Egypt: Antiquity News for June 8th 2001

Antiquity News for June 8th 2001

By Amargi Hillier

Princess Fatima Palace to be Converted into a Museum

(Cairo) A luxurious Palace once belonging to Princess Fatima has now begun its transformation as a new cultural museum. Dating back to the 1800's, this Palace has been used mainly as a governmental office building until the Ministry of Agriculture recently decided to turn it into a museum.

Renovations of the Palace began back in the 1980's but have only now seen their completion. The Princess Fatima Palace consists of two floors, each containing 24 rooms. The area of the Palace covers more than 2,000 meters. Because it was home to Princess Fatima, a member of the Royal Family in Egypt, the Palace is luxuriously designed with unique decorative features.

There are numerous halls inside the Palace. One of these halls contains rare paintings of the Royal Family including Princess Fatima herself, Khadwi Ismael, King Ahmed Fouad, Sultan Hussein Kamal, Khadwi Abass Helmy, and Mohamed Ali Basha The Great. In another hall, there are numerous works of art created by some of Egypt's' most famous artists including those of Mahmoud Said, Mahmoud Mokhtar, Hassan El- Bannaly, Said El-Sadr, Ali Al-Deeb, and Ragheb Ayad. There are also numerous works of art by foreigner artists. Some of these pieces include copper artifacts.

One hall contains rare ivory artifacts from Africa acquired by Princess Fatima's father. Her father, King Ismael Khadawi, was a great African explorer. Also found inside the Palace is Islamic styled furniture decorated with pearl and ivory. Other things found in the Palace include old weaponry, richly embroidered tapestry dating back to the 14th century, and all kinds of luxurious oriental carpets.

Recently added to the museum conversion is a wing for old photography equipment used in the 1830's. Here is found rare photos of the most important visitors of the Palace which consisted of Kings, Queens and Princes.

The Palace area contains outdoor gardens of different styles including a Roman styled garden featuring marble statues demonstrating the four seasons of the year. Numerous Roman and Arabic style water fountains grace the gardens. The gardens also contain rare plants and trees.

Princess Fatima was born in 1853 and is the daughter of King Ismael Khadawi. She grew up in an affluent Egyptian family learning English and French as well as learning to play the piano. The Princess was married at age 20 to Prince Mohamed Toson. The wedding was extremely luxurious. Decorations included tapestry weaved with emeralds, pearls, Royal jewels, and even diamonds.

Princess Fatima gave birth to a daughter and son named Esmat and Gamil, respectively. Mohammed Toson, her husband, died soon after the birth of her son. The Princess was still in her twenties. She remarried a few years later to Mahmoud Serry Pasha, and she gave birth to a girl and three boys.

Her main dream was to create an Egyptian university. Princess Fatima preferred not to live a life of palaces and parties, so she spent much of her time volunteering and donating portions of her wealth to needy causes, including donating 650 feddans of her land in Dakhalia.

Engineer Mohamed Hussein Al-Akkad, the caretaker of the Princess Fatima Museum, added, 'Unfortunately the Princess never reached her dream of building the university. It simply did not pan out as she had hoped for although she had already donated six feddans of her land to build the complex. That land is currently owned by the Ministry of Agriculture.'

He also said that the Princess had prepared together many priceless items that were to be placed inside the university cornerstone. The items included a golden hammer, a gold pen, a gold lavel, and a golden necklace. This jewelry was later on sold on auction in 1990 for only 25,000 LE.

Although Princess Fatima died in 1920, the beauty of her life continues in this new museum, which will soon be open to the public.