Restoration of Al-Sakakini Palace

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 5 Mar 2024

The restoration of Al-Sakakini Palace in the Al-Daher district of Cairo will help to revive the historic district of which it is a part, writes Nevine El-Aref

Restoration of Al-Sakakini Palace
Restoration of Al-Sakakini Palace

 

Tucked away amidst the bustling streets of the Al-Daher district in Cairo lies a hidden gem of architectural splendour —Al-Sakakini Palace. Built in the late 19th century, this magnificent Rococo Palace stands as a testament to Cairo’s rich cultural heritage and serves as a poignant reminder of its storied past.

Originally commissioned in 1897 by Syrian Ghaberial Habib Al-Sakakini, who came to Egypt from Syria in pursuit of business opportunities, the palace reflects the fortunes of a man who started out doing menial jobs but later became a wealthy contractor.

He played a significant role in the running of the Suez Canal. Legend has it that he earned the nickname Al-Sakakini from his trade in knives before entering the contracting business and amassing his wealth (the word means knife in Arabic).

The palace occupies 2,698 square metres and contains 50 rooms spread out along five floors with 400 windows and doors, 300 statues, and a large garden planted with rare trees.

In 1923, after the passing of Al-Sakakini, his heirs decided to distribute his wealth. They chose to donate the palace to the government, and one of his descendants, a doctor, contributed his portion to the Ministry of Health.

In 1961, on the direction of the then Cairo governor, the Health Education Museum relocated from Abdine to Al-Sakakini Palace. In 1983, a ministerial decree from the Ministry of Health mandated the museum’s move to the Technical Institute in Imbaba.

Some exhibits were transferred to Imbaba, while others were stored in the palace’s basement. In 1987, prime ministerial decision 1691 designated the palace as an Islamic and Coptic Antiquity, placing it under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

Despite its illustrious past, the palace fell into disrepair over the decades, succumbing to neglect and the ravages of time. However, recent efforts to revitalise Cairo’s architectural heritage have breathed new life into this once-forgotten treasure.