The Carriage Museum at the Citadel
by Seif Kamel
One of a number of small museums in the Citadel is the Royal Carriage Museum in Cairo. Its small collection of carriages are borrowed from the larger Carriage Museum located in Bulaq. It is housed in the building once used as the British Officers' Mess (until 1946) during the colonial period. I had to walk for quite some time to find it. I finally found out that the Carriage Museum is on the grounds of the Military Museum complex. I had visited that museum a short time ago, but somehow missed the Carriage Museum, as it is somewhat isolated. Its about a ten minute walk along a narrow path with very few signs along the way. Perhaps this is why it is so infrequently visited.
At the end of the walk I noticed the building of the Royal Carriage Museum. The building stands out, I suppose, because it seems different than most of the others.
It is only a one story building with many rectangular windows and above each window there is a bust of a horse. It seems as if these horses are welcoming the visitors to the museum.I was encouraged, thinking that I would enjoy this museum, but alas, there was a sad surprise at first. There was a sign at the entrance stating that "No Photos" could be taken. The museum looked very nice with all the Royal Carriages and to write any sort of story about it would require some photographs. I spoke to the caretaker asking if there were any circumstances under which I might be able to take pictures, but he advised me that governmental permission would be required, which in a practical way, meant no. This type of permission can take forever to arrange, if one ever receives it at all.
I thanked the man and left but I really wanted to visit this place, even if I wasnt going to take pictures. Therefore, I went back and told the man that I would have to leave my camera with him because if I enter with it I would have to take pictures. The man was so kind that he told me you can take pictures but you should make it fast. Of course, in this instance, it helped that no one else was about.
Within, one finds another, it seems, more elegant era, a time when Cairo's streets were not clogged by motor cars, even though Egypt even then was surging into the modern era. These coaches were a mobile statement of a time when the last kings of Egypt were forging a new Paris on the Nile, and the most prominent of European royalty made Egypt their playground.
The first thing I saw was a huge carriage that was used to welcome kings and queens in the period of Khedive Ismail. There is also a golden state carriage that was presented to the Khedive by Napoleon III. In fact, most of the carriages date to this period.
It is a black carriage with highlights in red. It really looked like it belonged to a king. There was also a huge carriage that was used to welcome the foreign royalty who came to Egypt for the opening of the Suez Canal. And there is also the carriage used by King Fuad I (Ahmed Fuad Pasha) for his personal travel, who was the next to the last king of Egypt prior to the revolution.
While this is a only a small collection of carriages (eight in total), those on display in the museum are of considerable importance and are well maintained with their original color and configuration.
An older carriage used for high employees of the Egyptian
government during the reign of Khedive Ismail