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Egypt's royal jewellery now on display at Alexandria museum

Alexandria's Royal Jewellery Museum - containing almost 1,000 pieces from Mohamed Ali's family - opened on Sunday for the first time since 2011

Nevine El-Aref , Sunday 19 Oct 2014
Egypt's royal jewellery in Alexandria (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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Views: 5999

In the elegant Alexandria district of Zizinya stands the Royal Jewellery Museum, its neoclassical architecture welcoming its visitors after three years of closure.

The museum shut its doors shortly after the outbreak of the January 2011 uprising for security reasons.

After all, the museum includes a collection of over 900 pieces of jewellery from the family of Mohamed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt.

The museum reopened on Sunday – refurbished, with new touches inside – in the presence of Antiquities Minister Mamdouh El-Damaty, Alexandria's governor and other top officials from the ministry.

El-Damaty said the re-opening is part of the ministry's goal to open up other museums after restoration periods. He added that the jewellery museum contributes to Egypt's important story from when it was a monarchy.

Indeed, the building itself is part of that era. Ahmed Sharaf, head of the ministry's museums section, said the museum's edifice was originally built as a summer palace for the family of Zeinab Fahmy, wife of a descendant of Mohamed Ali.

Upon her death Fahmy left the palace to her daughter, princess Fatima El-Zahraa, who added an east wing that was connected to the rest of the building by a corridor. An Italian architect did the interior design of the palace.

Following the 1952 revolution – and the end of the monarchy – the palace was taken over by the government, though El-Zahraa was allowed to live in it during her lifetime. In 1964, she left Alexandria and handed the palace to the government for good.

When she died in 1983, the palace was used briefly as a presidential rest house. Former president Hosni Mubarak issued a decree in 1986 designating the palace as a new museum for the royal jewellery collection.

The museum includes some 11,550 artefacts, 924 of which are on display, that were once the personal possessions and gifts belonging to the family and descendants of Mohamed Ali.

Among them are magnificent pieces owned by Mohamed Ali himself and his son Said Pasha, as well as members of the family up to King Fouad and his first wife, Princess Shuvekar. Queen Nazli, mother of King Farouk, Egypt's last king, and Farouk's wife, Queen Farida, also owned valuable pieces that are now in the museum, some of them designed and created by the French firm Boucheron.

The collection includes a luxury chess set owned by Mohamed Ali, a coffee set inlaid with silver and embellished with gold, a set of gold glassware decorated with 977 diamonds and a number of medals and decorations. Gold cosmetics boxes and other items engraved with the initials of Queen Nazli are also among the jewels created by the French house of Van Cleef and Arpels. Other notable pieces include a set of jewels owned by the sisters of King Farouk, princess Fawzia, first wife of Reza Pahlavi, the former shah of Iran, and Princess Fayza.

There is an Indian-inspired set originally owned by Queen Nariman, the second wife of Farouk. Jewels belonging to Princess Samiha and Princess Qadriya Hussein Kamel are also on show, as are medallions worn by Prince Youssef Kamal and Prince Mohamed Ali Tawfik.

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