Wednesday، 31 August 2016 01:14 PM
Presidential palaces are not just buildings but a long history; memories’ and an eye witness as well to most of the events experienced in Egypt. They are part and parcel of Egypt’s heritage.
As such, the Ministry of Antiquities has recorded all the presidential palaces as museums and especially all the royal palaces that are eight ones ,besides presidential rest houses, that are spread all over the country.
The most prominent of these are as follows:
1-Abdeen Palace: It is the smallest of the eight yet the most frequently used as the seat of government.
It is named after a Turkish soldier who owned a house on its location before Khedive Ismail took over the land on that soldier’s death as part of the plan to build modern Cairo. It cost LE566 to build and nearly LE2 million to furnish. It consists of 500 rooms, a library with 55,000 books and several lavish halls.
It currently includes three museums: the Military Museum, the Silverware Museum and the Mubarak Gifts Museum.
2-Al-kobba Palace: It is a large complex in East Cairo built on 80 acres of land with a 125-acre garden. Under Ismail’s successor Tewfik it was used for royal ceremonies only, but under King Fouad (who added a wall, a gate and an exclusive train station) it was the official residence.
It was always used for weddings and coronations, and King Farouk made his first speech there in 1936. It now houses Farouk’s stamp, watch and jewelry collections, large parts of which were auctioned in 1954. Under Nasser it was used to accommodate visiting world leaders.
3-Al-Ittihadiya Palace: It was also known as Al-Orouba, it was the site of several demonstrations after the 2011 Revolution. It was the official presidential headquarters under Mubarak, having been renovated in the 1980s.
Originally built by a French company as the luxury Grand Hotel Heliopolis in 1910, it was designed by the Belgian architect Ernest Jasper and includes 400 rooms, 55 apartments and two halls decorated in the Louis XIV and XV styles.
The central hall boasts a 589 square metre dome designed by Alexander Marcel and decorated by Georges-Louis Claude.
The hall bears 22 Italian marble columns and a parquet floor was covered with Persian carpets.
It also has large mirrored wall panels and a substantial marble fireplace. To one side of the Central Hall is the Grillroom seating 150 guests, to the other the Billiards Hall with two full-sized British Thurston billiard tables and a French one.
The furniture for the hotel was ordered from Maple’s of London while the lamps, lanterns and chandeliers were Damascus made.
The upper gallery contains oak-panelled reading and card rooms furnished by Krieger of Paris.
The basement and staff areas were so large that a narrow gauge railway was installed running the length of the hotel connecting the offices, kitchens, pantries, refrigerators, storerooms and the staff mess.
John Pierpont Morgan, Milton S. Hershey, King Albert I and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium were among the hotel’s guests.
During the two world wars the hotel was transformed into a British military hospital for British and Dominion soldiers.
In the 1960s the edifice was transformed into government offices and in January 1972 it housed the Federation of Arab Republics, the short-lived political union between Egypt, Libya and Syria, which gave it the current Arabic name of Qasr Al-Ittihadiya or Palace of the Federation.
4- Al -Tahara Palace: It is a very small structure located between Roxy and Hadayek Al-Kobba in Heliopolis that King Farouk bought for Queen Farida in 1941 for LE40,000, acquiring the surrounding land until the whole complex became eight acres.
It is decorated with a large number of marble statues carved by Italian artists.
The palace witnessed drawing the plan of the October 1973 war.
The well-known photo of Sadat with top military officials in conferring above a table was taken there.
In fact this was the billiards table brought over from the Mohamed Ali Palace in Shobra by Farouk. The palace was also the set of the 1963 film Al-Aydi Al-Naema (Soft Hands), starring Ahmed Mazhar, Salah Zulfikar, Mariam Fakhreddin and Sabah.
It was used to accommodate word leaders’ spouses including Fathia Nkrumah, the wife of Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah and Farah Diba, the widow of Iranian Shah Reza Pahlavi.
Former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was one of its guests. The heirs of King Farouk filed an unsuccessful case asking for the return of the palace as the property of Queen Farida, who was not a member of the pasha’s family to whose property nationalisation laws applied.
5- Ras al-teen-Palace: It is the site of the fall of the monarchy, from which King Farouk left the country for good. It was built by Khedive Mohamed Ali in 1834 but not officially opened until 1847, when it joined the list of Alexandria palaces: Al-Mahmoudeya and Ibrahim Pasha.
But Ras Al-Teen was the seat of government because of its strategic location.
It is built in the Italian Renaissance style overlooking the Mediterranean, and decorated with similarly inspired architectural elements and ornamentation.
Taking up some 17,000 square metres, it is surrounded by a 12-acre garden with a fountain decorated with 16 statues of mermaids holding fish on its northern side.
The garden is also full of rare species of plants, as well as a private railway station.
The palace saw various developments after its completion in the mid 19th century.
It was reconstructed during the reign of King Fouad in the 1920s with modern services and new decorations making it similar to the Abdeen Palace in Cairo.
The reconstruction work was carried out by the Italian engineer Veroci at an original cost of some LE400, 000.
A covered swimming pool and a large attached hall were added at the time, and after World War II Farouk also built a marine pool on the Mediterranean breakwater linked to the palace via a path.
Next to the marine pool is a fully-furnished rest house with a bedroom, living room, kitchen, staff rooms and storage areas for fishing equipment.
According to Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the archaeological documentation committee for the Egyptian heritage list, the eastern gate of the Ras Al-Teen Palace is the only extant element from the original building.
The gate is composed of six granite pillars with Egyptian crowns used on their capitals and their lintels embellished with Quranic verses written in copper characters.
Today the palace today has three reception halls on the first floor, dubbed the red, white and green halls, and there is also a throne hall similar to the one at Abdeen Palace but of a smaller size.
The king’s private office, conference hall, dining room and private rooms are decorated with gold and silver ornamentation and paintings.
Farouk’s private wing at the palace includes his bedroom, office and bathroom, all similar to the ones at Abdeen Palace.
A large salon and a small private dining room overlooking the sea are also found in this wing. Elsewhere on the ground floor of the palace there is the haramlek (women’s wing) and the servant’s quarters, as well as the hall where Farouk signed his abdication in 1952.
The basement includes a third hall leading to stairs connected to the palace docks where the yacht Al-Mahrousa that transported the royals to Italy after the 1952 Revolution was once docked. According to Abbas, one of the most distinguished aspects of the palace, architecturally speaking, is the Gothic Hall added by King Fouad, which uses a mixture of architectural styles.
Outside, behind the palace, there are buildings that were used by employees and staff. All the rooms in the palace are furnished using French decorative elements and furniture.
The Ras Al-Teen Palace was the most important royal residence during the monarchy, serving as the summer residence of all Egyptian kings.
Later, it was used as a presidential palace and to house state guests.
6-Al-Montazah Palace: It was built on a low plateau east of central Alexandria overlooking the sea.
The Montazah Palace grounds first had the Salamlek Palace, built in 1892 by Khedive Abbas Helmi II and used as a hunting lodge and residence for his companion.
In 1932, the Al-Haramlik Palace and royal gardens were added to by King Fouad.
The architectural design is a mixture of Turkish and Florentine styles, with two towers, one of which towers distinctively with elaborate Renaissance design details.
The palace has long open arcades facing the sea along each floor. Sadat renovated the original Salamlek Palace to make it an official presidential residence but it was not used by Mubarak who preferred the Borg Al-Arab Rest House.