Guide to a Perfect trip in Egypt!
The citadel of Saladin in Cairo is one of the major monuments of the city and one of the most remarkable historical sites in all of Egypt. The citadel has functioned as the seat of power for many kings and Sultans of Egypt for a long period of time and many government structures were builr inside the citadel during the Mamluk and Ottoman periods.
Nowadays, the citadel has become a highlight that is included in almost any tour to Egypt in general and to Cairo in particular. The fortified walls constructed by Saladin in the 12th century now host a number of Mosques and Museums inside.
The Citadel today hosts the Mosque of Mohamed Ali and the centerpiece of the Citadel, the Mamluk Mosque of Al Nasser Mohamed. There is also the Ottoman Mosque of Suleiman Pasha El Khadim. The Museums located inside the citadel include The Museum of the Egyptian Police, the Royal Carriages Museum, the Military Museum, and the Qaser El Gawhara or Jewel Palace Museum which we will highlight today.
El Gawhara Palace is located in the southern section of the Saladin Citadel in Cairo To access it, one must go though the entrance to the museum which is located in front of the main entrance to the magnificent Mosque of Mohamed Ali. Nowadays, it has become a museum, although it doesn't have many displays. However, guests visit the Gawhara Palace to view and admire its wonderful architectural elements, elegant decorations and the amazing furniture that was used by Mohamed Ali and his royal family.
The Gawhara Palace or Jewel Palace certainly has a weird name and of course, there is a story behind this name. The name of the Gawhara Palace actually originated from the name of Gawhara, the last wife and one of the favorite wives of Mohamed Ali. The Gawhara Palace has functioned as a museum hosting the valuable belongings of the last royal family of Egypt after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 when the country transformed from being a kingdom and became a republic under the first president Mohamed Naguib.
Gawhara Palace was actually constructed on orders from Mohamed Ali in the period from 1811 till 1814. The Palace consists of many halls, rooms, and chambers. The walls and the ceilings of the palace were decorated with golden ornaments in the baroque style that is featured with the repeated decorative styles and many natural scenes.
The Gawhara Palace was actually constructed over the ruins of some Mamluk palaces that were constructed during the reigns of Al Ashraf Qaitbey and El Sultan El Ghoury. The Palace functioned as the seat of the power of Mohamed Ali and it was where he held his official meetings and ceremonies.
Mohamed Ali lived in one of the Mamluk Palaces in Cairo in the neighborhood of Azbakeya when he became the ruler of Egypt in 1805. Afterward, when Mohamed Ali was able to expel Khurshid Pasha, the ruler that the Ottomans had assigned to Egypt he decided to have the citadel become his headquarters and his stronghold.
Ali ordered his men to restore many sections of the citadel like the gates, the fortified walls, and the monitoring towers of the structure. Ali also constructed some new buildings in the citadel like the soldiers barracks, bureaus for the administration, factories for manufacturing weapons, a factory house, schools for the army soldiers and officers, a Palace for his residence and the Haramlek as well, and Dar El Mahfouz, or the archives building.
Gawhara Palace was constructed following a distinctive style of architecture that was probably a mixture between the Ottoman and the European style of palace architecture. The Ottomans surly knew how to construct palaces, the Top Kapi and the Dolmabache palaces located in Istanbul greatly illustrate how skillful the Ottoman architects and works must have been.
The most important section of the Gawhara Palace is the main hall or what they used to call "The Higher Council of Mohamed Ali as he used to rule Egypt with the help of the country's religious man mainly. The displays of the Gawhara Palace includes many royal paintings, outfits and clothes, furniture, and many other interesting displays that grab the attention of the visitors as soon as they enter the palace .
There is also the magnificent throne hall with its rich decoration and original furniture and this was where Mohamed Ali used to welcome his guests and hold his official meetings. There are also the Alabaster hall and the clocks collection hall that are all marvelously rich decorated with expensive ornaments.
The Gawhara Palace has witnessed a number of fires. The last one was in 1972. This was why the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities has put forward an extensive plan to restore the Gawhara Palace and rebuild the greatness and beauty of this marvelous piece of architectural art.
The restoration plan contains restoring and renewing the sections that are opened for public visits. This is besides adding some halls to the building that connected to the palace from its eastern side which was used for welcoming the guests in the reign of Mohamed Ali and then it was closed from 1952 until 1983.
The restoration process also included rebuilding the main façade of the palace that overlooks the Mosque of Mohamed Ali in the citadel. The entrance gate of the palace was rebuilt quite similar to the original one. The whole structure has been treated from the architectural aspect, the paintings of the walls were redone, and the portraits of the palace were restored and renewed.
The walls of most of the halls and rooms like the Main Hall and the Throne Hall were all restored to appear as original as once they were before the fire of 1973. Among the most remarkable items inside the Gawhara Palace is the huge golden-framed mirror that the guests view upon entering from the main gate of the palace. The reason behind having a mirror in this location is that it enabled the guests of Mohamed Ali to take a final look at their appearance before entering the palace and meeting important figures of Egyptian leadership.
On the second floor of the palace, there is another mirror in the same golden frame. There are also some notable paintings of the kings and the royal family members. Another wonderful decorative feature that can be found in the Gawhara Palace is the small statues of angels that are attached to the walls of the different rooms and halls of the palace.
The main section of the third floor of the Gawhara Palace is the Guests' Hall of Mohamed Ali and it hosts the golden made throne that he used to sit in during important meetings and ceremonies. The throne was made out of the best types of wood and ebony, and it was coated with gold all over, forming one of the most magnificent thrones in the whole world.
In the guest's Hall, beside the golden throne of Mohamed Ali, there are many chairs and sofas where the Egyptian and foreign officials used to sit while they are attending a meeting with the King of Egypt. To the far opposite of the throne there is a large sofa that used to function as a waiting area for people coming to meet Mohamed Ali.
An open courtyard is located on the third floor of the Gawhara Palace that was used to hold ceremonies and celebrations attended by Mohamed Ali, members of the royal family, rich merchants of Egypt, and many other guests.
The third floor of the Gawhara Palace also hosts the Livery Hall where most of the wedding ceremonies of the royal family were held. The hall has some wonderful crystal lamps, different photos gathered from several wedding ceremonies and a salon designed in the French style.
The most significant fact about the Gawhara Palace and maybe the thing that made it famous among many other structures constructed in the citadel by Mohamed Ali is that it was the avenue where Mohamed Ali massacred the Mamluks at the beginning of his reign.
When the Ottomans assigned Mohamed Ali to be the ruler of Egypt under their authority in 1805, Ali wanted to be the sole king of Egypt and he knew that the Mamluks had ruled over the country for quite a long period of time and would not accept that. Ali, being a skillful political leader, showed the Mamluks that he would cooperate with them and they believed him. Afterward, he invited many of their leaders and major officers to a feast in his Gawhara Palace in the citadel. After the Mamluks ate a lot of food and were exiting the citadel, Ali and his soldiers attacked them and killed most of them. Some Mamluks who were able to escape fled away from Egypt. This put an end to the long period of time in which the Mamluks had dominated the political life of Egypt.
Open daily, 8:00 AM-5:00 PM
Included in general admission to the Citadel
The Citadel, Cairo
BY BUS: Bus numbers 174 and 173 stop at Midan Salah ad-Din, in front of the Citadel
BY TAXI: Ask for "al-3a'l-ah"
Please note: the museum is not wheelchair accessible!