We walked along Sharia Al Manial, the main arterial street for the island of Roda. It runs mostly N-S and curves on the east and west to link Al Manial (the neighborhood’s name) to Cairo and Giza on the east and west banks of the Nile. It is a typical busy commercial street, lined with shops of all varieties and filled with cars, motor-scooters, donkey carts and pedestrians all jostling for space in the street and on the (more-or-less) sidewalks. I love the cheerful chaos of these Cairene steetscapes!
Hiding behind that high wall on the right is a grand set of palaces built in the 1920s by Prince Mohamed Ali Tewfik. He had a passion for antiques and Islamic art, reflected throughout the buildings. Today the grounds area a museum, a public garden and an event space, frequently used for weddings and large celebrations.
The prince was a descendant of Mohamed Ali Pasha (the guy who built that gigantic mosque at the Citadel and is credited with bringing Egypt into the modern, aka, industrial age). His father and older brother successively ruled Egypt from 1879 to 1914, and Mohamed Ali was crown prince during this period. However, the Brits – who really ran the country – deposed his branch of the family after WW1 in favor of Fouad, who was later succeeded by his son Farouk. Mohamed Ali briefly served as regent to Farouk before he was crowned, and was back in the heir presumptive slot while Farouk ruled without heirs. Unfortunately, Farouk was addicted to gambling and women and became a laughing stock to his subjects. He was ousted by Gamal Abdel Nasser in a 1952 coup, liberating Egypt from foreign occupation for the first time in 2500 years. (Not that domestic rule has delivered a lot of benefits.) Prince Mohamed Ali was exiled from the country (along with most of Egypt’s nobility) and died in Switzerland in 1955. The palace and grounds were gifted to the people of Egypt on his death.
We passed through the Reception Hall and, after entering the gardens, turned right to view the mosque that Hassan’s father helped to build.
The gardens spread across 14 acres and are lovingly maintained – no easy feat in Egypt’s climate.
The Residence Hall is the complex’s oldest building and includes the prince’s living area (upstairs and off limits now). The ground floor contains number of rooms furnished in various styles of Islamic art with lots of gorgeous tchotchkes that the prince collected from all over the world.
A stroll of a few hundred feet through more gorgeous gardens took us to the Throne Hall – designed to impress,Turkish style.
The rooms above the Throne Hall, accessed from the rear of the building, have a more domestic feel – at least if your idea of domesticity is a baroque palace.
After this lovely, quiet afternoon spent strolling through lush greenery we went back to Moshi’s house to pack for the overnight train to Luxor. Back into the chaos of Cairo for our trip to the Giza train station and on ton Luxor!