In one of our adventures in Khedivial Cairo, Paris of the East, we decided to visit the nostalgic Abdeen Palace. Lavish, lush and luxurious were our first impressions when we bought our tickets and entered this master piece. The palace’s gate works as a time machine, it’s where you’re being transformed from the 21st century to 19th century in a matter of seconds. So, get ready to time travel and experience royalty done right!
The Story Behind The Name
The palace got its name from Sultan Abdeen Bey, a military leader during the reign of Mohamed Ali. Later, Khedive Ismail bought the palace from the military’s leader widow and named it after him.
From Military To Civic
Abdeen has a political significance different from any other palace in Egypt. It was built to be a civil palace rather than a military citadel that was the official governmental seat before Abdeen. To clarify, the Citadel of Salah El-Deen has been Egypt’s fortress and its official ruling place for more than 700 years until the construction of Abdeen palace in downtown Cairo.
Designing For Dignity
Generally, the ground floor was for ruling and the first floor was for the private residence with a total of 500 rooms. On one hand, the ground floor houses khedival guard rooms, ceremonial offices, warehouses, servant dormitories. On the other hand, the first floor consists of Salamlek and Haramlek. To illustrate, the Salamlik hosts the reception area, ballrooms and spaces for official functions. The Haramlek hosts women and household residing wings. In addition to that the Palace accommodates several salons designated to receive official missions and delegations during their visits or stays in Egypt. Abdeen Palace also embraces a monumental library, an outstanding theatre and distinctive museums.
Khedive Ismail ordered the construction of this palace in 1863 in Cairo on an area of 25 feddans. The building process lasted for almost 10 years to be completed in 1872. Designed by the French architect Leon Roussou Léon Rousseau in addition to other Italian, Turkish and French artists and architects who have been brought to complete the palace’s masterpiece of interior design.
Glorious Complex Zoning
The complex of Abdeen consists of a royal palace of two floors and an imperial garden. Moreover, there is a mosque, Al Fath Mosque that overlooks its garden.
Once you enter Abdeen palace, you will automatically widen your eyes and let yourself roam in its infinite appearing landscape. Firstly, you will meet with the “Paris Gate” that boasts with its exquisite carvings and engravings. Khedive Ismail ordered the design of this door in Paris to welcome the Empress Eugenie during her visit to Egypt for the opening of the Suez Canal.
Next to the Paris gate stands the the Royal “Al-Fath Mosque”. Constructed in the 19th century in an Ottoman style, the mosque lies next to Abdeen Palace and resembles the mosque of Mohammed Ali.
After admiring the Paris Gate, you can walk forward to see the charming “Tea Kiosk” that enchants you from afar. This kiosk is a large and lofty separate open building that stands splendidly on a hummock. Built in 1921, it was where King Farouk used to drink his tea while viewing the whole garden of the palace and listening to the fountain’s waters rhyming with the bird’s singing.
Having the same aristocratic vibe, the music kiosk lies in the lush landscape of the palace. In this Kiost, the royal family used to watch and listen to elite musical performances.
After finishing the grand garden tour, you can now start journeying in the palace itself. To enter Abdeen Place, you will find yourself immediately welcomed by the majestic military weapons that greats you in a kingly mood.
Aristocratic and imperial were the aspirations behind the design of Abdeen Palace’s Neo-Classical style. The majestic effect is present in the building’s massive scale which captures the attention. Also, the façade has an imposing horizontality presenting the palace’s prominence with its ionic temple fronts marking the entrances.
Following the dignified entrance and after seeing the façade, you can go into the palace to stand in an open courtyard with a marble fountain in the middle surrounded by the palace’s museums and Sidi Badran Mausoleum.
The rooms inside the palace display royalty each one with its own style. To clarify, Abdeen palace uniquely stands by the variety of its different interior design styles. From Baroque to Rococo, Islamic and sometimes eclectic all rooms represent majesty and magnificence through their colored marble floors and the alabaster decorations. In addition to the royalty seen in the floor design, it is also present in the ceiling design. In other words, the delicate geometrical and gilded ornamental wall and ceiling motifs that showcase Islamic and European influences gives a level of luxury to the whole experience. Even the staircase of the palace depicts grandeur through its lavish design. The palace crystalizes the rich history Egypt with rare European and Asian paintings, which Egypt’s royals were keen to collect.
Visit as soon as possible
Finally, Abdeen Palace is a true jewel that you can never fully describe! So, we encourage you to go and visit to experience royalty by yourself. Check Hermopolis Ecolodge and Basuna Mosque to know more architectural gems in Egypt. Also check this video: Abdeen Palace History and Architecture to visualize the whole experience.