Having lived in Cairo for almost a year we’ve ‘done’ the main tourist sites, so when we went into the city for a staycation we were a little bit lost for ideas! Greg suggested we went to Abdeen Palace but I was a little hesitant, the reviews on Trip Advisor were mixed and we couldn’t find too much information online. However, as it was only a 10 minute taxi ride from our hotel we thought we’d give it a try. As most of you will know traffic in Cairo is crazy and this ride was no exception as we maneuvered down narrow side roads passing cats, school children, rubbish collection trucks, and scooters to the background of incessant honking and the call to prayer. The driver pointed at a huge wall and gestured to us that it was the museum. Greg and I looked at each other because it was right in the middle of a residential area and didn’t look palatial at all! Regardless, we paid our 100LE each entrance fee and an additional 10LE for a ticket permitting photography, and after a quick bag check, we wandered out into the prettiest, most tranquil gardens. Completely unexpected!
After a couple of minutes of being surprised by how pretty it was, a gentleman in a suit came up to us. He seemed so happy we were visiting and pointed out to us the museums and declared we’d be ‘fascinated’ by the artifacts. But, before heading inside, we walked around the gardens. With only the sounds of birdsong it reminded us of Marrakesh when you walk into the peace of the riad after the chaos of the Medina.
The grounds were really well cared for, the flowers smelt lovely and we watched several fat cats stalking the pigeons! At the far right hand corner there was a bandstand built in 1921 and from this elevated position we could see more of the gardens.
After about 30 minutes of enjoying the outdoor space we headed into the museum. The palace dates from the 1800’s and now houses 5 museums, the upper floor is still used for visiting dignitaries. There is a clearly marked route taking you through each area and despite the renovation work, we managed to access most of them. Here’s a brief summary of each museum (the names of these museums differ depending on the information source you are reading from!)
We probably spent the longest time here. The exhibits showcase how weaponry has developed through the ages. There is a huge selection of daggers, swords, knives and guns. It was really interesting to see how technology has changed and led to advancements but at the same time seeing the commonality of basic designs. There was some weird and wonderful exhibits here and everything was labeled in English and Arabic.
We then went into the section where each countries medals were displayed. Some of these date back centuries and others are more recent. It shows the relationship between Egypt and other nations.
Presidential Gifts Museum
This was weirdly wonderful; a collection totally dedicated to gifts that Egyptian presidents have received over the years! From a huge portrait of Sisi made purely from thumb tacs to copies of the Quran, solid gold sail boats, paintings and football shirts. Some of them were mildly amusing in a ‘what were they thinking?!’ kind of way but it was interesting to see what world leaders send each other!!
The final stop for us was to the silverware museum, there’s a lot of silver in that room believe me!! From huge serving plates, cutlery and drinking sets the workmanship on these items was incredible.
On leaving the silverware museum we stepped outside into the gardens. There is a small gift shop and a cafe selling refreshments.
We spent about 2hrs in the museums and grounds and enjoyed ourselves. All of the rooms had wheelchair/ push-chair access and there was ice cold a/c in every room. I noticed when we were leaving there were also wheelchairs to loan and an area to store bags and push-chairs. So, if like us you’ve seen most of the main sights, or you have an interest in military history, I’d recommend you set aside a couple of hours for a visit here. At the moment the museum isn’t particularly interactive, it is much more a ‘traditional’ museum with most artifacts behind glass cases. It will be interesting to see how the renovation works progress and the future developments that are made.
* When we visited the Documents Museum was closed
* I advise you to check directly with the museum for their opening times as these aren’t 100% clear!