Egypt was a Sultanate and then a monarchy up until the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, when King Farouk was overthrown and fled to Italy, and Egypt was declared a republic. Even before then, during Ottoman times, Egypt was ruled by kings.
As a result of this rich history, Egypt has a plethora of beautiful palaces and royal residences dotted around the major cities, mostly Cairo and Alexandria. Many of these palaces are now museums or gardens for visitors from abroad and locals alike to visit and enjoy!
1. Abdeen Palace - the Most Luxurious Palace in Egypt
- Address: El-Gomhoreya Square, Rahbet Abdin, Abdeen, Cairo
- Opening times for visitors: Monday–Sunday 9am to 3pm, except closed on Fridays.
Abdeen Palace is a historic palace found in Cairo. It was one of the official residences of the former monarchy and royal family of Egypt.
Abdeen Palace was officially opened in 1872, after which it became the official seat for the Royal Family until the 1952 coup d'etat, which overthrew King Farouk. Between then and now, it has been used as a main office for the President of Egypt, but the rest of the building houses multiple museums that you can visit.
Located in the Abdin district of Cairo, the lower floors of the Abdeen Palace contain: the Silver Museum, the Arms Museum, the Royal Family Museum, the Presidential Gifts Museum, and the Historical Documents Museum.
The top floors are reserved for visits from foreign diplomats, and the palace is also frequently used to host kings and presidents from all over the world.
2. Al-Gawhara Palace
- Address: Al Abageyah, Qesm Al Khalifah, Cairo
- Opening times for visitors: Monday–Sunday 9am to 5pm
Al-Gawhara Palace, also known as Bijou Palace, is located in Cairo just south of the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. Its construction was commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha in 1814, the Albanian Ottoman governor and the de facto ruler of Egypt between 1805 and 1848. He is also considered to be the founder of modern-day Egypt, and at the height of his reign ruled over Egypt, Sudan, Hejaz, and the entire Levant (including parts of present day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey).
The Al-Gawhara Palace was his private residence, but he also had guests stay over occasionally, and some of his offices were here. Most of the guests included other royalty, or heads of state that visited Egypt on official business.
Al-Gawhara is a beautiful example of Ottoman architecture, and you'll also find many European influences in the building.
3. Ras el-Tin Palace
- Address: Ad Daerah Al Gomrokeyah, Alexandria
- Opening times for visitors: Always open (only the garden as the inside of the palace is not open to the public as it is still in use for government business)
The oldest royal palace still in use, the Ras el-Tin Palace overlooks the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt. It is one of the official residences of the serving President of Egypt, and it was a royal palace under the Muhammad Ali dynasty of Egypt and Sudan.
The construction of the Ras el-Tin Palace started in 1834, and it wasn't completed until 11 years later in 1845.
The palace has since seen many inhabitants, from the British who built a British naval base next to it during British rule of Egypt, through to King Farouk, the penultimate monarch of Egypt and Sudan who lived there following the 1952 Egyptian Revolution.
The building itself shows some Italian influences, as well as Baroque and Moorish elements. As a visitor, you are only able to enter the formal garden, but you'll still be able to see the palace. Or you could take a boat trip to see it from the sea, because the palace itself is still in use for hosting state guests and holding events.
Suggested read: How to Plan Your First Trip to Egypt — 7 Easy Steps
4. Muhammed Ali Palace (Manial Palace)
- Address: 1 Saraya El-Manial Street, Cairo
- Opening times for visitors: Monday–Sunday 9am to 5pm
Manial Palace and Museum is a great place to learn more about the late King Farouk, the tenth ruler of Egypt from the Muhammad Ali dynasty, and the penultimate King of Egypt and Sudan.
The palace incorporates an art and history museum open to the public, historical gardens, and a nature park. There is also a hunting lodge museum.
Having been built by Prince Mohammed Ali Tewfik (between 1899 and 1929), the palace was designed in a style that combines European Art Nouveau and Rococo, including elements of traditional Islamic architecture styles for a beautiful combination. You'll also find ceramic tiles by famous American ceramist David Ohannessian.
5. Cairo Marriott Hotel and Gezirah Palace
- Address: Sarah El Gezira St, Omar Al Khayam, Zamalek, Cairo
- Opening times for visitors: Always open
Located inside the Zamalek district in Cairo, the Cairo Marriott Hotel's central wing was originally the Gezirah Palace and is probably one of the more unique palaces you'll visit, given that it is inside a hotel!
Originally, the Gezirah Palace was built for the Khedive Isma'il Pasha in 1869 in order to host French Emperor Napoleon III and his wife Empress Eugénie in 1869, to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. Since then, more buildings were added onto the construction.
It has seen a lot of different times in history, having served as the No. 2 Australian General Hospital during World War I's Battle of Gallipoli, and being sold to a Syrian businessman in 1919, in order to be converted to a private residence. In 1952 the hotel was nationalized by Gamal Abdel Nasser, and converted to a hotel.
The Marriott opened there quite recently in 1982, and the palace's roof is now an open-air theatre, too.
Suggested read: Top 7 Ancient Cities of Egypt: Location and Unique Features
6. Qubba Palace
- Address: Az Zaytoun, Al Qebleyah, Zeitoun, Cairo
- Opening times for visitors: Not open yet, currently being renovated for visitors
The Qubba Palace, the biggest royal palace from the time of the Muhammed Ali Dynasty, was built between 1867 and 1872.
On the grounds you'll find gardens with a rare collection of trees and plants dating back to the era of Khedive Ismail, and it's also surrounded by a lake where male royalty used to go fishing and for picnics.
In 1925, King Fouad I made it his residence, and his funeral was also held there in 1936. After this, King Farouk returned to Egypt from England, and he also returned to this palace.
Besides being one of the main palaces alongside the Abdeen Palace, Qubba Palace was also known for weddings at the time, as this was where most of the royal weddings happened.
At the palace museum you'll find a huge amount of collectibles, including clothing, furniture, and vehicles that belonged to the royal family, as well as historical documents and photo albums.
Renovations on the palace and its museum are being finished at the time of writing this (August 2022), and the Egyptian government is working hard to re-open it as soon as possible.
7. Montaza Palace
- Address: Al Mandarah Bahri, Qesm El-Montaza, Alexandria
- Opening times for visitors: Monday–Sunday 8am to 10pm
The Montaza Palace, located in Alexandria, is a beautiful palace overlooking the Al Montaza Gulf that incorporates gardens as well as access to various private beaches for swimming. Its location is no surprise, as Alexandria was typically where the wealthy went to escape the summer heat.
Today, visitors to the palace can enjoy boat rides, walking around the surrounding gardens, or you can also go waterskiing, snorkeling, diving, or even just swimming in the sea. The garden is also special in that there are a huge selection of trees and plants, some of which are rare and were brought in especially. The plants and trees at Montaza Palace are still in good shape even, after having been planted over 120 years ago.
The Montaza Palace was built in 1892 by Khedive Abbas Hilmi II as his summer palace and hunting lodge, having chosen the location because he loved the sea views from here. It was built in Art Nouveau Architecture style.
After his death, the royal family continued to take care of the complex until the reign of the last king of Egypt ended. After the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, the government took control over the palace, opened the gardens for the public and turned the palace into the museum you can visit today.
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