Often overlooked by tourists eager to explore the more famous ancient treasures of the pharaohs, Abdeen Palace Museum sits conveniently in the heart of downtown Cairo and offers visitors insight into the country’s more recent monarchy and its role in shaping the Egypt of today. Built in 1863 by an ensemble of Egyptian, Italian, French, and Turkish architects, this richly decorated palace became the seat of government for Khedive Isma’il Pasha in 1872 and remained the center of power in the country until the Egyptian revolution in 1952.
A well-manicured garden flanked with 18th and 19th century cannons leads visitors into rooms and alcoves of the central building ornately decorated with paintings and clocks, some made of solid gold. Although the upper floors of the palace are still used to house foreign dignitaries who are visiting Egypt, the lower floors have been turned into a museum consisting of five main galleries.
The first gallery contains armaments that date back to the eighteenth century, including those used in combat and some given as gifts to the Egyptian Khedives. The second section houses awards and offerings presented as official gifts to the Egyptian state. Another gallery displays a vast silver collection, while yet another commemorates the history of Egypt’s modern royal family. A fifth section was added in 2005 to house important historical documents.
The Abdeen Palace Museum is an especially important part of Cairo’s historical scene because it gives us a glimpse of something most other museums throughout Cairo and Giza do not – Egypt’s “modern” (in the grand scheme of things) history. For those interested in modern Egypt’s place in the world, this museum provides a glimpse into a world of artifacts that very few ever get to see, despite it all being right under their noses in the heart of central Cairo.