando (the sort of name that suggests a sidestepping of copyright issues).
Among political leaders, Nehru and Jinnah both stayed here, as did the 'Frontier Gandhi', Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and the leader Pakistan hanged, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. And yes, Sir Garfield Sobers - the legendary West Indian cricketer - also passed this way.
And although it's something that no Lahori would give a second thought to, it is wonderful to see the cheel, the kites (birds not the other sort of kites, ... kite-flying is banned in Lahore because the habit of strengthening kite strings with powdered glass has led to pedestrians and cyclists being garotted) wheeling over the hotel grounds.
So nice to have stayed at Faletti's!
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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