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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Exploring Cairo: Discover the lives of Egypt's royals at Abdeen Palace

Abdeen Palace, formerly a royal residence, now hosts a number of museum collections that shed light on the daily life of the royal family

Samar Nasr , Thursday 13 Jul 2017
Abdeen Palace
Portrait busts of Khedive Ismail and King Farouk (Photo: Samar Nasr)
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Do you ever wonder what it was like to live in a palace? If the Egyptian royal family piques your curiosity, then you’re in luck: parts of one the most magnificent royal palaces in Cairo, Abdeen Palace, are open to the public.

The palace was constructed in 1863 on the orders of Khedive Ismail Pasha by Egyptian, Italian, French and Turkish architects, and intended to be the seat of his government and a symbol of Egypt's strength. It is located in what is now eastern Downtown Cairo, in Abdeen Square.

Although it is still technically one of the official residences of the president of Egypt, it is also now home to five small museums: the royal hunting hall, the arms museum, the museum of private acquisitions, medals and decorations, the museum of presidential gifts, and the silverware museum.

Abdeen Palace
Silver collection at Abdeen Palace museum (Photo: Samar Nasr)

As you step into the palace grounds, you’ll enjoy the green landscape, before moving on to a room full of historic guns and armaments. The museums then follow on, one leading the next.

The first is the hunting hall, which narrates King Farouk’s fondness for the activity. It shows artefacts from his hunting trips to Fayoum, Dahshur and other places in the Egyptian desert. On these trips he was often accompanied by senior diplomats and foreign delegates, as well as other royal family members.

Abdeen Palace
Arms on display at Abdeen Palace museums (Photo: Samar Nasr)

On display are bows and arrows, a leather saddle decorated with silver, and an automatic pistol decorated with a crown.

Abdeen Palace
A painting of Mohamed Ali near the entrance hall at Abdeen Palace (Photo: Samar Nasr)

The next step is the arms museum, where there are a set of guns and swords acquired by kings Fouad and Farouk. You will see, for example, a set of armour and riding equipment (belt, spurs, crest, and a sword) inlaid with turquoise and polychrome enamel, a set of swords ornamented with gold, and a bronze statue of Mohamed Ali.

Abdeen Palace
Weapons and bridle decorated with turquoise and coloured enamel at the arms museum (Photo: Samar Nasr)

A documentary film playing inside the museum tells visitors about the most important events in the history of Egypt’s royal family, and is accompanied by soft music by famed composer Omar Khairat.

Abdeen Palace
Display from the arms museum (Photo: Samar Nasr)

The private acquisitions museum is particularly fascinating, as it includes notebooks and hand drawings by Prince Ahmed Fouad during his study at a military academy in Italy.

It also contains an atlas showing Egypt during the time of King Fouad I, a narghile made of glass and silver, a collection of snuff and cigarette boxes, musical instruments, and medals and badges donated from different countries all over the world.

Abdeen Palace
A collection of guns formerly owned by King Farouk (Photo: Samar Nasr)

The next stop on the tour, the presidential museum, gives visitors an insight into the modern era.

Abdeen Palace
Leather riding boots with gold and silver decorations, formerly owned by King Farouk I, held in the hunting hall of Abdeen Palace (Photo: Samar Nasr)

It features official gifts given to Egyptian presidents, including the model of a falcon given by Kuwait, a model of a Samurai crown from Japan, and a beautiful collection of vases from Turkey and Iran.

Abdeen Palace
Leather and silver saddle formerly belonging to King Farouk I, held in the hunting hall of Abdeen Palace (Photo: Samar Nasr)

The final stop on the Abdeen tour is the silverware museum, which contains an impressive display of homeware items, including a table service ornamented with floral decorations and bearing the crown, and a porcelain set ornamented with motifs shaped like roses and flowers in their natural colours.

Abdeen Palace
A model of a falcon gifted to the Egyptian presidency by Kuwait, held in the presidential gifts museum at Abdeen Palace (Photo: Samar Nasr)

Planning your trip

The palace is located in Abdeen Square in downtown Cairo, around a ten-minute walk from Mohamed Naguib metro station.

The museums are open from 9am to 2pm every day except Friday.

Tickets to enter the museum section of the palace are set at EGP 100 for foreigners, EGP 25 for foreign students, EGP 20 for Egyptians, and EGP 10 for Egyptian students. If you’d like to take pictures, a photography ticket will run you EGP 10 for a foreigner or EGP 5 for an
Egyptian.

There is also a café, a gift shop, and a lecture room. Staff members speak Arabic, English and French.

A brochure in Arabic and English is also available upon request, as are digital images of historical documents in the collection.

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