Manial Palace, also known as Manyal Palace or the Prince Muhammad ‘Ali Palace, is on the northern end of Roda Island in Cairo, just across from Downtown and just south of Gezira Island and Zamalek. As its alternative name suggests, it was the palace for Muhammad ‘Ali and covers a large amount of garden space and multiple buildings.
Muhammad ‘Ali lived from 1875 to 1955 and commissioned his ornate Throne Hall and elaborate private residence. The compound also contains a Hunting Museum, mosque, extensive botanical gardens, and a Golden Hall (though we never figured out where that was).
Manial Palace was constructed between 1901 and 1929. This was a time of intense nationalism and my guide book says one of the purposes of the Manial Palace was to revive and honor Islamic arts. After Muhammad ‘Ali’s death, the palace was given to Egypt to be used as a museum. The grounds used to be part of Ibrahim Pasha’s Roda palace.
We visited with family friends, so we had 4 adults and five kids between our two families. The youngest two were in carriers, but the older 3 (ages 4, 4, and 6) enjoyed running all over the grounds. It is fun to explore with friends!
Our first stop was the mosque, built in 1933. It has 7 large panels in which some of God’s 99 Islamic names are written in mirror script. This type of script is very popular in Turkey. The mosque has many Turkish influences. As you can see below, the mosque is small but very ornate with Quranic verses written in beautiful script. Mosques have strict rules as to what can be used for decorations-the only writing is verses from the Quran, including versions of God’s name and the Islamic Declaration of Faith, which in essence says, “There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
Next up was the Hunting Museum, which was a later addition and opened in 1963. It houses some of King Farouk’s mounted game trophies, including lion, crocodile, birds, gazelle, mongoose, and more. They also had two cool skeletons–a camel and a horse–which were interesting to point out to the kids. It also contained some animals that Muhammad ‘Ali received as gifts. Animals were both native to Egypt and from foreign locales.
We wound through the gardens until we reached the residence building. There were some pretty cool banyan trees along the way. The gardens used to have many different types of flowers and plants, including fairly exotic ones. Now, it houses mostly cacti and other hardy plants, along with some flowering trees and banyan trees.
The residence building is the oldest on the complex and has two floors, though only the ground floor was open when we visited. It is highly decorated with marble floors, carved, painted, and gilded wood paneling, stained glass windows, fire places, carpets, lattice screens, and more. Every surface floor to ceiling was covered with color and decoration. Downstairs had the front hall, mirror room, ladies room, blue drawing room, Prince’s personal room, library, private office, and a winter room with fireplace.
Next up was the Throne hall. Muhammad ‘Ali was Crown Prince several times in his life, but never actually a ruler. The ground floor of the building has the actual throne room. He received guests on official occasions here and it has portraits of the rulers of his family. Upstairs has the Aubusson Room, which is covered in French 19th century Aubusson tapestries. The other two rooms contain furniture from his grandfather. The rooms have views of the Nile, which runs directly below.
Our final stop was the museum, though all but one of the rooms were closed. The one open room had drawings and art. The courtyard of the museum is very beautiful though, as is the gate outside the building. We attempted to find the Golden Hall, but failed. We found a building we thought was it, but it was closed and there was confusion trying to communicate with groundsworkers as to whether or not that was even the Golden Hall. The garden area was lovely, though many paths were closed off. Upon exiting, you can visit the Reception Hall right by security. We were worn out by then, so only peaked in, but both the ground floor and upper floors were open.
Overall, the Manial Palace and its grounds were totally worth a visit and we plan to go back with guests. The interiors of the buildings, especially the mosque and residence hall, are worth it alone. The kids enjoyed running around and my daughter was thrilled to see a palace.
How to Get There: We took a taxi and got dropped off right at the entrance. It is on Roda Island, very near Garden City and Downtown. There is street parking, though the street is hectic. Enter the grounds from Al Saraya Rd, right near the bridge over the Nile, and across the street from the Learning Resource Center.
Cost: Adults LE100
Camera Cost: LE50 and keep the ticket accessible as they check it regularly
Bathrooms: We saw two different sets of bathrooms. The ones we used were rundown and the women’s side was locked. Male side was single stall, so we all used that. Lights did not turn on, toilet did not flush, and there was no soap or tp. Bring your own TP and some hand sanitizer. Other (near the Residence Hall) was closer to the main path and may have been in better condition.
Strollers: Grounds are stroller friendly and many of the buildings are on the ground floor (Throne room, mosque, hunting museum, private museum). The residence hall and the upstairs of the throne room are up a flight of stairs.
Food and Drink: Nothing is sold inside, but you can bring your own. We brought snacks and lots of water and stopped for food on one of the many shady benches in the garden.
Other Info: Mosque requires you to take off your shoes, but headscarves were not required. No video is allowed inside buildings and no flash inside. Plan for 1.5-2.5 hours depending on your pace. Combine with a trip to the Nilometer or Umm Kolthoum Museum on the other end of the island (we grabbed a taxi outside the palace–expect to pay LE10-20).