• Mai Khder

Manial Palace Museum

The Manial Palace Museum, one of Egypt's best-preserved royal palaces, is a unique example of an Egyptian palace that has not suffered from being used for other purposes than a museum. Mohammed Ali Tawfik donated his palace to the state, rescuing it from decay.

In 1901, Prince Mohamed Ali Tawfiq (1875-1954), the son of Khedive Tawfiq, began construction on Manial Palace. The place, on the island of Roda, was chosen for its serene and stunning scenery with a view of the Nile. The palace, along with a reception room known as the "sala d'oro" because of the gilded Koranic and poetic inscriptions on the walls and ceilings, takes up a maximum of two feddan out of a total of 17 feddan, the majority of which is devoted to gardens. The Prince had brought a collection of rare trees from all over the world to the garden. The palace is situated on the island of Manyal el-Roda, east of the Nile River. It has a total area of 61711 square meters, with houses occupying 5000 square meters, gardens 34,000 square meters, and indoor streets and garden constructions 22711 square meters. Prince Mohamed Ali, an aspiring artist and art enthusiast, envisioned his palace as a haven for Islamic art. His wish is memorialized on a plaque at the palace's entrance.

The palace was designed by Prince Mohamed Ali, who also oversaw the building. In the various detached buildings of the palace, he used a combination of Fatimid and Mamelucus styles dyed with Ottoman elements, as well as Persian, Andalusian, Syrian, and Moroccan elements. The palace's architecture, interior design, and furnishings are all in the Arabesque style.

The museum's collection is the most comprehensive collection of "Ottoman" art in the world. The museum also houses rare collections of embroidered garments, carpets, crystal vases, and candelabra, as well as ancient Islamic manuscripts. The palace's façade and high doors give it the appearance of a Fatimid fortress. The main entrance was constructed in the 14th century in the same style as Iranian mosques and schools. Two towers, one on each side, are modelled after Fatimid minarets. The palace's saray Al- Iqama (residence) features Mameluke architecture, especially in its main door, the mashrabiya, and the windows with embedded glass that overlook an Andalusian fountain.

The palace mosque is constructed in Moroccan style, but the Ottoman style reigns supreme in the Throne Room. The palace's interior is dominated by Ottoman architecture. A rare collection of 350 Turkish carpets, as well as chandeliers, shell-encrusted arabesques, exquisite wall ceramics, and the sun ring motif that decorates the ceilings, are all worth noting.

The palace also houses a rare collection of valuable antiques collected by the prince from various parts of the world or from the rubble of Mameluke and Ottoman houses that have collapsed. Prince Mohamed Ali decided to convert his palace into a museum, where he hosted favourite visitors, politicians, and intellectuals. He registered Manial Palace as antiquities in 1908. He dedicated himself to sustaining the annual income of his arable property, which amounted to about 2,213 feddan, but the land was confiscated after the 1952 Revolution.

The palace itself was never seized, being registered as antiquities. It is divided into 11 sections; the gate which was built in the style of the gates of medieval castles has terraces for the guards. The reception of the building is designed to receive official guests and is built on two floors. The first has two rooms, the ceremonial hall and a reception hall for those who share Friday prayers with the Prince, the second has two rooms: the Moroccan and the Syrian. The Saa Tower (clock) is located between the Reception Palace and the Mosque, which Prince Mohamed Ali built after the Andalusian and Moroccan fashion. The fountain is located between the tower and the large mosque, the mosque despite its small size is considered an unparalleled ancient architectural and ornamental asset. The Hunting Museum is a long room attached to the east gate overlooking the garden. It shows the possessions of King Farouk and Prince Youssef Kamal who loved hunting. The museum was completed long after the Prince’s death and was opened to the public in 1962.

The two-story residence is the oldest building in the palace and has a tower overlooking the views of Cairo and Giza. The first story consists of the al-Shakma, the mirror hall, the harem room, the blue hall, the dining room, the arabesque hall, and the fireplace room. The second story consists of the jewelry room, the arabesque room, the princess’ room, the maid’s room, and a balcony overlooking the hall of mirrors. The Throne Palace was designed in the Ottoman style in the form of a “Kosha”. The Private Museum is located in the southern part of the palace and consists of 15 rooms divided by a courtyard with a small garden. The palace garden is a rare plant museum, where the Prince collected many plants unknown in Egypt and was able to adapt them to the soil and environment. It is a true example of modern Egyptian history.

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