125 years since its establishment

Montaza Palace: that combines the Byzantine Architecture and the Gothic and Islamic

Alexandria was traditionally the place where wealthy went to escape the summer heat, This included the ruling family of Egypt, Al Salamlik, was built in 1892 as a hunting lodge for the Khedive and his friends, and The 19th-century Montazah palace, are located at the eastern edge of Alexandria on the north coast of Egypt, Al-Montazah Palace is surrounded by lush gardens with a Victorian bridge that takes you to a sandy cove and to a small island of Pylons.

 

Alexandria's eastern border was demarcated by his mother’s Palace of Sorrows (a.k.a. Saray al-Ramleh), at what later became known as Victoria tram terminal, Beyond this point it was all sandy hills, beaches and bays pockmarked with palm trees, which is around from 360 acres in size, overlooks Al Montaza Gulf, The complex also contains five beaches for swimming, Aida, Cleopatra, Vanessa, Semiramis, and the private beach of Helnan Palestine Hotel.

According to court chronicler Ahmed Shafik Pasha, One summer night IN 1892, Khedive Abbas Hilmy, the last Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, ordered his men to prepare 80 donkeys for his Alexandria ride with the Khedive Music band that consisted of 48 music players and their instruments, They used to start their rides from Sidi Bisher, a neighborhood in the west of the city of Alexandria today and then rode to different places along the Mediterranean.

 

Fascinated by the topography which included several grottos, various hilltops and a speck of an island, Khedive Abbas decided to build a summer palace in these parts, Enquiring as to who owned the surrounding land, he was told that except for a small plot of land on which stood a wooden hut belonging to the wealthy Alexandrian Monsieur Augustino Sinadino, the entire land belonged to the Coastguard Department, which accounted for the two remaining lookout points and a few old canons from the days of Viceroy Mohammed Ali.

and from this moment Helmy decided to have this spot as his summer residence and decided to build a palace and some gardens there, On the top of one of these outcroppings there were old cannons that go back to the reign of Mohamed Ali who put them there to protect the north coast of Egypt and Alexandria, These cannons are still at the same spot today where Helmy built the Salamlek Palace in front of it, The other outcropping's top contained a center for coast guards and the Khedive bought it from the government and built the Haramlek Palace.

Helmy II also bought the house of Sinadino, a rich Alexandrian tradesman and added the land to his complex, and he bought a lot of lands from people living in the area to expand the space of his summer resort, The Khedive followed the construction of the two palaces himself, and he named the whole complex, the Montazah, or the garden, a name that was suggested to him by Mahmoud Shokry Pasha, the head of the Turkish Divan in Egypt.

 

The garden of Al Montazah which is 3000 meters wide contains a huge selection of trees and plants and some of them are quite rare. Some of the tropical plants are still in good shape although they have been planted more than 120 years ago, and the plant collection in Montazah includes: Catania, huge boots, Zamia, Carlota, and special types of palms. This is besides the big size plants like Anthurium, Hokiry, Araliaceae, Victoria, and Ropilia.

The Haramlek  palace has a distinctive design that combines different types of styles with the Byzantine style dominant, This is beside the Gothic, Classic, and of course Islamic styles of architecture, and it was decorated richly in the Baroque and Rococo styles that consist of amazing ornaments of plants and geometric designs.

 

The palace consists of a huge open-air hall in the middle of it with all the rooms and suites surrounding it, The palace has three floors, The first floor consists of many rooms and halls and the most important among them is the office of the king, the billiard's hall, and the dining lounge, The second floor used to host the chaperones and servants of the kings and queens, while the third and last floor hosted the suites of the king and the queen with a huge balcony in between, This floor also has the baby prince suite which was designed out of cork in order to prevent the sleeping baby from being disturbed because of the sound of footsteps.

Hereafter was born the Salamlik designed by incumbent court engineer Fabricius Bey with a few changes subsequently introduced by the khedive's favorite architect, the Austrian Antonio Lasiac, As for the landscaping, flora and fauna (including gazelles), this was left entirely to Abbas Hilmi's whim, eagerly assisting him in these mundane tasks was his Hungarian paramour, Countess May von Torok whom he eventually married (and later divorced).

The world-famous Haramlik was added during the reign of King Fouad. It would later become a cultural landmark as an international casino during the shortl-lived administration of the Italian-run Montazah-Mokattam Company, which had leased Montazah Palace shortly after the 1952 coup that toppled the monarchy.

However, since the Free Officers Revolution in 1952 removed the ruling family from power, the Montazah palaces and gardens have been much less exclusive than they once were, The gardens are now a well-maintained and very attractive public, seaside park, It is the most pleasant place to relax and walk in Alexandria and for the very modest price.

 

_____________________________________

Sources:

  1.  researched by Samir Raafat
  2. Photo: The Library of Congress
  3. German photographer Anja Neumann
  4. English photographer Elias Ruffello
Sources: 1. researched by Samir Raafat 2. Photo: The Library of Congress 3. German photographer Anja Neumann 4. English photographer Elias Ruffello

Comments