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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Visiting the Abdeen Palace Museums

In all the years we've been visiting Egypt, we have never been to Abdeen Palace.  While we've driven past it many times and were intrigued, we'd had never actually been inside this huge building less than a mile from  the center of downtown, until this year.



We headed across the Qasr El-Nil bridge, through Tahrir Square, pausing for a brief look at the project to transform the old Soviet-era Mogamma building (Egypt's bureacracy central!) into a luxury hotel.  The project appears to already be over budget but they have two years to finish it before it can be called late.

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The Abdeen Palace looms large in the windshield as we approach.

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Reportedly having five hundred rooms and occupying 25 acres of land, it made a pretty nice home for the ruling family of the kingdom prior to the 1952 revolution.  Depending on the source you speak with, the very elegant upper floors, which were the living quarters of the king and family back in the day, are either closed to all except visiting diplomats, available for tour for $100 by reservation or on a regular tour bus route.

The ground floor, however, once the servants' quarters, is now a series of museums that are readily accessible via a ticket office just around the corner from everyone's favorite Hawawshi restaurant, El Rifai (on El-Shaikh Rihan Street).

We joined the ticket line at the palace where a modest number of tourists were paying their entrance fees.  Notice that not only do foreigners pay a healthy premium for entrance, so do their cameras!  Needless to say, I bought my camera a ticket.

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There is something for everyone at the palace.  A Hunting Hall, Arms Museum, Gun Museum, Medal and Decorations Museum, Presidential Gifts Museum and a Silver Museum.

Entries and exits throughout are large wooden doors marked with a very ornate letter "F."  According to Wikipedia, King Fuad reportedly gave each of his six children names starting with the letter F after an Indian fortune-teller told him names starting with F would bring him good luck.  (Yes, it does look like a P and not an F - but everyone swears it is an F)

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The central courtyard shows a marked contrast to the concrete and stone that marks most of Cairo.  A large Banyan tree, known locally as a Bengal Fig, stands near the entrance.

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The first museum room encountered is the Hunting Hall, with a nice collection of rifles and shotguns,  including these English .303 Enfields.

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In the Hunting Hall we were greeted by an English-speaking docent who introduced us to the history of the palace, to the King Fouad/Farouk family and the other key players associated with the past couple of centuries of Egyptian history.

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Linda studies the family tree, with particular emphasis on the King Fouad era.

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Here is an English language version.

 



 

I didn't notice the "copper periscope" prominently displayed until after our docent had moved along.  I thought the reason for its presence would become obvious later but still have not discovered one.

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The Armaments Museum features typical displays of daggers, battle-axes, armor and the like.

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The Gun Museum offers plenty of variety to the enthusiast who might not be familiar with the world-wide marketplace.    King Farouk was the gun collector in the royal family.

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This Union automatic pistol with a 35 round magazine is probably not legal to carry in California.

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Entering the Decorations Museum, we find that Farouk collected a wide variety of items, and this sword is certainly one of the most decorous. Those are real gems in-bedded in the sheath.

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Other interesting items in this room include pencil sketches from around 1916 by Prince Fouad during his education at an Italian military academy and a jewelry box with a deadly surprise inside.

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Next up is the Museum of Decorations holding ribbons and medals from a large number of countries.  Both the Vatican and the United States are represented.  Note that the U.S. purple heart is labeled as "Medal of the carminic heart."

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Moving on to the Presidential Gifts Museum, a rather recent addition to the palace museums, there is quite a variety of gifts from foreign nations.  There are some significant Islamic mementos such as this representation of the Prophet Mohammed Mosque in Medina

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and an interesting golden aircraft from China from 2015.

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Egyptian children are likely to be most fascinated by the signed football jersey from Mohamed Salah, an Egyptian player known all over the world.

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I was impressed by the gold plated Kalashnikov from Bahrain.

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The Historical Documents Museum presents, among other items, the Imperial Ottoman firman, or decree, which established the rule of Muhammad Ali and his family.

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Playing on a video screen during our visit was a short video showing the wedding of King Farouk's sister, Fawzia, to the Shah of Iran, in 1939.  There has been much written about this arranged marriage and its unhappy outcome but it certainly seems to have been lavishly celebrated in Cairo at the time.

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Moving on to the Silverware Museum we found an extensive collection of designs, but the highlight is certainly the huge goblet holder.

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 NOTE:  Clicking on almost any photo will take you to our Flickr photo album of the palace visit with additional photos and larger images.

Additional links:

Wikipedia article for King Fouad.

Wikipedia article for King Farouk

An interesting article on the excesses of King Farouk.

Wikipedia article for Fouad II describing the family in the aftermath of the 1952 revolution.

Obituary for Princess Fawzia Fuad from the U.K. Independent in 2013.

The Rifles of Egypt 1922 - 1958.  Useful background if you visit the gun museum. 

A YouTube video of a visit to Abdeen Palace.


 

 

 

 




Sunday, January 29, 2023

Extending Our Network

It has been seven years since we first installed our DSL modem to provide internet access in the apartment.  But our telephone company modem can't push the signal through the three brick walls between the modem and into our two back bedrooms.  It was time to look into a WIFI extender such as we have used back home. It will be nice to provide internet for our guests in the privacy of their own room.

This meant a fun shopping trip to a nearby "electronics mall." 

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As usual, Roshdy knows the best place.

Frequently, "getting there" in Egypt is just as interesting as the destination.  The electronics mall we were headed for is located on Al-Arish Street, just on the other side of Pyramids Road (Pyramids Road is called Al Haram. Al-Arish is marked with the red line on the map.)

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But Pyramids Road is currently closed in this area since the metro subway is being extended from downtown all the way beyond the pyramids and Grand Egyptian Museum into the suburb of 6th October.  It previously ran only about a third of the way out to the pyramids - just out to Giza Square and Cairo University.   Of course, this is a big project - five years and 9 billion Egyptian pounds according to this article.  As a practical matter, this means that sections of Pyramids Road are closed temporarily while the digging and construction goes on.

When not occupied by heavy Cairo traffic, Pyramids Road is a beautiful boulevard lined with palm trees.  This photo shows the current view from the east end of the construction zone.

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We parked near Pyramids Road and walked several blocks around the blue construction barriers which provided a chance for a close-up look at the work.  Petrojet, an Egyptian company, appears to be the lead contractor on the project in this area.  According to their website and project list, they are a large (35,000 employees) and very experienced piping and drilling contractor which seems like a good fit for the job.  Let's hope it only takes the planned five years.

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When we got to the other side of the road, walking along the sidewalks that we shared with motorcycles and an occasional tuk-tuk, we arrived at Al-Arish Street.  With Pyramids Road blocked, there were even more than the usual array of street vendors on Al-Arish, selling clothes and miscellaneous goods as cars moved slowly along the street.  The electronics mall is just off Pyramids Road before the Metro supermarket where we occasionally shop.  I was surprised that I had not noticed it previously.

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We walked into the "Hyper Tech Mall" and headed toward a small shop on the first floor.

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The owner had no problem coming up with a D-link extender for me. 

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I also was interested in a small UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) to keep the modem powered up during our frequent power outages - if it was available at a reasonable price.  They had just the item, a low voltage mini-UPS for about seven dollars.  I don't believe I have seen such a small UPS at home, to say nothing of such an inexpensive one.

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I installed the D-link extender which works perfectly, forwarding our network connection.  It turns out that I had neglected to note that our TE-Data modem is powered with 12 volts and I purchased a 9 volt UPS.  We will have to check out the store's return policy and see about getting a 12 volt model.  The carton shows models available in 5, 9 and 12 volts with capacities of either 1 or 2 amps.  A very nice product if it works.

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